UTS gives a step up for innovation in disability support

Industry partnership: UTS, Mobility 2000, Northcott Innovation

Researchers from the UTS Centre for Autonomous Systems collaborated with Mobility 2000 to develop a step-climbing attachment for two-wheel drive powered wheelchairs, enabling users to navigate kerbs and single steps without needing to buy an entirely new wheelchair.

This technology makes a significant difference to more than 17,000 Australians who rely on powered wheelchairs to move around, enabling them to more easily navigate public streets and buildings.

UTS provided Mobility 2000 with an exclusive license to the university’s share of IP for free through Easy Access IP. This enabled Mobility 2000 to develop the technology into a commercial product in collaboration with Northcott, a leading disabilities service in NSW and the ACT.

Easy Access IP makes it simpler for innovations generated by university research to be commercialised by industry. By removing often lengthy and costly negotiations, it reduces the barriers to internal investment using quick and simple agreements.

“The Easy Access IP licence represents a really positive outcome for all parties. It allows us to better forge a relationship with the university such that Mobility 2000 gets to freely use the university’s share of IP, with a view to building an ongoing research and development relationship, which is exactly what we’ve seen happen already,” says Ros Silberstein, Chairman of Mobility 2000’s board.

Northcott launched a spin-off company called Northcott Innovation, who took over the project and the license from Mobility 2000 in order to put the necessary resources behind the project. UTS is a foundation partner in Northcott Innovation alongside the Commonwealth Bank and patent and trademark legal firm FB Rice.

“We are excited to explore innovative ways to bring inclusiveness to people with disabilities and will be accessing expertise from across UTS, ranging from the application of rapid prototyping and advanced manufacturing to personalise disability aids, through to novel uses of social media and simulation technologies, as well as exploring the broader societal impact of disabilities…the opportunities are endless,” says Northcott Innovation Executive Director Liz Forsyth.

Last year, Northcott Innovations moved into the UTS Industry Hub, which offers organisations the chance to explore opportunities with research staff and students by spending an extended period of time on campus.

“Together we are bringing an affordable step-climbing wheelchair to market, investigating solutions to acquired brain injury in the criminal justice system, designing new tools and toys for people with disability to explore their sexuality, and using design-led innovation to create sustainable accommodation futures for young people with disability,” she said.

In addition to more traditional licensing approaches and investment opportunities, UTS aims to have an ever-increasing portfolio of Easy Access IP opportunities available for license.

The UTS/ Northcott partnership is an exemplar of IP Principles 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7, highlighting how a flexible approach to IP delivers real-world impact by bringing innovative solutions to the market to create a more inclusive society, and in the process change the lives of many thousands of Australians.

Northcott Innovation is the only not-for-profit on the 2015 BRW Most Innovative Companies list.