CORDIS - EU research results

ElectroRheological fluid based eXOSkeleton devices for physical upper limb rehabilitation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ERXOS (ElectroRheological fluid based eXOSkeleton devices for physical upper limb rehabilitation)

Reporting period: 2016-04-01 to 2016-09-30

The ERXOS Project aims at exploring new market opportunities addressing EU/global challenges. In fact the exponential increase of the ageing population in Europe and in Developed Countries is resulting in a drastic reorganization of their health systems and care delivery. This, in turn, will open new venues within the rehabilitation market through the advent of new rehabilitation providers (e.g. nursing home, accredited fitness centres, Adapted Physical Activity APA centres), that will increase the offer of products and services for citizens. Such products and services will make qualified rehabilitation more widely available at the point of patients need, and are therefore well aligned with initiatives promoted by the EU promoting healthy active style (e.g. Active and Healthy Ageing initiatives) . The main objective of “two more life year of average Healthy Aging by 2020” represents a great opportunity to introduce innovative solutions at sustainable costs. It is worth mentioning that, rehabilitation defined by the World Health Organization as ”…the use of all means aimed at reducing the impact of disabling and handicapping conditions” is a basic human right . The ERXOS devices have therefore the target to enhance the quality of rehabilitation services at low-cost and for all.
The main objectives of the ERXOS innovation project are to develop ready-to-market innovative, modular, light weight, low cost, intrinsically safe, portable, semi-active exoskeleton devices to be used for the optimization and easy personalization of the rehabilitation treatment for upper limb. The above objectives will be pursued through the uptake of a class of Smart Materials called Electrorheological Fluids (ERFs), whose principal exploited characteristic is the change of their rheological capabilities to provide an adjustable mechanical resistance opposed to motion when an electric field is applied. The proposed product key marketing features, enabled by the ERFs technology, will be: low-cost to allow the use of robot-assisted therapy in rehab centres and also in nursing houses, private physiotherapists centres, specialized fitness centres for elderly people (e.g. APA); intrinsically safe (no presence of active power actuators) allowing an easier Standard Compliance certification procedure and decreasing time to market; intuitive to reduce set-up time and to allow a simple use without supervision; adaptable in terms of possible use of people with different sizes and needs; modular to be split in different sub-systems to allow, as an example, separate rehab of shoulder, elbow, wrist; goal-oriented (e.g. combined with serious game techniques/virtual reality systems).The ERXOS devices have the target to enhance the quality of rehabilitation services at low-cost and for all. The feasibility study of the ERXOS Project has been dedicated to assess the complete viability of the proposed products with the main aim to reach the market in a 2 years period. To this extent, a detailed business plan has been produced at the end of PHASE I including risk assessment, market analysis and detailed market strategy.
The feasibility study has dealt with the evolution of the business idea in respect to the initial plans to consolidate the Company's strategic vision. This evolved towards a market-oriented innovative product development approach that lays its foundation on the following main findings: the technical feasibility of the solution proposed, that has permitted, through an iterative approach involving freedom to operate analysis and opinion leader consultation, the identification of the ERXOS products for 2 market segments (defining main characteristics, functionalities, expected use of each device); the patentability and freedom to operate of the ERXOS devices, combined with a suitable IPR protection plan; the specialization of the initial market analysis with identification of the most interesting market segments; the consolidation of the initial key alliances; the identification of the regulatory pathways, applicable directives and related harmonized standards to enable certification and sales; the definition of a business strategy accounting Company current assets and dimension in respect to the addressed markets; the sustainability of the business through a detailed financial plan.
The impacts of the present initiative are extremely positive from different perspectives: employment growth and associated scale-up of the dimension of the SMEs involved; social impact being tailored to provide instruments to face societal challenges like ageing and related diseases, unhealthy lifestyles (obese population increase); maintenance of a leading R&D and marketing European position in the ERF enabling technology.