Fueling a Decade of Innovation in Child Safety

Published on in CHOP News

For 10 years and going strong, the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS), with dual research sites at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute (CHOP) and The Ohio State University (OSU), has proven that a unique model for collaboration between industry members, academia and government in a pre-competitive environment can lead to innovation in product development and policy that prevents injuries and saves lives. As an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), CChIPS represents a sustainable, high value mechanism for leveraging limited federal research funding allocated to child safety to fill vital gaps in research and development.

Supported by funding through NSF and its Industry Advisory Board (IAB), CChIPS has facilitated over 100 research projects on child injury prevention topics spanning injury biomechanics, technological solutions, human interaction with/behaviors related to safety technology, safety promotion and education, and the evaluation of safety devices. Representatives from IAB member companies work with researchers primarily based at CHOP and OSU to answer research questions that are pivotal to technical and programmatic advances in pediatric public health. The IAB is comprised of industry, small business, nonprofit, and government members, including auto manufacturers, child restraint manufacturers, insurance companies, advocacy organizations and others.

“CChIPS brings competitors, manufacturers, advocates, policymakers and scientists around the same table to address practical questions around child safety,” says Kristy Arbogast, PhD, CHOP principal investigator and CChIPS co-director. John Bolte, PhD, director of OSU’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center and CChIPS co-director, agrees: “An academic can’t keep research relevant and actionable without this type of collaboration, which is unique to our Center.”

This approach allows the research portfolio to be guided by real-world challenges identified by the IAB and the research team. “The high rates of traffic injury and mortality among children has created a public health crisis that requires immediate research solutions,” says CHOP’s Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, CChIPS founder and director. “CChIPS provides a unique mechanism for timely, rigorous research to be conducted that has a tangible impact on products, policies and, ultimately, families.”

Collaboration between industry and academia

The funded investigators work closely with project-specific IAB mentors in order to guide the research and apply the findings to engineering or programmatic changes. This synergistic collaboration between industry and academia creates an ideal environment for generating research ideas and leveraging shared expertise and resources.

“CChIPS is probably my favorite organization to be involved in because it provides a unique opportunity to work with people all across the auto industry, and within industries that I don’t typically collaborate with, like car seat manufacturers, the insurance industry, and consultants,” says Schuyler St. Lawrence, assistant manager for Safety Technical and Regulatory Affairs at Toyota Motor Vehicle North America Inc.

These collaborations lead to tangible advancements in the field. “We have two current new product initiatives that were generated from CChIPS projects,” says Eric Dahle, director of Engineering and Program Management of IAB member Evenflo Company Inc. “We are also launching four new products in the next six months that will build off information researched in the CChIPS projects.”

Dahle says his personal professional growth has been significant, as well. In addition to the collaboration and networking, he has gained technical knowledge in areas previously unknown to him and has better understanding of research methods.

CChIPS IAB membership has grown over the past decade, from six founding members in 2005 (all six remain current members) to 22 members currently in 2015. The combined membership fees resulted in $850,000 available to support the CChIPS mission in 2015. Based upon the current $50,000 membership fee, companies leverage a 16-fold annual Return on Investment (ROI).

Preparing the next generation of scientists

CChIPS is also investing in preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers. Every CChIPS research project includes at least one student, which is central to its commitment to creating a diverse, internationally competitive, and globally engaged science and engineering workforce with a focus on injury prevention. Under Bolte’s leadership, OSU’s annual Injury Biomechanics Symposium was established over a decade ago to specifically meet the needs of students pursuing a career in injury biomechanics.

“I was involved with CChIPS for five years as a graduate student, partly funded by one of the IAB members,” says Emily Mathews, PhD, who recently completed her doctoral studies at Drexel University. “The relationships I forged through CChIPS encouraged me to continue my post-graduate career in child passenger safety and even resulted in my recent employment with one of the IAB companies.”

Expanding research portfolio

With motor vehicle crashes remaining a leading cause of death for children and adolescents, traffic safety has been — and will continue to be — a primary focus of CChIPS’ research portfolio. The Center is also looking ahead to other safety topics that impact children, including bicycle and pedestrian safety, aviation safety, sports injury prevention, and trauma care and treatment.

“As we look ahead to expanding our research portfolio, we will continue to utilize the model established during our first decade — conducting rigorous, impactful research that’s responsive to what’s happening in the real world, all with a goal to save children’s lives,” says Winston. “We see a future with even greater impact through expanded membership and greater investment by corporations, foundations and government in this cost-effective mechanism to fuel the next generation of evidence and innovation to save children’s lives.”

Download a report and timeline documenting innovation in child injury prevention and CChIPS’ contributions over the past 10 years.

About the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies

The Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS) at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Ohio State University (OSU) is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) that focuses exclusively on making children and adolescents safer. Through CChIPS, researchers from CHOP, The University of Pennsylvania, and OSU work side by side with industry members to conduct translational research that is practical to industry. This synergistic collaboration between industry and academia creates an ideal environment to generate ideas for new research projects and to leverage shared expertise and resources. The CChIPS method applies the science of biomechanical epidemiology to the analysis of crash-related data. A unique and comprehensive approach, biomechanical epidemiology integrates the principles of engineering, behavioral science, and epidemiology into study designs.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children’s Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents.