Device to help stroke survivors wins £50,000 Inventor Prize

A device which encourages stroke survivors to engage in rehabilitation exercises through competitive and collaborative training was the overall winner of the Inventor Prize, launched as part of the Industrial Strategy, in order to find Britain’s grassroots and garden shed inventors.

Innovation foundation Nesta, supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), announced the overall winner and two recognition awards, from its 10 shortlisted finalists. The awardees will receive £50,000, £15,000 and £5000 respectively, to help get their product to market.

The overall winner was Guilem Singla Buxarrais and Dimitris Athanasiou, co-founders of Neurofenix, who invented the Neuroball, which allows stroke survivors to perform exercises to improve dexterity in the hand and arm. The Neuroball connects to an online platform, allowing users to play games of increasing complexity throughout the recovery process.

Buxarrais and Athanasiou were driven to develop the device after they both experienced stroke within their families. There are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, with around 100,000 strokes occurring every year. However, many stroke survivors find the existing rehabilitation exercises repetitive and monotonous. By offering a series of online games for stroke survivors to play during their rehabilitation, the device keeps users engaged in their training leading to better results.

Constance Agyeman, head of international development and communities, at Nesta commented:
“We know that Challenge Prizes are an effective catalyst to stimulating innovation and fast tracking success. And we’ve certainly witnessed our ten shortlisted finalists going on incredible journeys as they turn their dreams into reality - with financial support and professional mentoring helping them develop their prototypes, source invaluable partners and suppliers and create business plans.

"We now hope all our entrants have been given the confidence and expertise they need to turn their ideas into real products and that they too continue their journeys. But we are especially excited to support our 3 overall winners in getting their products into the hands of consumers.”
 Guilem Singla Buxarrais of Neurofenix, said: “We are so excited to be selected as the winners of the Inventor Prize, from the nine other brilliant and inspiring entrepreneurs.

“We were driven to develop the device after experiencing strokes within our families. We experienced the impact that stroke has in the life of a survivor and their family. In an instant and without notice, you can have a stroke and your life changes forever. It’s devastating.
“We have co-created the Neuroball with survivors, their families and physiotherapists from initial conception. The Neuroball will transform rehabilitation from a lonely, expensive experience to a fun and social journey to recovery. Our long-term goal is to provide affordable and engaging rehabilitation to every person who suffers a stroke, worldwide.

"Finally, we believe our technology will have applications beyond stroke. There are other conditions that demand physical and cognitive rehabilitation such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, hand injury and osteoarthrosis that could benefit from the Neuroball."

Cambridge-based Urologic, led by Nawar Al-Zebar, received the £15,000 second prize for the NuCath catheter device. The catheter uses smart materials to replace the standard Foley catheter whose design has barely changed since it was first developed in the 1930s. Infections from standard catheters affect 500,000 people every year in the UK and are estimated to cost the NHS around £2 billion annually. The NuCath device is easier to use and could reduce infections by up to 50%, meaning a huge potential saving to the NHS.

Ed Rogers from Bristol Braille Technology CIC received the £5000 third prize for the Canute 360 Braille e-reader. Unlike existing Braille readers, the Canute device offers a multi-line display, meaning it can be used to read mathematical formulas and tables in textbooks, as well as musical scores. Books can be added by SD cards or USB, essentially making it a Kindle for Braille users.

The Inventor Prize was launched in August 2017 after first being announced in the Industrial Strategy Green Paper in January 2017. Since then it has uncovered 10 stand-out ideas that could transform the lives of people throughout the UK, ranging from a 3D-printed prosthetic arm for babies and toddlers to a smart gumshield that could save athletes’ lives. Each finalist received £5,000 and bespoke mentoring from Barclays Eagle Labs to develop their ideas further.

Business secretary Greg Clark congratulated the three winning inventors, saying: “From researchers in life-saving meds to start-ups in garden sheds, we are home to some of the greatest minds in the world delivering cutting-edge inventions to improve lives. I am proud to see three of the best being recognised through the Inventor Prize.

“This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, building an ecosystem in which the UK’s world-beating entrepreneurs and innovators can go from strength to strength, with the brightest ideas of today turning into the leading products of tomorrow.”


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