Blackwood unveils dedicated tech and innovation division

Fanchea Kelly

Blackwood has launched a new division to identify, support and help develop the latest design and technology which can help those with disabilities live their lives to the full.

Announced as part of its £17 million business strategy, the housing and care provider sees the launch as a pivotal move to provide its service users with enhanced care and housing.

Since it was launched 40 years ago, Blackwood has built an impressive reputation for its expertise in adapting properties to let people with disabilities, sensory impairments and age-related conditions to live as independently as possible.

Traditionally that has included everything from fitting homes with simple enhancements like handrails or wheelchair friendly doors, to more complex project such as disability hoists, specially adapted wet rooms, ‘rise and fall’ kitchens or even self-opening doors and windows.

However, Fanchea Kelly, chief executive of Blackwood, believes the explosive growth in new technology spurred by the rise of smart phones and tablets, is set to transform the sector beyond all recognition.

She said: “We have always been about applying the latest innovations and that is why we are renowned as the experts within Scotland when it comes to adapting properties for anyone with special needs.

“However the pace of change in technology is unprecedented and the potential for improving and enhancing the lives of the people we work with is incredible. We are determined not only to keep up with that, but to be at the very forefront of this area.

“How many other housing or care organisations have an entire department dedicated to technology and innovations? Few if any. This signals our very clear intent to put technology at the heart of everything we do. It will ensure innovation runs through our organisation like words through a stick of rock.”

Blackwood will explore how technology can transform lives from ensuring services users are constantly connected with friends, relatives and carers to reminding them when to take medication. Likewise, connected touch screen devices could influence everything from the ability to open curtains, switch on TVs or order shopping.

Currently, Blackwood is focusing its efforts on a pioneering ‘Concept Home’ with integrated technology. However it is also involved in many other areas including pioneering digital inclusion projects and runs a hugely popular Student Design Competition. It will also continue to grow its own successful social media platform, bespoken.

A crucial part in creating the new technology and innovation department has been to incorporate the Blackwood Foundation, which formerly operated as a separate entity with its own board.

Colin Foskett
Colin Foskett

Colin Foskett has taken up a new role as head of innovation at Blackwood and will lead the new team, including Paul Richoux (social media co-ordinator) and Shawn More (digital skills trainer).

He said: “This is a really exciting change and will ensure that Blackwood is really driven by innovation. We can be a powerful catalyst for innovation and design in the independent living sector.

“We already engage extremely well with people through bespoken, our pioneering online community to improve independent living and aim to influence technology and design.

“By also engaging in research as well as practical projects that support independent living, we hope to make a measurable difference to the lives of those with disabilities.

“We have found that many independent living products are poorly designed. People want equipment and services to fit with their life choices. By growing our tech and innovation division we are making it our aim to become the leader in tech care and providing innovative adaptations.”


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