Posted by Jobeda Ali
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the dissemination event for the SILVER project in Amsterdam on June 7th.
Like CHIRON, the ultimate end goal for SILVER was to create new technologies to assist elderly people to live independently. Their tagline ‘Technology with a human touch’ approaches the assistive technology sector in a sensitive and user friendly way.
The final ‘winner’ of the SILVER contract was LEA, the Lean Elderly Assistant robot. LEA pretty much looks like a stroller with an iPad stuck on top which is why it’s been received so well. It does not ‘feel’ to most users and the public like a robot or like its too futuristic. LEA does of course help with walking and transferring, however she is also disguising hundreds of extremely useful functions, sensors and programmes that are continuously being refined. For example, she can remind you to take your medicine or physically help with exercising.
The SILVER project spent the past four years searching for new technologies. One of the project’s core objectives was to innovate in procurement processes so the main difference with us is that the project awarded several contracts in a ‘Pre-Commercial Procurement’ (PCP) process. The companies then went through two more stages until they reached a technology ready phase that enabled a full commission. This enables companies to undertake high risk projects in the R&D stage so that real innovations had a higher chance of happening rather than companies needing to play safe to win a contract from governments which are traditionally risk averse. It was funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development.
Eight different ideas/products started out, and LEA, from Robot Care Solutions became the last one standing. However, Dr. Ing. Maja Rudinac the founder of Robot Care Solutions and the lead roboticist on the project, still had to go out and raise another €6million just to take the product to market, a phase that will begin this summer. Through the various stages LEA received about €1million from the EC, which I’m coming to learn is a very small amount of money in the robotics world, as that will pretty much only pay for a decent sized robotics team with very little left over for materials. You can forget about marketing and distribution.
It made me feel that we are lucky we have a budget that from day one includes market research, marketing and distribution. We have just ended our first quarter and I’m already starting on our Business Plan. I don’t know if we’ll be as successful as Dr Rudinac, but it really gave me a lot of hope that perhaps in two years well also be showcasing our product and can report that a whole bunch of investors also believe in us.
You can more information about LEA here: http://www.robotcaresystems.com