This Month, Sports Activated spoke with Dr. Scott Drawer, Head of Research & Innovation at UK Sport.
SA: We spoke about the initial Ideas4Innovation program back in 2008. How has the program grown and perhaps exceeded your expectations?
SD: The program has now been running for 4 years. Each year the interest has grown exponentially and interest has grown massively in the academic and industrial sectors ranging from one man bands to SMEs and huge corporates who are running their own internal competitions.
SA: What have you learned from the Ideas4Innovation as it applied to the UK’s overall performance in Vancouver 2010 Games and what would you like to improve with respect to London 2012?
SD: All of the winners to date have been targeted towards London and beyond and this year’s awards are about Sochi and Rio. We have had some exceptional ideas and submissions that have gelled with our other work programs. Unfortunately, we cannot speak about these just yet!
SA: What will be the critical success factors for UK Sport, from a research and innovation perspective, of London 2012?
SD: Quite simply – about front line impact on increased medal probability. We strive to generate evidence through the systematic process of testing and feedback that support those ideas taken forward.
SA: UK Sport’s Research and Innovation program is aimed at potentially turning innovative ideas into improved performances of British athletes. What are some examples where this has become a reality? Are there any past ideas that are being applied to athletes training for London 2012?
SD: Like most countries we have sought to exploit all aspects of an athlete’s training and development pathway in partnership with the coach and sport. This includes the development of field based diagnostics and measurement tools to provide real time meaningful performance data for the sport. Examples include sensors on boats to track position and to then derive accurate data on the boat’s speed. We have also partnered up with some innovative biomedical companies to develop real time tools that can measure various physiological stress markers to help inform the training and recovery process. Once you have all this data, the use of novel software and predictive algorithms that help manage and optimize the training process based on insights from military and financial applications. For us – understanding and refining our insight about training is THE most significant advantage we can gain for now and in the future so the development of the methods to support this non invasively and as automated as possible is critical.
SA: Much is documented about how technology is applied to athlete training and performance in preparation for London 2012 and less with respect to Paralympic athletes. How does UKSport approach research in this are and what kinds of technologies are applied to assist athletes with disabilities?
SD: We approach this exactly the same way as we do with any other sport. We work with sports to prioritize key areas of impact, fine the right partnerships and deliver the projects over agreed timescales. It does not matter whether you compete in the Olympics or Paralympics- what drives us is performance.
SA: Is there a particular area that you have identified, be it in regards to training science, performance medicine, equipment or coaching technologies, which stand out as the most successful application to a particular sport?
SD: Our partnership with British Skeleton heading into Vancouver covered a range of ideas and innovations from competition preparation to sled development. The package of support was recognized and acknowledged by the key staff and athletes and that is the greatest accolades we could have received.
*Originally published in Sports Activated magazine: http://www.sportsactivated.com/March2011
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