Stroke patients are set to benefit from an assistive ‘robotic glove’ after an Edinburgh med-tech company received almost half a million pounds in UK Government funding.

Bioiberty’s technology allows patients to open and close their hands, an action that may be severely limited following a stroke.

The startup, based at the National Robotarium at Heriot Watt University, will get £435,000 in funding from Innovate UK in order to get the product to market.

Developed in collaboration with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and clinicians, the glove has built-in sensors that allows it to vary levels of resistance to tailor rehabilitation exercises to the user. 

The funding will go towards developing the machine learning and data collection elements of the product.

Bioliberty is a tenant at the National Robotarium, a pioneering facility which works with partners around the globe to define, develop and resolve industry challenges through the application of robotics and AI. Bioliberty benefits from the National Robotarium’s incubation facilities, state-of-the-art labs, and engineering expertise.

The National Robotarium is part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative, supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government. The initiative aims to turn Edinburgh into the data capital of Europe and is part of the wider £1.3 billion Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.

Statistics from the UK’s Stroke Association state that someone has a stroke every five minutes in this country affecting 100,000 people every year. It’s estimated that 1.3 million people in the UK have had a stroke with many requiring ongoing therapy to recover from the symptoms.

New guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published in October states that stroke victims should receive up to three hours of rehabilitation a day, five days a week. However, the Stroke Association has voiced concerns over the NHS’ ability to deliver on this target.

Bioliberty, which has already raised more than £3.5 million in private and public funding and created 8 new highly skilled roles within the company over the last six months, believes the new technology can help deliver on these new guidelines.  

Conan Bradley, co-founder at Bioliberty, said: “Bioliberty is on the verge of a revolutionary leap in rehabilitation technology. Our upcoming trials for our soft robotic glove are set to ignite the United States, with top rehab clinics eagerly in discussions. With this newfound funding, we’re poised to accelerate trials and expedite our market launch. But we’re not stopping at the U.S.; the UK beckons, with a significant demand for innovative rehabilitation solutions amidst the latest NICE guidelines.

 “Having access to the National Robotarium’s state-of-the-art office and lab facilities, including its ecosystem of collaborators, industry experts and academic teams, has been vital in helping us to develop our product.”

 Lisa Farrell, business development manager at the National Robotarium, said: “With an ageing population, demand for robotic solutions to assist in the rehabilitation of those who’ve experienced a stroke will be in great demand. Stroke is the leading cause of disability worldwide1, so Bioliberty’s product is addressing a global need, which is one of the core missions of the National Robotarium.

“The National Robotarium’s mission is to develop robotic and AI solutions which make people safer, healthier and more productive and working with tenant companies, we want to provide a catalyst for entrepreneurship, and deliver economic and societal benefits.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said: “This pioneering technology has the potential to become a vital tool for health professionals to help improve stroke patients’ care during their rehabilitation process.

“The UK Government has invested £21 million in the National Robotarium helping foster world-leading research and support high quality jobs, investment and growth, as part of our more than £2.7 billion investment to level up across Scotland.”