Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn launches €9 million EU and Irish funded Assistive Technologies research project

16 May 2014

RCSI co-ordinated research project into technologies for people with autism and intellectual disability

EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has launched a major Irish-led EU research programme in autism and intellectual disability. The research is co-funded (€9 million in total) by the EU Marie Curie ASSISTID Cofund and the Irish charity RESPECT. This wide ranging research project in this specific field is the first of its kind in Europe. Professor Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine, RCSI, will lead the research on behalf of the DOCTRID Research Institute.

The programme will promote research into the development and application of assistive technologies to enhance the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities and autism, their carers and families. ASSISTID is the first structured research programme of its kind in Europe and the most significant investment into assistive technologies research to date.

Pictured (l-r) are Prof Mike Leahy, Minister Joan Burton, Prof Oliver Murphy, Sr Goretti Butler, Prof Brian Norton, Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Prof Bill Mc Ilvane and Prof Brian Harvey

Assistive Technologies refers to practical tools that can support the functional needs of people who experience difficulties associated with disability or ageing. For people with autism or intellectual disabilities, assistive technologies can transform their lives and allow them to complete everyday tasks which could otherwise be impossible. The National Disability Authority Ireland (NDA) report from 2012 stated that ‘Assistive Technologies is centrally important for disability policy as it is one of the more concrete ways that the barriers to participation in society can be overcome for people with disabilities'.

The ASSISTID programme which will fund 40 post-doctoral fellows is co-funded by the European Commission and the charity RESPECT, and is coordinated by the DOCTRID Research Institute. The DOCTRID Research Institute includes the Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services, all of the universities on the island of Ireland, RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), Dublin and Tralee Institute of Technology - and the US universities Michigan State University and the University of Massachusetts. This is the first time that all of the universities on the island of Ireland have joined together in an EU funded research consortium.

Pictured at the launch (l-r) are (back row) Sr Goretti Butler, Prof Brian Harvey, Prof Mike Leahy, Mr Michael Horgan, (front row) Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Ms Teresa Crotty.

Speaking at the launch today, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn remarked that - "ASSISTID is a unique partnership of Irish and USA universities and the disability services which will support research and technologies to improve the quality of life of people with autism and intellectual disabilities. This is the kind of research we will continue to support under Horizon 2020, the new EU research and innovation programme."

Professor Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine, RCSI and Director of Research DOCTRID, said, "This research programme can be readily described as groundbreaking. We now have an opportunity to pool the resources of Irish universities, with academics from the US in the very best interests of people with autism and other disabilities - and we are in a position to do this with the assistance of EU and Irish funding and the support of the Daughters of Charity Services. This is a significant team effort which I have no doubt will reap dividends for people with disability all around the world."

Professor Harvey continued, "The €9M ASSISTID EU programme brings scientists, engineers and health care professionals together with carers and families to develop technology solutions to enable people with disabilities to communicate, learn, work, play, and function more easily in the world.

Pictured (l-r) are Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn; Prof Brian Harvey, RCSI and DOCTRID; and Mr Michael Horgan, Chairperson of DOCTRID Research Board and former CEO of RCSI. 

ASSISTID projects will develop and test assistive technologies to improve the quality of life for people with Intellectual Disability (ID) and autism through enhanced communication, social inclusiveness and independent living".

Also in attendance and speaking at today launch was Sr Goretti Butler, Provincial Daughters of Charity (DOC).

The DOC Disability Support Service provide supports to over 2,500 people with an intellectual disability in a variety of community based and specialist centre's across Ireland. Their vision is to allow people with intellectual disabilities and autism to achieve their full potential in a person-centered, socially inclusive manner within their communities. By establishing DOCTRID in 2010, the DOC paved the way for cutting edge research into intellectual disabilities and autism which will benefit communities throughout Europe.

Through DOCTRID and the EU Marie Curie ASSISTID Cofund programme, Ireland will become a major international hub for assistive technology research and its applications for people with intellectual disability or autism. ASSISTID will bring people with intellectual disabilities and autism and their carers together with engineers, computer scientists, behavioural psychologists, and occupational therapists to develop practical solutions to improve the quality of life for the individual.


For further information on the programme visit: