Toyota Mobility Foundation launches $4 million design challenge

Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre are offering $4 million to develop smart devices for people with lower-limb paralysis

The Mobility Unlimited Challenge is looking for ideas that have the potential to improve life for people with lower-limb paralysis and give them more independence.

The scheme is open to inventors with ideas for “innovative personal mobility devices incorporating intelligent systems”.  A statement on the Mobility Unlimited Challenge website says: “Devices might incorporate Artificial Intelligence that will help predict user intent. Or long-life, fast-charging batteries that will give people the freedom to move for days or weeks at a time without worrying about power. Or a re-engineered exoskeleton that will redefine assistive mobility. Or something the world hasn’t even realised is possible.”

Teams must “put end-users at the heart of everything they do” and work closely with people who have lower-limb paralysis from the outset “to develop devices that best meet their needs”.

The initiative is designed to provide an incentive to inventors who might otherwise be put off by the difficulties of bringing smart mobility devices to market. Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta claim innovation in mobility technology has been slow due to “regulatory burdens”, “small and fragmented markets” and the complexities involved in securing reimbursement from healthcare providers and insurers.

The $4 million prize fund will be split across several awards. Ten ‘Discovery Awards’ of $50,000 each will be given to support small “early stage” innovators – applicants who have promising concepts who lack the funding or resources to enter the challenge. Winners of the Discovery Award will be given funding and support to apply for a Finalist Development Grant.

Five Finalist Development Grants of $500,000 each will be given to teams who can show how their concept could radically improve mobility and independence for people with lower-limb paralysis. Applicants must be able to show they are a “credible team” capable of producing a full prototype by 2020.

Winners of the Finalist Grants will be invited to pitch their prototypes in 2020 and an overall winner will be given $1 million to turn their prototype into a “market ready” device.

The deadline to apply for a Discovery Award is February 7 2018. The deadline to apply for a Finalist Grant is August 15 2018. Finalist Grant winners will be announced in January 2019 and the overall winner in September 2020.

Global ambassadors for the Mobility Unlimited Challenge include August de los Reyes, Head of Design at Pinterest, Turner Prize-winning artist Yinka Shonibare, TV presenter Sophie Morgan and US Paralympian Tatyana McFadden.

See for information about the prize and how to enter.


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