Source: eKapija | Wednesday, 04.04.2018.| 15:48
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MOTIMOVE to enter market in early 2019 – Belgrade's 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber develops unique device for movement assistance to persons with disabilities

The idea to create a device such as MOTIMOVE, meant for movement assistance to persons with disabilities, is not new, but the technology has now reached the level where we can procure the parts relatively easily and use them to create a multi-function system, which is at the same time simpler to use. We expect the product to be profitable, but the team was guided by the desire to create something useful.

This is how Lana Popovic Maneski, General Manager of the young Belgrade-based company 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber, explains the idea to develop a device that might make a considerable contribution to a quicker and simpler rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, together with a team of engineers.

The company developed the said device based on the implementation of functional electrical stimulation, and the new system follows the expertise and the long term experience of a team of experts from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Belgrade, already recognized in the world in the domain of development and implementation of electronic stimulators and wearable systems for persons with disabilities.

– Functional electrical stimulation (FES) has been used as therapy for decades, and our main consultant, academy member Dejan Popovic, has been active in the field for around forty years. Similar systems have been developed before, but are not complex enough to support all the functions that patients truly need – eKapija's interviewee points out.

The problem, she explains, has been how to find a compromise between the benefits of the system for the patient and the complicated use of the system. The main innovation of 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber is in increased power and new stimulator functions, all “packaged” in a smaller format, as well as its modular structure and the option to connect to external sensors placed on various body parts.

– An example of this is the option to measure the force distribution beneath the foot while the patient is walking or the sensor of the inclination of the pedal when a paralyzed person wants to ride a home bicycle. Also, the user interface is now simpler and doesn't require previous knowledge – our interviewee says.

MOTIMOVE is meant to provide movement assistance to persons suffering from multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or recovering after a stroke or a spinal cord injury, and the importance of the device has been recognized by the expert jury of the Aurea investment of the year award, organized by our portal, which awarded 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber with a special prize for innovation.

Long certification procedure

The initial idea was for MOTIMOVE to enter the market as a finished product by the end of the year, but it will probably be made available in early 2019. Also, as Popovic Maneski says, they are completing an industrial prototype, which is to be followed by the certification of the device, that is, the obtaining of the CE tag, so that the product could be made available in the European market.

– People are already asking us when the device is going to be finished so that they can try it, but we have had to slow down a bit, since we now have to fully certify the medical device as well, including all the accompanying permits. This requires more money and more time – at least six months from the beginning of the process, because the company itself also has to obtain certain certificates before the product does – our interviewee points out.

Also, there's a small problem regarding the procurement of components, because, as she adds, in order for a device to be certified, all the individual components need to be certified as well.

Milan Dobrota of Logit Solutions, last year's Aure recipient, handing over innovation prize to Lana Popovic Maneski, General Manager of 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber
Milan Dobrota of Logit Solutions, last year's Aure recipient, handing over innovation prize to Lana Popovic Maneski, General Manager of 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber
– This pertains to literally every component, from the lithium-ion batteries, which are not available here with certifications, nor can they be imported, as they are classified as “dangerous goods”. As a company which is not authorized for such a procedure, we can't import them, and in order for someone else to do it, the minimum amount needs to be 2,048 batteries – for a prototype! There are, then, certain challenges and difficulties, but we are sure we can overcome them. It's just that the process will take a bit more.

The plan of 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber is to make three types of the device, at three different levels of complexity. The most complex version will be meant for researchers and enable them to program the device as they see fit.

– Everybody has ideas of their own, that is, proposition for the protocol of rehabilitation that needs to be used, which is why we want to provide them with a platform they will be able to adapt, with some basic knowledge.

The medium level of complexity of the device is meant for clinics and patients for home therapy, after a basic training at a rehabilitation center. This device will have certain pre-defined protocols that patients will be able to adjust slightly to their needs.

The simplest version, at the same time the cheapest one and the one with the least amount of power, that is, with fewer channels, will also be available. It will feature pre-defined protocols that patients will be able to use in any situation. Users will be able to set certain parameters through a computer or an Android device.

MOTIMOVE as additional motivation for patients

As Lana Popovic Maneski explains, patients in a clinical environment love to use electro-therapy devices, which enable them to, for example, see the part of the body they can't move.

– When it comes to the consequences of a stroke, for example, which entail partial or full immobility of one side of the body, patients often maintain a large part of their cognitive faculties and this provides motivation for them to initiate their inner biological mechanism. By exercising every day, they begin to partly activate their neural pathways, and the additional attention provided to them by the therapist also does them well.

Our interviewee reminds that rehabilitation is a process that can take several months and that people often get discouraged when they don't see immediate and obvious effects. That is why they plan to combine the device with video games sometime in the future.

These young entrepreneurs from Belgrade cooperate with numerous institutions and whenever they reach a new level of development, they look for feedback from medical experts.

Prototypes of this device are being tested at clinics in Lyon and Saint-Etienne, as well as at the Dr Miroslav Zotovic Rehabilitation Clinic in Belgrade.

Partnership with French funds

The company 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber has received a mini grant from the Innovation Fund for 2018 and, according to our interviewee, this has provided a financial boost for them to enter the business more seriously. As the grant requires co-financing, the ANTS foundation from Lyon has invested EUR 16,000 on top of the amount of EUR 80,000 invested by the French Partners Fund.

– What's interesting is that they've found us through references and reputation and proposed cooperation, so it's obvious that the word about our work has traveled far.

– We are also applying for other funds, though there are not many of those at the moment. Still, we first want to complete the product and then see whether to carry out the procedure of certification by ourselves or look for partners. Maybe we will continue the process with these French partners and have the certification carried out in France.

Business as new career step


The company 3F-Fit Fabricando Faber was founded in August 2017, right before the application to the contest of the Innovation Fund for the financing of innovative projects as part of the Mini Grants Program, and it got an office at the Science-Technology Park in Belgrade several months ago. They currently employ five engineers.

Popovic Maneski notes that business is a new element in her career, as she used to be “only” a scientific researcher until now.

– I believe that what we are doing is fantastic, but I am still not entirely sure that it will be that easy for us to find a position in the market and expand our product and our idea. I am optimistic, as we have a lot of professional and business contacts in the world, but there's also the competition and some other things that affect our operations. We don't expect to get rich from this, but we aim to function normally as a company and to expand slightly, so that we could employ new kids some day and keep them from leaving the country – eKapija's interviewee concludes.

M.A.
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