The team behind a new app that will support the learning of disabled workers has been given a funding boost by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to progress its concept from idea to reality.
Coventry University's Serious Games Institute (SGI) is leading a collaborative project – which includes disabled employment services provider Remploy, digital developers Serious Games International and Hereward College – to develop the 'Work Buddy' app, and has been awarded £99,000 as part of the second phase of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) which is sponsored by BIS and Innovate UK and managed by Jisc TechDis.
Work Buddy will be accessible across mobile, tablet and desktop platforms and aims to help disabled workers to create personal learning profiles in collaboration with their employers, ensuring they can perform work duties well while being as independent as possible.
The project was one of only four awarded funding earlier this year for a feasibility study into its app concept, after it was selected as part of the government-backed 'Good to go' competition which invited ideas for assistive technologies to increase disabled workers' independence in unfamiliar or challenging environments.
Dr Alex Woolner from the SGI, who leads the Work Buddy project, said:
In a world where our learning and working environments are evolving at a rapid pace, it's increasingly important to have the right tools in place to support the different needs of employees to help them with their daily activities.
We're delighted to be receiving this extra funding for the Work Buddy app as we look to meet those different technology requirements. Our initial work engaging users in the app's design has been successful, so this new funding will support the next phase of developing a prototype which will help deliver a more independent and personalised learning experience for disabled workers.
Greg Clark, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, said:
I believe that education and employment should be open to everyone who has the ambition to get on. I am proud that the government is supporting innovative British companies to make more opportunities available for disabled people.
Mark Burrett, programme designer for Remploy, said:
Remploy is delighted to be able to support the development of Work Buddy, as we are committed to improve employment rates for people with learning disabilities which currently stand at 7% in the UK.
Work Buddy is an innovative way of providing in-work support using the latest mobile technology to aid independence in the workplace, and ultimately to increase the number of job outcomes for people with learning disabilities to enable them to achieve their aspirations. We're looking forward to working with our customers in the development of Work Buddy.
Sal Cooke, Jisc TechDis director, said:
The companies made amazing progress in the first phase. It was an absolute joy watching them work directly with disabled learners and employers using their feedback to adapt the designs.
Stephen Browning, head of SBRI, said:
The SBRI process has enabled these companies to demonstrate the potential of their innovative ideas and make a real difference to the learning and working environments for people with disabilities.
For further information, please contact Alex Roache, external press and media relations officer, Coventry University, on 024 7765 5050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.