Perkins Awards Two MassChallenge Grants
Assistive Technology Prize Spurs Innovation to Enhance Lives of People with Disabilities
Perkins has awarded two separate grants dubbed "Perkins Assistive Technology Prizes" as part of the MassChallenge 2012. The two grants, totaling $25,000, are made possible by a donation earmarked for technological solutions that promote Perkins’ mission to empower individuals with disabilities to reach their personal potential.
The first $15,000 grant goes to Global Research Innovation and Technology (GRIT) for an innovative and affordable wheelchair designed to function well even on unpaved roads and over rough terrain – conditions prevalent in some the world’s poorest countries where adaptive equipment is hard to come by. The economical, sturdy wheelchairs are engineered from readily available bicycle parts and are made to be easy to repair.
A second grant of $10,000 is for a high-tech solution with the potential to dramatically increase the speed and volume of prescriptions for eyeglasses created by a start-up called PlenOptika. Using technology similar to that used in laser eye surgery, the hand-held device “reads” a patient’s eye measurements and produces a nearly instantaneous prescription for corrective lenses. The need was seen in heavily populated India where eyeglasses can be had for as little as $4 a pair, but there are too few opticians to handle the huge volume of patients. Ultimately, PlenOptika sees universal applications for its invention.
“We are very pleased to partner with Perkins, an organization that has continually led the way in improving lives through innovation,” said Akhil Nigam, Founder and President, MassChallenge Inc. “Their generous support will help raise awareness and attract many more entrepreneurs to develop cutting edge solutions that can transform lives.”
“Joining with MassChallenge is a natural for us,” says Perkins President Steven Rothstein. “It’s in everyone’s interest to urge entrepreneurs to consider accessibility because better access for people with disabilities means better access for all.”
Assistive technology allows people with disabilities to be productive workers, to process information, and to put their ideas into action. Innovation can be applied in countless ways to provide mobility for people with physical disabilities, communication access for those with impaired hearing or vision, and adaptations we have yet to imagine. Together, Perkins and MassChallenge have put entrepreneurs’ imaginations in motion to find new ways to leap over disability to productivity and independence.
MassChallenge is the largest-ever start-up accelerator and competition, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached. Benefits for startups include:
- 4 month accelerator program – world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more.
- $1.1 million in cash awards - $10+ million in in-kind support.
- Open to all – any startup can enter, from anywhere in the world, in any industry.
- No strings attached – no equity taken and no restrictions applied.
Over 300 expert judges contributed 5,400 reads of online applications, 150 hours of in-person pitches, 900 hours of judge deliberation, and 400,000 words of written feedback to narrow the field of 1,237 applications from 35 countries and 36 states down to the 125 highest-impact startups. President Obama honored MassChallenge in 2011 as one of the nation's best organizations for supporting high-growth entrepreneurs, and MassChallenge was the youngest inaugural member of the Startup America Partnership.