Liam Cornwall joined the TREAT team in March 2018 as a TREAT Entrepreneur Fellow. Here, Liam talks about utilizing his own learning about rehabilitation and assistive technology device commercialization as a judge for the 2018 RESNA Student Design Competition.
For the past nine years, TREAT has partnered with RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, in support of their Student Design Competition. RESNA offers a network of clinicians, users, and other professionals to learn from, communicate with, and form and hone new ideas in order to develop rehabilitative and assistive technologies. Recently, I attended the RESNA Annual Conference in Arlington, VA, representing TREAT as a judge for the RESNA Student Design Competition. All of the finalists’ projects were ambitious and innovative and I enjoyed interacting with the teams and learning about their efforts.
During my time with TREAT as an Entrepreneur Fellow, I have gained valuable knowledge about commercializing a device within the rehabilitation landscape. As someone who wants to commercialize an idea of their own, I had worked for quite a while spinning my wheels not knowing how to truly start. Now with an awareness of the hurdles to be overcome and different strategies to circumnavigate them, I was able to question the finalist teams to determine their level of knowledge of the commercialization process and what work they had done to explore the market need and opportunity.
In my own work with TREAT I have learned the importance of talking to all stakeholders early in the development process. Laying the proper foundation for product development prevents prototyping ideas that may not properly address end-users’ or customers’ needs; this is an essential element of a human-centered design approach and is a core tenet of TREAT’s methodology. In addition, understanding early on what regulatory requirements are necessary, how a product will be purchased, and whether payment can be reimbursed elevates an innovator’s chance of success. The latter was a common theme of my conversations with exhibitors at the RESNA conference as well as with the clients I have advised at TREAT, underscoring the value of and need for ongoing commercialization education in the rehabilitation engineering community.
We were pleased to award the $500 TREAT Prize for the “Technology Most Likely to Become Commercially Available” to the team at GaitMate. The three students from Jefferson University designed a device to aid people with Parkinson’s Disease during moments of Freezing of Gait (FOG), an unpredictable symptom of the disease that can lead to falls and other complications. Along with the $500 TREAT prize money, the team is invited to utilize TREAT program resources to help accelerate development of both the technology and market potential of their device.
Liam Cornwall is the current TREAT Fellow-in-Residence. A biomedical engineer and entrepreneur, Liam has worked in design and development of assistive technologies at Virginia Commonwealth University, Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center and the Coulter Design Lab at the University of Virginia.