Innovate Now and Access Austria and Hilfsgemeinschaft der Blinden und Sehschwachen Österreichs collaborate to accelerate AT innovation in Africa.

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Today GDI Hub’s Innovate Now, Access Austria and Hilfsgemeinschaft der Blinden und Sehschwachen Österreichs have announced a Memorandum of Understanding to drive impact across start-up space – by building the inclusive ecosystem through continued knowledge sharing and support for founders from Innovate Now and The Accessible Technology Incubator Austria by Access Austria.

According to the Global Report on Assistive Technology (AT) 2.5 billion people – one in three – need one or more assistive products (e.g. wheelchairs, hearing aids, communication aids). In low- and middle-income countries access levels can be as low as 3% of the need – and by 2050 it is estimated that 3.4 billion will need these life-changing products. By acting on the opportunities we have today, we have the power to drive AT innovations changing lives, building new futures and creating new industries.

The partnership will develop linkages between European companies incubated in Vienna and those based out of the Kenyan Innovate Now accelerator – with the aim of encouraging shared learning. As the demand for Assistive Technology increases on a global scale, it is important that entrepreneurs can both learn from other markets and understand the potential for entering and succeeding within these markets. This partnership will open new pathways for founders as they look to transition from product development into market scaling, supporting emerging ventures as they embark on new ecosystems

The Hilfsgemeinschaft (Austrian Association for the blind) has been actively supporting blind and visually impaired people in Austria for over 85 years. As one of the oldest and largest organisations for the visually impaired, they represent the interests of around 318,000 blind and partially sighted people throughout Austria. 

Bernard Chiira, Director of Innovate Now shared his reflections stating that “This partnership is about opening market bridges, support and funding for startups tackling the barriers of access to AT between Africa and Europe.We are creating scaling pathways and ensuring that new AT Innovations with potential for scale have the support needed to go global.

Global Disability Innovation Hub’s (GDI Hub) Academic Director Professor Cathy Holloway added “GDI Hub’s Innovate Now project was founded as part of our UK aid funded AT2030 programme to test ‘What Works’ to bring AT to all. Four years later, we are proud that our alumni entrepreneurs are driving new technologies into new markets across the world. We look forward to continuing to support Hope Tech Plus and its founder Brian on his journey to scale. 

We know that knowledge is critical to the success of innovations – by working together and sharing our learnings, we have the power to do more. AT ecosystems can vary greatly in different parts of the world, but the challenges and barriers can be surprisingly similar. At GDI Hub we are always looking to work in partnership to help ventures get access to new markets. By doing this we help products become more affordable and therefore reach more users. improving AT users’ lives and creating a fairer world – that’s what we are looking to achieve!”

Klaus Hoeckner, Member of the Board of the Hilfsgemeinschaft mentioned that  “we do not have to reinvent the wheel every week. There are so many interesting and promising solutions out there, we have to find them and to guide them. Our advisory board is working together with Zero Project, David Banes and the Vienna Business Agency, so that we really can cover the whole range of support from user feedback to legal items to funding. It is not about theory, it is about practice and how these solutions can help to improve the daily lives of Persons with Disabilities. That is our mission. 

***ENDS ***