Bionic limb start-up backed by Wil­liams For­mula 1 team

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By

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

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