Learning disabilities charity to help develop new technologies at Bristol & Bath Science Park

Learning disabilities charity Hft has relocated its innovation team to the Bristol & Bath Science Park, where the organisation will continue to work with manufacturers to develop new technological solutions that empower individuals and help them be more independent.

Hft has been investing in Personalised Technology (PT) for nearly a decade, examining how technology can enhance the lives of people with learning disabilities.

Solutions include anything from telecare equipment, which remotely monitors an individual’s condition, and environmental controls to mobile technology and communication aids.

Two of the team have now moved to the Park and other members of the Hft team will also be using the Park’s hotdesk facility.

Steve Barnard, strategic director for innovation at Hft, said: “We’re a leading provider of personalised technology for people with learning disabilities in the UK and, with an aging population, it’s crucial that we realise the potential that these innovations offer.

“Moving to the Park was an obvious choice for us as we will be able to work with other companies based here. It’s important that we work alongside like-minded organisations to help propel these innovations to new markets and the Science Park provides us with the ideal environment to do this.”

Hft is a national charity, providing support services for people with learning disabilities throughout England. The charity offers support in a variety of ways to enable people to live more fulfilled lives. Innovations already in use by Hft include finger print pads instead of keys, technologies that alert individuals to take their medication and the ‘one cup kettle’, which enables people who are unable to pour a kettle to make themselves a hot drink.

“Technology is part of everyone’s life,” says Steve.

“It can be used to increase the independence and safety of people with learning disabilities but it can also be used to support anyone who needs assistance in their home, including the elderly, people with dementia and those with physical disabilities. It’s not about replacing human contact where it is needed, but rather empowering people to live as independently as possible if that’s what they wish to do.

“The scope for this technology is tremendous and the Science Park, as a hub for innovation, is an ideal location for us.”

In an effort to extend the reach of Personalised Technology, Hft has been working in partnership with Mi (More Independent) – a Government-funded initiative to transform lives through technology – on the dallas project which explores ways of delivering assisted living lifestyles at scale and is funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

The charity has also been instrumental in helping Mi to develop the Mi Smart House, based on its own mobile Smart House. It displays a selection of technologies to show people how they can live safely and independently in their own homes.

Bonnie Dean, chief executive of the Bristol & Bath Science Park, said: “These technologies have multiple applications and they are more relevant now than they have ever been as we face increasing health and social challenges.

“There’s a huge opportunity for the region to take the lead in this sector and Hft’s activity is just one example of this.

“We are confident that the charity’s ambitious and exciting innovation programme will thrive at the Park – a space which is designed specifically to nurture collaboration and inspiration.”