Bionic limb start-up backed by Williams Formula 1 team
A BRISTOL start-up that is developing advanced bionic hands and arms has raised about £5m from investors including Formula 1 team Williams.
Founded in 2014, Open Bionics designs advanced prosthetic limbs using 3D printing techniques that reduce the cost of production compared with current designs.
The start-up, which previously raised money from the venture capital arm of Disney, has also given its arms, known as “Hero Arms”, a twist for younger users, allowing them to customise their limb to appear like characters from superhero films.
It is able to equip children as young as nine with its multi-grip robotic hands, which can perform actions such as gently gripping and giving an OK sign and are strong enough for high fives and fist bumps.
Working with Disney, Open Bionics has designed arms for children inspired by Star Wars, Marvel comics and
Frozen. It launched private sales in May 2018 and has been working with the NHS for two years to bring the product to clinics. It sells its prosthetics for about £10,000, roughly a third of equivalent limbs using similar technology. Its use of 3D scanning and 3D printing has allowed it to cut costs.
The latest funding round was led by Williams Advanced Engineering’s venture fund, Foresight Williams Technology, with Ananda Impact Ventures and current backers Downing Ventures.
The start-up has also won plaudits including an innovation award backed by Sir James Dyson.
One of the first beneficiaries was Tilly Lockey, a girl who lost her arms to meningitis, but at 12 was able to take control of a pair of new bionic hands.
Open Bionics founder Joel Gibbard said the funding would provide “crucial capital” to make advanced prostheses “available to a much wider audience”.
Its latest arms are able to perform delicate tasks, such as picking up a marble or stacking a Lego block. Second-stage clinical trials will involve NHS clinics around the UK.
Matthew Burke, head of technology ventures at Williams, said the start-up would benefit from the F1 company’s engineering and technical expertise.
Tilly Lockey was one of the first to benefit from Open Bionics’ technology Matthew Field