Inspiring Practice Programme

3DNovations - Responsible IT business that is targeted to include autism in the working environment and to empower employees with complex needs

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 16 January 2017

3DNovations tackles the problem that industry and society are locking out the ideas and talent of people with autism. The exclusion of the people with Autism (1% of population) costs the UK economy £38billion per annum.

This project is a tech industry led, multi-stakeholder research programme designed at every stage with and for people with autism. The project includes people with autism in the research team by using avatars in a 3D virtual world to enable everyone to learn and to work together and to engage stakeholders – especially employers. The technologies are already familiar to users through gaming and remove barriers to participation of people with autism who feel more confident in this environment.

3DNovations demonstrates that industry led RRI tools and methodologies can create a more inclusive society by unlocking ideas and talents of people with autism, increasing their employment and improving industrial competitiveness.

Development, Exploration, Implementation, Monitorization & Evaluation, Dissemination
The societal challenge addressed in this initiative relates to inclusion and social justice: there is
a gap between what people with autism have access to vs. what others have access to. Tackling
exclusion (e.g. from school, from employment), having a voice, having an influence, having a
job and contributing to society is what this project aims to contribute.
Providing support to people with autism can be done at a lower cost, saving money for society,
through prevention of current exclusion of people with autism. There is an annual cost of £38
billion annually in the UK that results from ‘failing’ (as Herbertson puts it) autism citizens who
have potential especially when assisted by technology. There is a pool of 600,000 people who
may have potential digital skills to fill this gap. There may also potentially be a deficit of skilled
workers within the UK in the near future. This tool may help to remedy that. In addition to
addressing an existing social need, the research is engaging end-users in the creation and evaluation
of services, whilst helping traditional public employment service providers to reach a
group that is traditionally very hard to access in a cost-effective way.
The target group and audience of young people with autism and other complex needs is fully
and directly involved in the research project. The rationale for including them is that people with
autism are best placed to communicate their needs and are completely capable of doing so.
The research project itself facilitates their involvement because it uses a technology that they
are familiar with already through gaming. This is used to effectively engage them in activities
such as training and development in which they would normally not participate and gain their
feedback, thoughts and ideas on how to create services that meet their needs better. The
substantial use of ICTs taking place outside of the recognised institutional setting is radically
modifying the existing mechanisms of service provision, allowing autistic people to gain employability, social skills and engage with other parties in a completely new way. The partnership approach in the delivery of this project has meant that stakeholders such as funders, public services, voluntary sector organisations and employers have been able to engage and communicate their needs directly with the target group using a method that does not intimidate but empowers those for whom the research is intended.


From 01/01/2016 to present
  • Leading organisation: 
  • Cooperation partners: Various industrial, public sector and education partners; Kingston University & University College Dublin; Autus (foundation for people with autism set up by and most recently, - a social business has set up in Ireland as part of its EU growth strategy
Nicola Herbertson, [email protected]

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