Current projects

  • Collaboration partner:

    University of Sunshine Coast

    Commenced: April 2024

    Project duration: 2 years

    Project lead: Dr Michele Verdonck

    Project description: This project seeks to understand how technology can be used in the homes of participants to improve independence, manage their disability and enhance quality of life, health and well-being.

    Outcomes: The project will increase our knowledge and understanding of technology-enabled homes to be able to grow a community of practice for participants to empower their use of smart technology. Guidelines will be created for best practice as well as a resource platform/library on benefits and challenges for smart technology use.

    Benefits to our participants: Participants will have a community of practice allowing for an opportunity to share knowledge and empower other participants to manage their injury through effective smart technology use. The resource platform/library will allow participants to understand different smart technologies to suit their needs and injury, whilst reviewing the benefits and challenges.

    Total budget $156k

  • Collaboration partner:  QUT

    Commenced: 4 March 2024

    Project duration: 3 months

    Project leads: Jacelle Warren, Joy Wang, Prof Kirsten Vallmuur and Eloise Hummell

    Project aim: To review and evaluate data collected by NIISQ that may be available for use for insights around goal attainment and treatment, care, support options.


    1. The project will identify and test appropriate methods to extract themes from rich text-based participant goal statements for use in analytics.
    2. Explore relationship between goals and:
      a) Goal attainment
      b) The participants stage in their recovery journey (intake, empower or independence)
      c) Other factors
    3. To explore themes in new applications with linked data from the Claims study.

    Total budget $156k

  • Collaboration partner: Metro North Hospital and Health Service
    Commenced: 1 July 2021
    Project duration: 12 months, extended to end 2023

    Project Leads: Dr David Forrestal (Chief Investigator – Research), Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Slattery (Chief Investigator – Clinical)

    Project Leads: Dr David Forrestal (Chief Investigator – Research), Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Slattery (Chief Investigator – Clinical)

    The project aims to develop an advanced manufacturing process consisting of 3D scanning, 3D printing, and 3D modelling to create custom wheelchair cushions optimised to the needs of an individual in terms of pressure management and postural support.

    The project builds upon previously completed work (funded by the Jamieson Trauma Institute) where 3D printed soft foams were developed. The NIISQ Agency support enables continuation of this work to develop 3D printed full sized wheelchair cushions, investigate cushion robustness and develop access pathway and production workflows. Outcomes of this project will be used to plan and justify a clinical trial.

    Collaboration and engagement
    The project includes collaboration with experts from the Queensland Spinal Cord Injury Service (Metro South Health), Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service and the Medical Aids Subsidy Scheme, Qld Health who will provide valuable clinical and implementation advice.

    An important aspect of the project is incorporation of findings from co-design sessions planned with people who use pressure relieving cushions and service providers.

    The NIISQ Agency considers the project will produce real benefits for NIISQ participants and the Scheme including:

    • Facilitating improved pressure injury prevention and postural stability for people using wheelchairs resulting in positive impacts for independence, function and community participation
    • Potential to increase access to pressure injury prevention and management solutions for NIISQ participants across Queensland
    • The opportunity to support a Queensland team researching an innovative solution to a complex problem
    • The opportunity to provide pilot data and lay the groundwork for a clinical trial and subsequent possible commercial production

    Total budget $55,540


    Scale-up of the 3D printed foams has been successful with a series of full-sized wheelchair cushions designed, manufactured, and tested. Testing was based on international standard tests for foam performance, and results of the 3D printed cushions were compared against tests on the established polyurethan foams currently used to manufacture custom-cushions.

    The cushions are cost effective to produce and a regulatory compliant pathway for cushion supply has been established. Laboratory testing identified one remaining challenge prior to testing in a clinical setting; the 3D printed gyroid foam structure is more flammable than traditional cushion material (PU foams). The next steps in the project are to resolve this issue, when this is completed, the project can move to user testing prior to rollout of the technology through the STARS Rehabilitation Engineering Centre.

    Ongoing Work- Progress to date:

    • Advanced computational modelling techniques to improve cushion pressure distribution. Successfully created a workflow to automatically create a smooth transition of gyroid structure between difference unit cell size. This avoids stress concentrations within the cushions to improve pressure distribution performance and durability.
    • Automatic design and optimisation of personalised cushions using computational simulation of user pressure while seated. A workflow has been created that automatically creates the custom cushion design based on the individual pressure map of the cushion user.

    The project is anticipated to be completed by late 2023.

  • Expanding a NSW initiative to involve Queensland.

    Collaboration partner: Metro South Health

    Commenced: March 2021

    Key personnel:  Emilie Gollan (Queensland Project Lead) and Brooke Wadsworth (Queensland delegate), Physiotherapists at Metro South Health.

    The project aims to improve the care of people with spinal cord injuries by standardising physiotherapy management of people with spinal cord injuries.


    1. Develop clinical practice guidelines for physiotherapists and people with spinal cord injury across Australia.
    2. Translate the clinical practice guidelines into physiotherapy clinical practice across Queensland.

    To develop the guidelines, the Queensland team is working with Professor Lisa Harvey (Project Lead) and Associate Professor Joanne Glinsky (Project Coordinator) in NSW, icare (Insurance and Care NSW) and other inter-state representatives, Queensland clinicians, and people with spinal cord injury.

    The Queensland team will lead the guideline translation across Queensland.

    The NIISQ Agency considers the project will produce real benefits for NIISQ participants and the Scheme including:

    • Facilitation of evidence-based intervention and improved health outcomes for NIISQ participants
    • Building provider capability and capacity across Queensland in managing people with spinal cord injury
    • Facilitating NIISQ participants’ health literacy and empowering participants to make informed treatment choices through the creation of the consumer companion to the guideline

    The Agency has contributed $75,325 to the project, which is anticipated to be completed by March 2024.


    The Guidelines are available on

    The objective of this guideline is to provide clear guidance on the physiotherapy management of adults with spinal cord injury (SCI) across the continuum of care. It contains evidence recommendations and consensus-based opinion statements for over 100 questions related to the physiotherapy management of people with SCI. The questions addressed in this guideline are presented in the PICO format, namely, Participant, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome.

    The Guidelines will be presented at the World Congress of Physiotherapy, at the International Spinal Cord Society meeting (presentation and workshop) in October and at the Australian and New Zealand Spinal Cord Injury Conference in November 2023.

  • Project 1: Mixed methods RCT of telehealth Program for the Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) for teens: Co-designed

    Project 2: Mixed methods RCT of PEERS® for Primary School

    Collaboration partner: University of Queensland

    Commenced: 05 January 2023

    Project duration: 3.5 years

    Project lead: Associate Professor Leanne Sakzewski. PhD, Bachelor of Occupational Therapy

    The project aims to test the effectiveness, acceptability and feasibility of a telehealth delivered social skills program, called PEERS® to high school aged youth with brain injuries and face-to-face group delivered PEERS® for primary school in two pilot randomised controlled trials to:

    1. Achieve social participation goals
    2. Improve emotions, relationships and socialisation
    3. Improve social skills
    4. Increase social skills knowledge
    5. Decrease peer victimisation
    6. Improve quality of life

    Anticipated outcomes and impact of project for NIISQ participants and NIISQ Agency: children and youth with brain injuries (including NIISQ participants) who complete PEERS® will have improved confidence in social situations, develop skills to make and keep friends with overarching positive impact on quality of life. Importantly, is anticipate that caregivers will develop the skills to coach their child in challenging social situations, and these skills will enable sustainability of outcomes of this intervention in the longer term.

    Is anticipate that the new evidence generated by these projects will:

    (1) enable flexible delivery options of PEERS® for youth with brain injuries (face-to-face or telehealth);

    (2) give clinicians evidence of an effective program to improve social functioning of primary school aged children with brain injuries.

    Total budget: $269,057.00

Last updated: May 2024