Funding revolutionises life for wheelchair users

Funding revolutionises life for wheelchair users

9m euros of funding will help a French engineering school add driving assistance technologies to electronic wheelchairs, improving the quality of life for those with mobility issues.

The project is developing new technologies to significantly improve electronic wheelchairs used by health services both in the UK and France.

The Graduate School of Engineering, ESIGELEC, will work with 15 UK and French partners on project ADAPT (Assistive Devices for empowering disAbled People through robotic Technologies) to improve the quality of life for elderly and disabled people suffering with mobility issues. The new and enhanced electronic powered wheelchairs will include technologies such as autonomous driving, route selection and obstacle avoidance.

Information will also be sent from the wheelchairs wirelessly, in real time to provide data about the users, meaning healthcare professionals can carefully monitor changes in patient health to ensure they are providing appropriate care.

To allow users to familiarise themselves with the new technology, ADAPT is producing a virtual reality simulator and running training sessions on the new systems for both users and healthcare professionals. The aim is to address the current gap in healthcare education as well as train professionals on the best methods to manage user rehabilitation.

Nicolas Ragot, researcher at ESIGELEC and ADAPT’s lead partner said: “The project has allowed us to use our engineering expertise to make a substantial impact on communities across the Channel area. The benefits will not only improve the lives of those suffering with mobility issues, but will also allow healthcare professionals to improve the care they offer to patients.”

The project could benefit up to 300,000 electric wheelchair users in the Channel area whilst helping to train in excess of 15,000 healthcare professionals. Additionally, the economic impact is also positive with approximately 60 UK and French companies benefitting from the manufacture of components for the smart wheelchair and simulator.

The Interreg France (Channel) England (FCE) programme managed by Norfolk County Council, has €150 million available for immediate project financing.  Despite Brexit, all projects approved before

March 2019 are guaranteed funding for the lifetime of the project. The FCE programme offers a unique opportunity for higher education and research institutes, government authorities, (NGOs) and SMEs to make a direct impact in their region.

In line with the Europe 2020 strategy, Interreg FCE funding aims to support cross-border cooperation projects in the Channel border region. Eligible areas stretch across the south and east coasts of the UK and northern France.

The programme has three core priorities divided into five specific objectives. These priorities specifically focus on the France (Channel) England area to support innovation to address economic and societal issues, assist the transition to a low-carbon economy and enhance the attractiveness of the Channel area.
Interreg FCE programme manager Carolyn Reid said: “Interreg FCE provides a great platform for organisations across the eligible regions to work together and tackle a range of important issues that exist in both France and the UK. The funding enables organisations to work together to address shared challenges and to develop projects which have a direct impact on the lives of those on both sides of the Channel”.