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Bulletin No. 10, December 2009


Welcome to AT R&D News, a free new monthly newsletter from FAST with the latest on Research and Development in the AT field. Our aim is to help researchers stay up to date with national developments, local initiatives and research projects relevant to the AT community. There are also regular updates on sources of funding, AT jobs, conferences and opportunities to share knowledge about the AT sector.

To subscribe (or unsubscribe) to the newsletter, or to suggest items for inclusion, email:


  1. Funding Update
  2. New Projects
  3. Public participation in R&D 
  4. AT in the news
  5. Call for Papers
  6. Jobs
  7. Events and resources
  8. ATcare news 

1. Funding Update

  • Deadlines for the Stroke Association's future funding opportunities programme are early next year. Applications are invited for research project grants for up to a maximum of £70,000 per annum for up to three years, with a closing date of 5th February 2010. Junior Research Training Fellowships, which are intended primarily for nurses and therapists to study towards a post graduate qualification relevant to stroke research, are available for £35,000 per year for up to three years, and the application deadline is 15th January 2010. Senior Research Training Fellowships of £175,000 for three years will be awarded to outstanding postdoctoral candidates from the nursing or allied health professions, and are intended to enable the fellow to embark on an independent career in academic stroke research. Closing date for applications for these is also 15th January 2010. For more details of how to apply, go here.
  • The EPSRC is organising a Portfolio Day focussing on Neurodegenerative Diseases on the 11 February 2010, giving researchers, stakeholders and users an opportunity to influence the direction of future research for EPSRC within this healthcare area. Research Topics that are relevant to this day include: Brain Sciences, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Cognitive Science, Vision, Hearing and Other Senses, Artificial Intelligence, Neural Computing, Materials Research, Signal Processing and Imaging. Closing date for Expressions of Interest is 5th January 2010 and there are more details via this link
  • The European Commission's Directorate-General for Research has published a call for proposals under the 'Information and communication technology' (ICT) Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Eligible areas of research include cognitive systems and robotics; virtual physiological human; ICT for mobility of the future; and brain-inspired ICT. Application deadline is 13th April 2010 and more information is available here.  
  • The NIHR's Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme is inviting submissions of applications to funding streams 3a and 3b (Future Product Development 3a and Future Product Developemnt 3b). Stream 3a applications must include collaboration between at least one industry and one research (academic or clinical) partner aiming to determine the commercial viability of a proposed device or technology, with the development of a robust route to market and a strong, appropriate consortia serving as key deliverables. Primarily expected to be the first stage of a full collaborative applied research project, total project costs can be no more than £100K in total, of which 75% funding is available.

    Stream 3b applications should build on the results of a completed assessment of feasibility and must also have collaboration between at least one industry and one research partner (academic or clinical). This will provide further evidence of the capability to deliver improved healthcare outcomes and commercial opportunity, delivering an advanced prototype along with plans for commercial and intellectual property exploitation. Lasting no longer than 3 years, successful projects will be funded to a maximum of 50% of the total project costs, with £100K-£300K per year in funding available.

    All applications must show innovation and must have relevance, impact and potential to contribute to future health gain for patients and the general population. The deadline is 29th January 2010, and for more information go here.   

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2. New Projects

  • Researchers at Bournemouth University are developing a wearable upper arm exoskeleton for stroke victims. The orthosis will be lightweight and portable for use at home or in the community, and will offer a way of increasing the amount of therapy time available to patients without any increase in associated costs as compared to traditional rehabilitation methods. The work is being carried out in association with the University of Delaware, and so far the project has developed an experimental version of the exoskeleton in the laboratory. This is a mechanical device and work is being done on human use and the interface required.  For more details, follow this link.  
  • Current assistive living scenarios mostly work only in certain environments and are not able to provide a continuous support to users. One of the main reasons for this disconnected operation mode is the existence of different communication infrastructures, which means that users have to adjust to different systems and different methods of operation once they move from their own home, for example, to a residential setting. PAL: Personal and sociAL communication services for lifestyle monitoring is  project involving researchers from the Cambridge Computer Lab and the University of Essex, along with commercial partners BT and Ericsson, who are  working on solutions that support people anytime and anywhere by employing appropriate types of interface and interactions, regardless of the underlying networking and software technologies. To find out more, go here.
  • Researchers at the University of Dundee and the University of Aberdeen have won funding to continue their research into ways of developing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) tools that support story-telling and social dialogue for children with little or no speech. How was School Today...? in the Wild builds on an earlier project where a prototype system was trialled in school for a week.  This new project will address several issues raised in the feasibility study: the system needs to be able to support children with very diverse capabilities and impairments; it needs to be tailored to fit into the school environment and curriculum; and it needs to be attractive to teachers as well as students. It also needs to be able to run "in the wild" without the need for the constant technical support from the research team. More details here.

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3. Public participation in research

  • The Independent newspaper of 19th November reported on the Internet Governance Forum, which brought together more than 1,500 representatives of government, advocacy groups, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to discuss the future of the internet. Conference delegates argued that technology should be harnessed better to give the world's estimated 650 million disabled people improved access to the Internet and highlighted the need to involve disabled people at all stages of design as critical, along with greater education and training in accessibility issue. To read the article, follow this link.
  • Public and patient involvement in research can enhance the quality of research and research outcomes, according to a new report published by INVOLVE. "Exploring Impact: public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research" draws together examples of how public involvement is conducted, and how it makes a difference. It also raises questions about the quality of evidence showing the impact of such involvement, revealing huge variations in how this is assessed and reported, highlighting difficulties in judging it or drawing general conclusions. To find out more, go here.
  • Social media, including blogs, Twitter and Facebook, offer a way for people who use public services to make their views known and promote changes in provision, according to the recent MyPublicServices conference. Coverage of the event on the BBC news website includes an interview with Denise Stephens, co-founder of the Enabled by Design website.  For more on the news coverage go here, and for more on Enabled by Design go here
  • Take part in FAST’s survey looking at the issues around user involvement in AT research and development work. FAST is asking researchers who are involved in any kind of AT research to answer a few questions about their experiences in involving users in product and service development. The survey is brief and won’t take more than a few minutes of your time and the results will provide a valuable insight into how users can take part in AT design. FAST will be using this information to inform a new project facilitating greater user involvement. To make your views known, go to this link.

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4. AT in the news

  • Katie Clarke has been awarded the prestigious Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Katie is the co-founder and Chair of '1 Voice - Communicating Together', a national charity supporting children and families using AAC.  More information via this link
  • Scope is leading a campaign urging MPs to sign up to an Early Day Motion tabled by Dr Roger Berry MP which calls on the government to support all adults with a speech, language and communication need, by undertaking a national audit of the services they currently receive. While the government has taken steps to improve the situation for children and young people, this commitment currently stops at the age of 19. There is more information on the latest moves in Scope's No Voice, No Choice initiative here
  • The Department of Health's latest five year plan for the NHS outlines a package of new measures, including plans to make better use of assistive technology for patients with long term conditions. Launching its strategy, "NHS 2010-2015: from good to great", health secretary Andy Burnham said it was time to accelerate the pace of NHS reform to make systems more productive and improve the quality of care.

    A key focus of the strategy is to support the move from hospital to community care and the plan says that in the next few months the NHS will create programmes to consider what high-impact changes could be made including making the best use of assistive technology. The plan is available via this link and there is commentary on the strategy here.
  • Scottish company Touch Bionics has launched ProDigits, the world’s first powered bionic finger solution for patients with missing fingers due to congenital anomalies or amputation from a traumatic incident or medical condition. The amputee population that can benefit from ProDigits is estimated at around 52,000 in the EU and 1.2 million worldwide, and until now, these people have had no commercially available powered prosthetic solution open to them. The company's description of the new product is here. A newspaper article featuring a former concert pianist who lost all her fingers following illness using the prosthetic is here.
  • NHS Sutton and Merton has made extensive use of a range of assistive technologies as part of an initiative to enable a group of people with learning disabilities to move out of institutional care and live independently in their own homes. Adults formerly living at the last long-stay NHS hospital for severe learning disabilities are now living independently in specially designed flats in South London. To find out more, go here.
  • BusinessWeek magazine offers a positive assessment of the potential of the new Intel Reader, which was mentioned in the last bulletin here. The article comments how well the device integrates three well-established technologies. It uses a digital camera to capture printed material, optical character recognition to convert print to computer-readable text, and speech synthesis to turn the text into comprehensible spoken language.  Despite the relatively high price, the author describes the Intel Reader as ' an important step toward making adaptive technology more accessible'. Read the details here.  
  • The BBC aired two programmes in December in which management guru Sir Gerry Robinson investigated the growing problem of dementia care. 'Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care?' is currently available via BBC iPlayer, and there is accompanying material from the series produced in association with the Open University. To find out more, follow this link

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5. Call for Papers

  • The European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics 2010 takes place in the Netherlands 24th - 27th August 2010.  The Call for Participation is asking for workshop presentation details by 18th January 2010, while the deadline for posters and papers is 1st April 2010. ECCE 2010 aims to provide an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to exchange new ideas and practical experience in all areas of cognitive ergonomics. This year's theme is 'caring technology for the future', and presentations are welcome on a wide range of topics including the use of technology in healthcare applications to improve individuals' mental and physical health or quality of live. To find out more, go here.  
  • The ALLIANCE project (details here) is holding a European Conference on Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) in Malaga on 11th-12th March 2010 in order to present the current state of AAL-related research and technologies in Europe and show innovative approaches in linking ICT and independent living for future applications, products and services. The conference will focus on a number of application areas including: 
    • health and wellness,
    • prevention and rehabilitation, 
    • activity management, 
    • care and support for care providers, 
    • safety and security
    • social participation, 
    • interaction and inclusion

The Call for Papers closes 31st December 2009, and there is more information via this link

  • The 14th annual conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) will be held in Barcelona from 24th to 31st July next year, with the theme of Communicating Worlds. The Call for Papers has been extended to 15th January 2010, and there is more information via this link.
  • Call for Papers closes on 31st December 2009 for the 5th International Carers Conference - New Frontiers in caring: 2010 and beyond, which takes place in Leeds 9th-11th July 2010. The conference will bring together the international community of researchers, practitioners and those with an interest in caring, to debate critical issues and exchange expertise and experience. Confirmed speakers include Denis Gilhooly, Principal Adviser, United Nations Office for Partnership and Executive Director, Digital He@lth Initiative; Professor Heinz Wolff, Emeritus Professor of Bioengineering, Brunel University and Paul Timmers, Head of Unit for ICT for Inclusion in the European Commission. To find out more, go here

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6. Jobs

  • The University of St Andrews is advertising for a Chair in Human Computer Interaction in the School of Computer Science, as part of moves by the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) to create a world-leading Computer Science research community across the universities in Scotland. Applicants will be expected to have a world class track record, particularly in the area of Human Computer Interaction or cognate areas, including ubiquitous computing, collaborative work and multi-modal interaction, and will be required to demonstrate how they can contribute to either the SICSA theme of Multi-modal Interaction or the Complex Systems Engineering theme. In addition, the university is also offering two new lectureships in these areas.  The deadline for applications is 26th February 2010, and for more details follow this link.
  • The University of Bradford's School of Engineering of Engineering, Design and Technology is offering a PhD studentship looking at sensorimotor control mechanisms in amputee gait. The applicant will work on a research project looking at what, where and how different aspects of vision and visual information are used to regulate locomotion, and what biomechanical adaptations or compensatory mechanisms are used for locomotion by individuals with musculo-skeletal disorders, and/or by those with sensory impairment. Applications close on 29th January 2010, and there is more information here.
  • The University of Reading is looking for a Technology Development Associate to work on research being carried out as part of a knowledge transfer partnership with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. The 30 month project aims to enhance the independent mobility of blind and partially sighted people by development of a mobile navigational aid based on RFID Technology or a suitable alternative. The deadline for applications is 15th January 2010, and to find out more, go here.

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7. Events and resources

  • Market leading business analytics specialists SAS software have published a position paper emphasising the advantages of developing accessible software. The paper is available via this link.
  • The European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research has just published a report 'Facts and Figures on Long-Term Care. Europe and North America' which seeks to bring together information from international and national sources to present comparable indicators on the fiscal and social sustainability of long-term care for dependent older people. As well as providing statistics on basic indicators, the report includes qualitative data and discussions of different policy options. The report's findings suggest that only a minority of older people receive care in residential settings, while the majority remain in their own homes. More details and free sample pages are available via this link.   
  • UKCRC has launched a new booklet "The changing regulatory and governance environment for health research across the UK" which is intended as a guide for researchers covering the initiatives that have been put in place to streamline the regulatory and governance environment in recent years. The guide is available via this link.
  • Presentations from RAatE 2009, which was held in Coventry at the end of November, are now available.  Speakers covered a broad mix of topics ranging from the future of telehealth services and a new portable gait measurement tool for use in falls prevention to accessible cash tills and a pioneering approach to improving care for people with dementia.  To view the transcripts, follow this link.
  • The Ageing Population 2010 Conference to be held in London on 25th February 2010 will bring together partners from the public, private and third sectors responsible for the delivery of key initiatives designed to ensure that older people live longer, healthier and more active lives. Discounted delegate fees are on offer via FAST. To find out more, go here.
  • The Journal of Assistive Technologies is a peer-reviewed Journal which provides a user focus on current and enabling technologies, telecare and e-inclusion in health and social care. Articles focus on how people use assistive and enabling technologies, rather than solely on the technology itself, and raise the awareness of available technologies. It debates definitions and concepts and addresses ethics, policy, legislation and issues for day-to-day practice. To view a recent sample article for free and to find out about special subscription offers, go here.
  • A new Mobile and Handheld Technology Accessibility Forum has been set up on the professional networking platform LinkedIn. There are an increasing number of mobile and other handheld devices that either have accessibility features built into them, or that support software (e.g., software that reads what is on the screen) that enable equal access to these technologies for users with a variety of visible and non-visible disabilities. In addition, companies such as Google and RIM are making frameworks and guidelines available to allow developers to improve the accessibility of applications intended to run on these devices. The objective of the forum is to provide a place to discuss and share experience relevant to this evolving field from all perspectives, including developers, researchers, and end-users. To subscribe to the group (you will need to join LinkedIn first), follow this link

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8. ATcare news

  • ATcare held its first national influencing event on 18th November in London, in association with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Over 40 people attended 'Real choice and real control through design', from design, industry, universities, the voluntary and third sectors. Delegates worked together to explore how to ensure that disabled and older people who need support to enable them to live independently can be actively engaged in the design of new assistive technology products and services. Presentations from speakers and a report of the day's findings are available on the ATcare website via this link.

    ATcare is a social enterprise that seeks to transform lives by ensuring high quality assistive technology products are designed and developed to meet the needs of users such as older and disabled people.

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