App Factory: A Flexible Approach to Rehabilitation Engineering in an Era of Rapid Technology Advancement

Date of Publication: 
2016 August

This article describes a flexible and effective approach to research and development in an era of rapid technological advancement. The approach relies on secondary dispersal of grant funds to commercial developers through a competitive selection process. This “App Factory” model balances the practical reliance on multi-year funding needed to sustain a rehabilitation engineering research center (RERC), with the need for agility and adaptability of development efforts undertaken in a rapidly-changing technology environment. This approach also allows us to take advantage of technical expertise needed to accomplish a particular development task, and provides incentives to deliver successful products in a cost-effective manner. In this article, we describe the App Factory structure, process and results achieved to date; and we discuss the lessons learned and the potential relevance of this approach for other grant-funded research and development efforts. Data presented on the direct costs and number of downloads of the 16 app development projects funded in the App Factory’s first 3 years show that it can be an effective means for supporting focused, short-term assistive technology development projects.



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