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Technology and Innovation

Innovation is one of the key pillars of Rehab Group’s vision for the future of our services, a future which continues to support our staff and the people who use our services to thrive, achieve and shine. Innovation and Rehab Group’s work are complementary as innovation is a source of great education, community, and employability services. Rehab Group continues to innovate and adapt to a changing ecosystem to ensure that we grow and develop our social value.
What is innovation?

Innovation is the implementation of a new (or significantly improved) product, service, process, or organisational method. In a nutshell, it is something that provides both novelty and value. It is important not to confuse invention with innovation. Invention is the creation of an object, process, or technique which may be novel. However, innovation is the implementation of what is new and this is where Rehab Group has seen success with both internal and external collaborations.

We have developed Autism, Research, and Innovation working groups to harness interdepartmental skills, and have coordinated person-centred technology trials with local, national, and international partners in multiple locations throughout the country to allow us to augment our services. This work has been highlighted in Forbes, smart technologies are being used by Rehab Group to support people with little control over body movements. Now people who face these challenges can control their environments (turn on the TV or lights, make a call, use a computer to name a few actions) using independent voice and eye movements thanks to a collaborative staff effort.

Lisa, from RehabCare Park House, Stillorgan, uses assistive technology implemented for her by Rehab Group
Lisa, from RehabCare Park House, Stillorgan, uses assistive technology implemented for her by Rehab Group

Why is innovation important? 

The primary purpose of innovation for Rehab Group is to have positive person-centred impact and to be leaders in our space. Standing still is not an option as we are aware that we are in a rapidly-changing changing economy and ecosystem. There are rising expectations regarding services and quality from people who use our services and our partners. These are challenges that we are meeting head on. Additionally, with continuous demographic, social and market changes, and an increased demand for accountability, innovation is being encouraged throughout Rehab Group and seen as an opportunity to be embrace creative minds.

What does innovation look like in action?

Creativity is a key part of innovation - it is the raw material for innovative ideas. The creativity stage refers to idea generation prior to the subsequent stages of implementing ideas for better procedures, practices and products. In essence, creativity is the seed of innovation. We are beginning to reap the rewards.

Thanks to the creative ideas of staff and the people who use our services, the concept of innovation for all is reaching far and wide. Nationally and globally, mindsets are being shifted and the value of people who use our services is being recognised. In a recent design-thinking workshop in NLN Bray, our students created a concept which has led to them appearing in TED talk of Forbes 30 Under 30 and UCD engineer, Colin Keogh. In further stages of innovation, Rehab Group have seen the introduction and implementation of new educational and assistive technologies with the help of third level institutes.

With NUI Galway, virtual reality guided meditation was introduced in our services in Galway to support people with acquired brain injuries to reduce their anxiety. We are also breaking down barriers to the entrepreneurial world, trialling new technologies such as WaytoB, an international award-winning start-up from Trinity College which helps people with intellectual difficulties get to and from locations. This is not a one-way process and Rehab Group co-organise events such as Startability, entrepreneurship advice for people with disabilities by people with disabilities, which has appeared on RTE as part of Startup Week Dublin.

How do I get involved?

We have an open call for action to entrepreneurs, corporates, and researchers who want to be part of our innovative vision for the future of the people we work with and for inside our NLN and Community Services Centres throughout Ireland. You can join the self-reliant, inquiring, flexible, original, and independent people who are found engaging in innovative behaviours throughout Rehab Group. Modelling and scaling these behaviours is one of our aims and we’re fortunate to have creative staff who showcase these traits on a daily basis in our classrooms, our centres, residential homes, and in the community.

We understand that innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build the network, processes and skills to see impact. However, at Rehab Group, our goal is to support the people who use our services to integrate in society, the workplace and further education and this comes with challenges. Challenges that we cannot ignore and must act fast on.

While balancing the need for patience, we want to hear from those of you who enthusiastic about being innovators with us and early adopters within our centres! If you are interested in being part of our technology trials, sharing your ideas, or providing external support, please get in touch with with David at david.pollard@rehab.ie with the subject title of Innovation Partnership.

Forbes Magazine covered David's work, read the article here...