This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Translating research into assistance

  • “The practical side will present new knowledge in forms and words most familiar to the various audiences to improve their ability to value and apply it.”

    Joseph P. Lane
    Director, KT4TT
Published: January 9, 2009

In the tech-savvy 21st century, university-based researchers generate many new ideas and discoveries.

However, society now expects technology-oriented research to be applied in practice by clinicians, policy-makers, manufacturers, consumers and information brokers.

UB’s new Center on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer (KT4TT) offers one response to that challenge.

Funded by a $5 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research—the only one awarded in the U.S. for this purpose—the project extends the 15-year history of product development and commercialization carried out by UB’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer. (Click here to learn about some of the products advanced by this center)

The new initiative will be integrated into UB’s multifaceted Center for Assistive Technology (CAT), directed by Joseph P. Lane. The CAT is part of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, one of the five schools in UB’s Academic Health Center.

Assistive technology devices and services are intended to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Their functional benefits are moving into mainstream products, responding to needs of the aging baby boom.

“The mission of the new center,” Lane said, “is to improve the process of two-way communication between researchers who generate new knowledge intended for assistive technology applications, and user audiences who apply such research-based knowledge. This communication process is called knowledge translation.

“The new center is focused on the exchange of technology-oriented knowledge from laboratory to marketplace, known as technology transfer, hence: KT for (4) TT.”

The center has an academic side and a practical side, Lane explains. “The academic side will supplement the tools of the research community to increase the actual relevance of new knowledge to the target audiences.

“The practical side will present new knowledge in forms and words most familiar to the various audiences to improve their ability to value and apply it.” He says. “We believe our prior success at merging the methods of academia with those of industry was crucial to proposing a credible approach for advancing both theory and practice.”

By 2013, the center expects to create and test an operational model of knowledge translation, generate evidence of knowledge use by multiple target audiences and offer a suite of tools capable of increasing the outcome and impact of research and development activity, with the goal of improving the quality of life for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The new center has two major sub-contractors: the Western New York Independent Living Center Inc., which conducts activities to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities and represents their perspective in all CAT programs, and the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas, which operates the sponsor’s lead knowledge translation program.

A panel of knowledge translation experts from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Ottawa, the Canadian universities of Toronto, Waterloo and Laval, and the University of London, England, are collaborators in the new center.