Toyota Mobility Foundation, a charity set up by Toyota in 2014 to help bring about “a truly mobile society,” has launched a $4 million competition to encourage the development of new smart mobility technology to support the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis.
Dubbed the ‘Mobility Unlimited Challenge’, the competition — which has several rounds and prizes, leading up to the winner being unveiled in Tokyo in 2020 — is being run in partnership with the U.K.’s Nesta, and is open to teams around the world, including, of course, startups.
Specifically, Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta are on the look out for teams working on the creation of what it calls “personal mobility devices incorporating intelligent systems”. Whilst not limited to the following tech categories, this could include anything from exoskeletons, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud computing to batteries.
However, although the Mobility Unlimited Challenge website contains a list of product ideasthat would quality for entry to the competition, Toyota Mobility Foundation are keen not to point too much in any one direction or to presume it knows what mobility problems people with lower-limb paralysis face.
Instead, I’m told that “co-creation” is very much the mantra here and that there will be a crowdsourcing component to solicit the kind of things that innovators should focus on, which will in turn help determine which entries should be rewarded.
In addition, entrants will be expected to demonstrate how co-creation with people with lower-limb paralysis who are representative of the tech’s eventual users has shaped its creation and development.
Toyota Mobility Foundation are also stressing that the competition hopes to attract teams — startups, companies, academics etc. — who aren’t necessarily already working in assistive technology, although these are welcome too. The thinking here is to make the Mobility Unlimited Challenge as deep and wide as possible and not limit where new ideas and new approaches come from.
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge Prize is supported by a number of ambassadors from around the world, all of whom have experience of living with lower-limb paralysis. Global ambassadors include: August de los Reyes, Head of Design at Pinterest); Yinka Shonibare MBE, Turner-Prize nominated British/Nigerian artist; Sandra Khumalo, South African Paralympic rower; Indian athlete and campaigner Preethi Srinivasan; Sophie Morgan (pictured), British TV presenter, U.S. paralympian Tatyana McFadden, and Rory A Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh.
Here’s a breakdown of the prize pot itself, which is more akin to a series of grants at various stages of the competition:
- Discovery Awards – 10 awards of $50,000 (combined total: $500,000)
Means-tested grants to support small, early stage innovators to enter the Challenge.
- Finalist Grants – five awards of $500,000 (combined total: $2,500,000)Grants given to 5 finalists to spend during the Finalist Stage to develop their prototype
device. Finalists will be selected from the eligible entries on the basis of their ability to
meet the eligibility criteria requirements and their potential against the judging criteria.
- Winner’s Award – one award of $1m (combined total: $1,000,000)
Grant awarded to the finalist whose prototype device best meets the challenge statement, demonstrating how it meets the judging criteria.
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