Centaur Robotics electric wheelchair image

An innovative electric wheelchair, built with COVID-resistant materials and designed to facilitate social distancing, has been awarded a UK Government grant of £175,000.

Designed by UK-based mobility company Centaur Robotics, the two-wheeled, self-balancing Centaur is a personal electric vehicle that helps protect users and staff in the care industry from diseases like coronavirus.

It features unique collision avoidance software to help enhance social distancing, which the company says is the first-of-its-kind to be installed in a wheelchair.

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Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, awarded Centaur Robotics the grant as part of an initiative to help businesses recover in a sustainable way from the economic effects of COVID-19.

The £175,000 grant is the maximum amount payable from the £10 million Sustainable Innovation Fund, run by UK Research and Innovation. Centaur Robotics will contribute an additional £87,500 to the project.

According to Centaur Robotics, the money will fund research to further identify and develop plastics and other materials that viruses find it difficult to live on and will make the Centaur easier to decontaminate than existing chairs.

The seat is height adjustable and can raise occupants to eye-level. As well as giving users greater dignity, this helps prevent transmission as the lower the user is, the greater the risk of infection from aerosol spread disease.

Additionally, the wheelchair is driver-operated and fits into the space of a dining chair, helping to minimise contact between carers and residents.

Chris Hay, Chief Executive Officer of Centaur Robotics, said: “It’s really important that people move independently of staff. If they eat in a dining room for example, they move on their own and don’t have to be helped in and out of another chair.

“They stay in the Centaur, reducing contact and the likelihood of infection, but increasing socialisation which is so important for mental health.”

State-of-the-art plastic materials, which are easier to maintain, clean, reuse and recycle than plastic in other wheelchairs, will be incorporated into the Centaur, the mobility company highlights. Batteries will be made from recycled materials as part of Centaur Robotics’ sustainable goals.

The two-stage project will assess how the Centaur fits into the care industry and monitor the impact on users. The money will also enable Centaur Robotics to develop further prototypes for demonstration and marketing purposes.

Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell said: “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy.

“The Centaur, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”

Centaur Robotics says it developed the electric wheelchair to counter the stigma surrounding wheelchair use as well as provide users with independence and dignity.

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