Northern Ireland innovation wins first export business in Portugal


Belfast-based Simple Steps has won business in Portugal for pioneering multimedia technology, developed with assistance from Invest Northern Ireland, to help the parents of children on the autistic spectrum.

Simple Steps is investing over £140,000 in developing the world’s first parent-led, interactive online teaching-tool that enables parents to harness Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), a scientifically validated treatment for autism which is effective in improving behaviour.

The technology is now being made available to parents in Portugal through a contract with My Kid Up - Centro de Intervencao Comportamental of Morada, near Lisbon. They will be able to access a Portuguese language website that Simple Steps is developing and use ABA techniques to become ‘parent therapists’. This is the first non-English version of Simple Step’s website but the company plans to introduce Simple Steps in all of the main European languages.

Invest NI has provided assistance to enable the company to develop and market the innovative technology in international markets.

The contract was announced by Prof Lester Manley, Chairman and Chief Executive of Simple Steps, and welcomed by Stephen Wightman, Invest NI’s Acting Director of Life Sciences and Creative Industries.

Mr Wightman said: “Simple Steps is positioning itself as a global leader in behavioural change and is applying the latest digital technology to achieve this strategic objective.

“This is an innovation-led company with significant expertise in multimedia systems through Prof Manley’s successful track record in communications and marketing, and also in Applied Behaviour Analysis from its relationship with Prof Mickey Keenan from the University of Ulster and the Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists (PEAT), a Northern Ireland charity that works with parents of children with the condition.

“Our support is geared to assist this technology-led business to realise its business potential in key international markets particularly in the US and Europe. Opportunities have also been identified that will enable the company to use its pioneering technology to help parents of children with other behavioural conditions,” he added.

Dr Tony Byrne, chairman of PEAT, said: “Our technology-driven solution is aimed at the parents of children, primarily under nine, who have been diagnosed or are awaiting a diagnosis of autism. It offers them access to a variety of assistance that includes an internet site, a CD/DVD and a hard copy guide on how to use ABA techniques creatively to help children.”

Prof Manley said: “We believe that our easy to access solution, an online platform, can significantly help parents transform the lives of millions of children worldwide and will help to establish Northern Ireland as a centre of excellence in the application of digital technology for behavioural analysis and therapy. It’s an accessible, affordable and sustainable solution.

“The technology has been developed with the objective of assisting children with autism to realise their full potential. Parents can afford to access multimedia resources that include dynamic teaching animations, e-learning systems and through the creation of an online community to become parent-therapists. This means they can develop knowledge and skills to make a greater and more effective contribution to the development of children.”