Mobility Unlimited Challenge

Calling all wheelers, inventors, designers, and engineers who have an idea to improve mobility: The Toyota Mobility Foundation, in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Center, has launched the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, a $4 million challenge intended to spur the development of assistive technologies that radically improve mobility and independence of people with paralysis.

The three-year challenge, open to entrants across the globe, was launched at a press conference in Los Angeles, California, on November 16, 2017. There are several prize categories including:

-The Discovery Awards — 10 awards of $50,000 that will go to support small, early stage inventors to enable them to enter the challenge, the deadline to enter Discovery Awards is February 7, 2018.

-The Finalist Awards — five awards of $500,000 that will go to the teams who develop the best prototype. The finalists will be announced in January, 2019.

-The Winner — a $1 million award going to the finalist team whose prototype device best meets the challenge statement. The winner will be named in September 2020.

Have an idea for mobility improvement? This is an outstanding opportunity for wheelchair users who have ideas for creating a better mobility option to receive the funding to turn the idea into reality. After all, most of the paradigm shifts in mobility for wheelchair users have come from wheelchair users themselves. This includes the invention of the first folding wheelchair and first power wheelchair, made by Everest & Jennings, as Herbert Everest was a wheelchair user due to a mining accident. The first ultralight rigid-chair, the Quadra, was invented by Jeff Minnebraker, a recreational therapist and paraplegic. Sunrise Medical’s Quickie was created by Marilyn Hamilton, a paraplegic. And Kuschall was designed by Rainer Kuschall, a quadriplegic. The list goes on and on.

The Toyota Mobility Foundation was formed by Toyota in 2014 with the goal of enabling more people to go more places by sharing knowledge and partnering with others and their innovations to build a more mobile society. The Nesta Challenge Prize Center is a global innovation foundation that uses prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Other Nesta Challenge Prizes include The Inclusive Technology Prize, a challenge prize that encouraged innovations to enable people with disabilities equal access to opportunities in life and was won by an invention called AzuleJoe, which is a free augmentative communication software (think Stephen Hawking) that will run on laptops, iPads and Kindles.

It’s exciting to think of the design innovations that may result from a such a well supported challenge.