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University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) recognised in UK’s Best Breakthroughs List

The work of the UWTSD’s Assistive Technologies Innovation Centre is celebrated for its transformational impact on children with neurological conditions.

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Product design inventions from UWTSD’s Assistive Technologies Innovation Centre (ATiC) have today been named on the UK’s 100 Best Breakthroughs List for their significant impact on people’s everyday lives.

ATiC, part of UWTSD Swansea College of Art, has a demonstrable track-record in providing practice-based research and development to support medical companies and healthcare related charities. ATiC’s work is primarily human-centred and design-led which enables researchers to apply creative interventions to improve health and wellbeing.

The list of breakthroughs demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, including the discovery of penicillin, work tackling plastic pollution, ultrasound scans to check the health of unborn babies and the establishment of the Living Wage.


The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.

It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching. The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.

UWTSD submitted ATiC to the 100 list in order to demonstrate the impact that its research has made, including through its partnership with Cerebra, a leading research charity working to support children with neurological conditions. The team has developed a number of bespoke product design solutions to enable children to play, increase their mobility and to make family life easier.

When commercially available products do not fulfil the child’s complex needs, the Cerebra team designs and manufactures bespoke products for them in order to achieve their maximum potential and be included in mainstream activities. Over 10 years, the team has developed many bespoke products to aid the daily living challenges of children with a range of neurological conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy.  ATiC works with Cerebra to provide industry focused academic support for research and innovation. This can include supporting the development of prototypes and advice on manufacturing.

The products, when possible, are licensed to third party companies to generate a royalty fee for the partnership. They have included:

  • a stable canoe and a running/cycling wheel chair to enable two young girls to take part in triathlons.
  • a scanning and moulding process to enable the manufacture of a bespoke helmet to enable the boy to horse ride with his school friends. 
  • mobile supportive seating and an automated ramp to enable young people to participate in sport including ice skating and surfing, as well as to help with sleep and sensory feedback.

Associate Professor Ross Head, Head of the Cerebra Product Design group said:

“The Cerebra products fulfil a niche which might otherwise see children excluded unnecessarily from activities that most people take for granted.  To be able to work with these families to see the increase in well-being and confidence that comes with inclusion in an honour”.

Professor Ian Walsh, Dean of Swansea College of Art and Director of ATiC said: “It is a fantastic achievement for the university to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. Applying research at the UWTSD Swansea College of Art to the challenges encountered by members of the Cerebra family has transformed countless lives. The work is a fantastic example of the power of collaboration to effect change, and a timely reminder of the importance of our universities in developing innovation. 

“The MadeAtUni campaign is an incredibly important initiative for us as it allows students, alumni, the local community and the wider population to understand the work that we do and the impact it has.”

Tracy Elliott, Head of Research and Information at Cerebra said: “The children that we support often encounter barriers to taking part in activities that other children take for granted.  Through the Cerebra Innovation Centre we promote creative, inclusive and innovative design solutions to enable our children to participate in society and events on a more equal footing.  It’s a real privilege to see our children succeed, accomplish their goals and be included.” 

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics.

“The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”

The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list: 100+ Ways Universities Have Improved Everyday Life was put together in partnership with universities across the UK. As part of the MadeAtUni campaign, every university in the country was invited to nominate the one thing from their institution which they believe has had the biggest impact on people, lives and communities. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination. The entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community and culture and sport.