A new wheelchair targeted at active consumers could hit the market as early as the end of this year after a funding campaign has attracted growing interest.
The FreedomOne is the brain child of an entrepreneur who found traditional power chairs fell short for the active life he leads, particularly in terms of their battery and tyre life.
After a successful prototype, Alex Papanikolaou, who has athetoid cerebral palsy, is looking to raise £1.2 million.
Papanikolaou’s new venture has partnered with Albert Nicholl, who previously worked for medical device companies including Orthofix and Stryker, as managing director.
Nicholl was reported by The Herald as saying that the £1.2 million, which is expected to come from a mixture of private equity and angel investors, would take the business “through the final R&D stage to the escalation of the customer service piece to getting a market-ready chair”.
He told the newspaper: “We’re in fairly extensive discussions with one group, who are at the end of their due diligence, and we’re waiting for financial term sheets.
“We’re also in discussions with another group who are very interested. The people who run the fund are on board with us – we’ve had three or four meetings with them.
“We’ve also had interest coming in from social impact funds. For them it’s not all about return – they believe they can help us.”
In March the FreedomOne will be given to ten people for user testing and modifications will be made after the test period.
It is hoped that the chair will enter commercial production by the end of this year, having struck a deal with a manufacturer in Scotland.
The FreedomOne is designed to be lighter with longer-lasting batteries and tyres than its competitors.
Papanikolaou also said that customer service will be essential to his firm, citing the problem of many chairs on the market which sometimes take weeks to be fixed.
Image: Computer generated image of FreedomOne concept