Toyota Mobility Challenge winning team: Andrew Slorance, founder and CEO, and Dr Jakub Rycerz, Composites Engineer, of Phoenix Instinct

Toyota Mobility Challenge winning team: Andrew Slorance, founder and CEO, and Dr Jakub Rycerz, Composites Engineer, of Phoenix Instinct

UK based Phoenix Instinct is the winner of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, receiving $1 million to bring its intelligent ultra-light carbon fibre wheelchair to market, with the potential to transform millions of lives in the disability community.

The Challenge, launched in 2017 by The Toyota Mobility Foundation in partnership with Nesta Challenges, attracted entries from more than 80 teams from 28 countries and offered a total award fund of $4 million.

The winning entry, the Phoenix i, from Inverness-based Phoenix Instinct, uses intelligent systems to automatically adjust its centre of gravity, making the wheelchair’s ultra-light carbon fibre frame extremely stable and easy to manoeuvre. It uses front-wheel power-assistance to reduce painful vibrations and minimise strain on the user. The chair’s intelligent powered braking system automatically detects when the user is going downhill and adjusts to help control the descent.

Andrew Slorance, founder and CEO of Phoenix Instinct, said: “Winning the Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge is incredible for Phoenix Instinct and for wheelchair users. The wheelchair as we know it has been technologically unchanged for decades. The funding we received through the Challenge allowed us to prove smart technology makes for an easier to use and safer wheelchair, with the potential for a suite of new features. With the prize money we can now advance this work and bring the Phoenix i wheelchair to the consumer. It’s a very exciting time, with Toyota moving into the mobility sector, we’re going to see significant advances in mobility devices.”

Sir Philip Craven, member of the Board of Directors at Toyota Motor Corporation and former President of the International Paralympic Committee said: “Mobility means freedom and liberation from being limited in life. As we believe at Toyota, when we are free to move, we are able to fully participate in society, and I’m excited for each of these devices supported by the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, particularly the winning device, because of how it will allow so many people to do what they want to do.”

Ryan Klem, Director of Programs for Toyota Mobility Foundation commented: “We are thrilled to announce Phoenix Instinct as the winner of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge. The judges were impressed by the way the device incorporated intelligent systems in its design in a way that represents a true advance for the wheelchair and could see it having a clear route to market. We believe this Challenge will result in huge improvements in assistive technology and are extremely proud of what all of the teams have achieved.”

Liz Vossen of Nesta Challenges said: “For too long, the disability community has faced restricted mobility and accessibility. The coronavirus pandemic has forced a change in attitudes towards remote working, showing that it is possible to be present and productive at home.  However, the pandemic also highlighted the need for non-disabled people to have a better understanding of the importance of mobility for all. We hope that these devices will improve the mobility of people across the world and contribute to a more inclusive future.”