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Spotlight on: Touch Bionics image

The first in a series of ‘spotlights’ on our spin-outs and inventors, today we take an in-depth look at a true success story of NHS Scotland innovation, Touch Bionics.

Touch began as an idea in NHS Lothian, originally called Touch EMAS (Edinburgh Modular Arm System). It became the first SHIL spin-out in 2002 – but the history goes back much further.

In 1986 David Gow joined the Bioengineering Centre at the Prince Margaret Rose Hospital Bioengineering Centre, with responsibility for research in development. Soon after this, work began in earnest on electronic arms that included workable shoulders, wrists and hands. In 1993 Gow developed a partial hand system that received publicity around the world, and in 1998 achieved wider international profile through the fitting of the world’s first electrically powered shoulder.

When Gow led the then Touch EMAS into a spin-out from SHIL in 2002, it quickly acquired significant initial funding from Scottish Enterprise. It has since received investment funding from organisations that include Archangel Informal Investments, TriCAP, Clydesdale Bank and the Scottish Co-investment Fund. In 2005 the company was rebranded Touch Bionics to reflect the future focus of its prosthesis technology.

In 2007 Touch Bionics launched the i-limb hand, the world’s first powered prosthetic hand to incorporate articulating finger – five independently powered digits that open and close around objects in a more natural and anatomically correct way than any previous hand prosthesis. Since then Touch has continued to constantly innovate, creating a host of new and updated technologies that have revolutionised the care and lives of over 5000 patients that have been fitted with Touch Bionics products:

  • i-limb digits, an extension of the articulating digit technology that makes up the i-limb hand and provides a radical new solution for partial hand patients to replace lost fingers;
  • i-limb revolution which, as well as a powered rotating thumb, 24 grip options and extra sensitive electrodes was the first upper-limb prosthesis to allow wearers to configure it via mobile devices using the my i-limb app;
  • the latest i-limb quantum which as well as a whole host of gesture control upgrades offers 30% faster digit speed, 30% more power, and 50% more battery life than the previous generation of products.

Touch Bionics continues to expand and innovate upon their base product and lead the world in the development of upper limb prosthetic technologies. In April 2016 the company was acquired by Össur, a recognised “Technology Pioneer” and global leader in non-invasive orthopaedics that help people live a life without limitations. The company is committed to delivering positive patient outcomes and improving the lives of people with upper limb deficiencies across the world.

Want to find out more about Touch and there work? Check out our spin-out’s section or explore the Touch Bionics website.

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