A wheelchair providing new freedom could conquer world markets
The Winterthur-based start-up, Scewo AG, has reason to celebrate. Today, the company and its BRO electric wheelchair won the coveted Swiss Medtech Award – the innovation prize of the Swiss medical technology industry worth 50,000 Swiss francs. What began in 2014 as a Bachelors’ focus project uniting the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK, has produced a power wheelchair providing new freedom for people with limited mobility. Thanks to its caterpillar-like crawlers, BRO is the only power wheelchair worldwide to combine driving on two wheels with stair-climbing ability. It also features an attractive state-of the-art design and a system controllable via mobile phone app or joystick. Scewo also developed the software entirely in-house, which enables continuous improvements, and novel functions easily sent to customers via updates. BRO masters almost all types of steps with ease and the integrated seat lift can elevate the user to previously out of reach items, as well as to the eye level of all conversation partners.
Jury President Prof. Mirko Meboldt, ETH Zurich, ranks the achievement of the Swiss Medtech Award winner among the best in the world. «With creativity, technology, a lot of work and entrepreneurial spirit, Scewo has created an innovation that could potentially conquer world markets». Much has changed for Bernhard Winter CEO, and Scewo co-founders Thomas Gemperle and Pascal Buholzer since the company was founded – except their level of ambition. «Our goal of making everyday life easier for people in wheelchairs, of increasing their freedom and independence, is as strong as it was at the start. The Swiss Medtech Award is further confirmation that we are on the right track,» says Bernhard Winter. The young team of around thirty is made up of professionals from a wide range of fields; software, mechanics, marketing, and design. «This mix of competences is what moves us forward and makes us better,» say the company founders.
The jury and the audience also recognised the top achievements of the other two finalists. GalvoSurge Dental AG made it into the top three with a highly efficient system for cleaning inserted dental implants, icotec ag impressed with their non-metallic and radiolucent implants for the treatment of spinal tumours.
Making the most of digitalisation
For the first time, Swiss Medtech Day was dedicated to one focus topic. «Digital Health Technology» was the theme of the entire event which attracted more than 600 people from industry, business, and healthcare to Bern. Digitalisation is permeating the medtech industry’s entire value chain and stimulating a rethink of business models, innovation processes, and patient-centred healthcare. «As champions of innovation, the Swiss medtech industry is well placed to emerge as a winner of digital transformation. Let's seize the opportunity,» says Peter Biedermann, CEO of Swiss Medtech.
The country of Finland is considered a pioneer in the digitalisation of healthcare and was therefore the perfect host country for Swiss Medtech Day. The Finnish delegation was pleased to share its experiences with their Swiss counterparts. It became clear that data collection and documentation are crucial to guarantee success. «Finland's patient data is now 100% in electronic form, with files as far back as 1960 being recorded. This was made possible through the introduction of a personal, unique ID number. Furthermore, extensive data collection enables us to react agilely to the latest technological developments,» says Päivi Sillanaukee, Ambassador for Health and Well-being at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
About the Swiss Medtech Award and Swiss Medtech Day
In 2018, Swiss Medtech launched the Swiss Medtech Award, which is endowed with CHF 50,000 and sponsored by the Lichtsteiner Foundation, the Straumann Group, and Ypsomed. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in the Swiss medical technology industry. Under the chairmanship of Prof. Mirko Meboldt, ETH Zurich, the jury evaluates the candidates according to the criteria of patient benefit, contribution to improving healthcare, and technological pioneering spirit. The winner is announced at the annual Swiss Medtech Day – the most important event for the Swiss medical technology industry. The principal partner is Innosuisse, the Swiss Agency for Innovation Research, with be-advanced AG, Dassault Systèmes, konplan systemhaus ag, and TRUMPF Schweiz AG contributing as other main sponsors of the event.
Swiss Medtech represents around 700 members in its role as industry association for Swiss medical technology. With 63,000 employees and a contribution of 16.4% to the positive trade balance, medical technology is an economically significant sector in Switzerland. Swiss Medtech advocates for conditions that enable the medtech industry to perform at peak capacity and provide first-class medical care.