Mr. Thorsteinsson, project manager at Össur, explained to FET the motivation and role of the company in these 2 FET projects.
Össur was founded in 1971 in Iceland as a prosthetic clinic. Through innovation and acquisitions, the company is now a leader within the fields of prosthetics and osteoarthritis and injury solutions, with more than 2300 employees worldwide. Headquarters are based in Iceland, where manufacturing and R&D are an important part of the company's activity.
Össur has been actively participating in EU funded research projects for almost 20 years, using those projects to gather knowledge to better understand the scientific foundations for new company's developments.
Participation in the FET projects BioMot and SYMBITRON offers opportunities to explore new ways of approaching research by allowing more fundamental questions to be addressed, compared to mainstream EU funding calls, and in that sense FET is a unique opportunity. Interestingly, both projects are based on previous EU funded projects (no FET), where Össur also participated, which opened up a new set of research questions, that we are now collectively addressing.
The main objective of BioMot project is to improve existing wearable robotic exoskeletons, exploiting dynamic sensorimotor interactions and developing cognitive capabilities, which can lead to symbiotic gait behavior in the interaction of a human with a wearable robot. SYMBITRON project, on the other hand, targets a major technological leap for symbiotic man-machine interactions. In particular, the project aims to markedly improve the lives of (partially) paralyzed persons through the development of a superior wearable exoskeleton. Such systems are designed to offer Spinal Cord Injured (SCI) patients the ability to walk and overcome obstacles in their daily life.
Thus, both projects aim to provide exoskeletal devices that can improve mobility of people with neurological diseases or disabilities, and if successful, it is foreseen that they could be of benefit to large groups of people and improve their quality of life.
Össur has similar role in both projects, primarily dealing with issues for protecting knowledge, and ensuring exploitation and dissemination activities. For example, the two projects worked together towards dissemination and, with other projects, co-organised the first Wearable Robotics workshop (WeRob 2014), which was a successful event (WeRob 2014 report). A second WeRob workshop 2015 is planned for October in South Korea. The project leaders of both SYMBITRON and BioMot are taking active part in the organisation of this workshop.
Addionally, Össur is involved in the definition of the devices requirements, both with regard to performance and regulatory compliance. Össur has also input into technological developments where we bring our expertise in design of bracing devices and combine that with biomechanial and bionic developments. The innovation strategy in the projects aims at maximising the value of the projects so the focus is on identifying the new things, confirming what is novel about them and protecting the novelty when possible. Alongside the protection part, it is also strived to find opportunities to turn the knowledge created into value, either into development of products or into new lines of research.
By participating in these two FET projects, and other EU funded project, Össur has been able to widen its knowledge base and to create a network with scientists and other companies. Direct contacts with users has contributed to a better understanding of their needs and priorities. Participating in these projects is overall a very positive experience for us!