SBRI Healthcare recently announced five companies that will receive further NHS England funding to develop innovations that aim to ensure that children living with disability and long term conditions have every opportunity to live their lives to the full. Sharing £3.1 million, the successful companies recognise the importance of encouraging independence and restoring function to the disabled, and providing support for self-care and remote monitoring.
With individual awards of between £300K and £850K, the innovations in development include:
- the use of digital media to help physically disabled children explain to new carers and healthcare professionals the best way to address their physical challenges;
- an app-based communication aid for children with severely impaired speech, incorporating word and voice recognition specific to that child, which ‘speak outs’ a clear version of the message and is easier, faster and more natural to use;
- 3D-printed, multi-grip robotic prostheses for children and young people with upper limb deficiencies that are fun and affordable.
Professor Paul Dimitri, Professor in Child Health and a Consultant in Paediatric Endocrinology at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Clinical Director of a Technology Network for Children in England (TiTCH – Technology Innovation Transforming Child Health), said: “Young people want to be independent, to enjoy life and get the best education. For those that are unwell, managing their own care at home and beyond is vital to support this independence and improve their quality of life.
The innovations we were able to support in this competition give us the opportunity to test new remote support tools and some very new technologies for physical support – such as alternative prostheses. The opportunity for innovation in this area is immense and this competition has provided a window for our specialist paediatricians to work with innovative companies to develop and test new ways of supporting young people.”
The five companies selected by SBRI Healthcare for the second tranche of investment were drawn from a shortlist of nine companies that received six months feasibility funding in January 2017. The successful companies demonstrated best value and greatest technical feasibility to a panel of experts looking for game-changing technologies with the highest potential value to patients and the health service. The companies will be supported and fully funded to continue with product development and testing.
The companies (and supporting Academic Health Science Network) are:
- Restoring Function:
- ADI Ltd (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN) Let Me Show U! (LMSU!) is a product to help physically disabled children explain to new carers the best way to address the child’s physical challenges. Built up over time within a secure personal health record controlled by the child and family, LMSU! uses digital media which is specific to each child, including videos, animations, audios, etc. Media snippets can be accessed at any time by the child or carers via apps running on standard phones and tablets.
- Open Bionics Ltd (West of England AHSN)
The provision of prostheses for children and young people is complex, reflecting the changing size, diversity of activities, as well as early social and psychological development of this cohort. The critical concerns are that care promotes independence, is tailored to the individual, and complements the needs of the child by maximising choice. Currently, this process is restricted due to cost and increased demand on limited NHS resources. Open Bionics looks to address these concerns through the provision of affordable, multi-grip, robotic prostheses for children and young people with upper limb deficiencies.
- Self-Care and Remote Monitoring:
- Aseptika (Eastern AHSN)
Working with the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Guys & St Thomas’ and Sheffield Hospitals, to co-design and further develop Aseptika’s Activ8rlives’ technology to support children with asthma and other long-term conditions such as diabetes. Self-care and remote monitoring capabilities will be extended, and the FingerBandSpO2 miniaturised blood oxygen monitor (worn continuously on small fingers or around baby’s foot) further developed to enable Respiration Rate (one of the 5 Key Vital Signs) to be recorded as part of the National Early Warning System.
- Innerstrength (Ireland)
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is one of the UK’s most common, life-shortening, genetically inherited diseases. There are currently more than 10,500 people. In the last 50 years there have been major advances in care; however each new therapy has added the heavy burden of treatment. The aim of this project is to investigate if a new model of care has the ability to engage children and adolescents with CF in self-management and as a result, reduce the burden of care.
- Therapy Box Ltd (Health Innovation Network)
Children with severe speech impairments are often provided with communication aids to compose messages which are then spoken using synthesised speech. However, these aids can be slow, tiring to use and do not promote natural communication due to the lack of eye-contact and the time taken to compose messages. Therapy Box will address these problems by producing VocaTempo, a new, app-based voice-input communication aid, which will recognise words spoken by a child with severely impaired speech and speak out a clear version of the message, making it easier, faster and more natural to use than current communication aids
- Aseptika (Eastern AHSN)