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University of Bath and Earswitch win prestigious Elektra award

University of Bath and Earswitch win prestigious Elektra award

Scale-Up member Earswitch and the University of Bath have scooped the University Research Award at the Elektra 2021 awards.

The Elektras are the annual industry awards run by Electronics Weekly. For the University Research category, the magazine’s editorial team selected six research projects from the last year as the shortlist and invited readers to vote for the one they thought would make the largest impact on the commercial market.

Earswitch has been collaborating with the University of Bath on an NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) Connect funded project to develop a prototype of its revolutionary communication tool for people with severe communications difficulties and disabilities.

The Earswitch technology is a sensor within an earpiece that detects intentional movement of the eardrum, following contraction of the ‘tensor tympani’ muscle. Proof-of-concept has successfully demonstrated that it can be used to communicate by typing on a virtual keyboard. This represents the development of an entirely new, non-invasive human-computer-interface with wide ranging health applications.

Dr Nick Gompertz, Founder & Director, Earswitch Ltd, said: “It’s fantastic that the Earswitch research collaboration has been recognised at these awards. The fact that our category was voted for by the readers makes it even more special. We hope that by raising awareness of this new technology, it will help accelerate the speed of commercialisation, in order to improve the lives of the end users. Evidence suggests that within Motor Neurone Disease the use of the tensor tympani muscle within the ear remains functional even after many other movements are lost. There are no other interfaces which use this movement, so this is completely unique so we anticipate it will provide a vital communication tool for those even with the most severe difficulties.”

With this i4i Connect grant funded project, the company in partnership with the University of Bath and support from the Motor Neurone Disease Association, has developed the prototype into a communication tool for people with advanced motor neurone disease.

The University of Bath team led by Dr Dario Cazzola, Senior Lecturer in Health, conducted user surveys and incorporated participant input into the engineering design to maximise potential health benefits.

Dr Cazzola adds: “We have been delighted to help Nick understand more about how many people can use this tiny hidden muscle in the ear and to learn more about the different ways to train people. With our electronic and electrical engineering experts, we’re also helping Nick further develop how the Earswitch can be attached and miniaturised.

“This is a great example of how we can help translate Nick’s blue-sky thinking into a truly innovative project with real-world application. We hope this work can make a significant difference to the lives of many people with neurological conditions in the UK and around the world.”

The Scale-Up team provided a package of support to Earswitch Ltd to develop the successful grant application including bid writing, support to prepare a business case, to design the project and to consider commercial aspects.

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