Inclusive Technology Prize

Open Bionics has been named as one of the 25 innovations that will make the UK more accessible to the 1 in 5 people with disabilities.

25 designers and entrepreneurs have been shortlisted out of 200 pitches for the Inclusive Technology prize, and are now in with the chance to win a £50,000 prize for a technology, product or service that enables disabled people in the UK better access to life’s opportunities.

The Inclusive Technology prize judges said they were inspired by the inventive ideas put forward.

Joel Gibbard, Open Bionics CEO, said: "We decided to enter the Inclusive Technology prize because we want to make a difference with our 3D printed, robotic hands for amputees everywhere. We believe there's a huge need for affordable robotic prosthetics and we think we can help by using emerging technologies like 3D scanning and 3D printing to bring the cost down.

"We're not just focusing on the functionality of the device, we're focusing on making 3D printed hands that amputees will enjoy wearing. We want them to be fashionable, inspiring for children, and even have a few extra capabilities to one-up the human hand. We're constantly working with amputees to develop these desirable devices."

Human hand holding bionic hand

Inclusive Technology prize judge, Jess Thom, said: “Judging the competition so far has been inspiring, as there have been lots genuinely exciting products and inventive ideas that make the best use of technologies available to us, and can help to increase accessibility for the 12.2 million disabled people in the UK.”

The prize seeks to foster the next generation of assistive tools and technologies that will make a real difference to the 1 in 5 people living with limiting long term illness or disability in the UK.

The shortlist has been selected by a judging panel including comedians Jess Thom, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and Laurence Clark who has cerebral palsy, as well as Alan Norton, CEO of Assist charity and Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK among others. The shortlisted organisations and individuals will receive mentoring and support from Leonard Cheshire Disability, the UKs leading charity supporting disabled people.

Gemma Bull, Managing Director Enterprise and Innovation for Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “We are very excited about working with Nesta and mentoring the competition entrants through the Inclusive Technology Prize. This is a fantastic opportunity to develop innovative technology which supports disabled people to lead more independent lives.”

The 25 semi-finalists take part in the mentoring stage of the competition in March, April and May this year, and ten finalists will be selected to develop prototypes ready for impact testing throughout 2015. The winner of the £50,000 contract will be announced in March 2016.

The challenge will encourage all semi-finalists to innovate through co-creation with disabled people, meeting needs as defined by the users themselves.

The Minister of State for Disabled People Mark Harper said: “Innovative technology can make a real difference to the lives of disabled people and I’m delighted that the Inclusive Technology Prize has inspired all of these cutting edge ideas.

“Supporting disabled people to live full lives and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else is an absolute priority for us and I am confident that advances in technology will continue to enable us to do more. I wish all the nominees the best of luck.”

The full shortlist can be seen at

A bionic model is born

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Over the past few years the personalisation of healthcare devices has been a growing trend in the maker-sphere.

From gold-plated hearing aids, neon walking sticks, and sparkling blade prosthetics to 3D printed arm casts, people with disabilities are no longer waiting for health services to catch up, they are dragging their medical devices into the future on their own.

These medical aids are getting a long-awaited makeover and today it's the turn of the bionic hand with Open Bionics unveiling of their latest 3Dprinted prosthetic at London's 'Wearable Tech Show'.

Open Bionics, a startup of four based inside the Bristol Robotic's Laboratory's Technology Incubator, has 3D printed a custom-fitted bionic hand with enough sparkle to rival a disco ball for a woman born without a hand.

Grace Mandeville modelling open bionics robotic hand
Bionic hand holding human hand

Grace Mandeville is a YouTube starlet and CBBC actress who applauds the growing popularity for diverse prosthetics.

Grace has taken to YouTube on multiple occasions to discuss diversity and her love of inventive prosthetics that can show off a bit of her vibrant personality.

Grace said: “This is my favourite thing about this whole topic. I really love fashion, and therefor dress to illustrate my personality, so being able to wear a creative prosthetic that shows who I am seems awesome- it’s like a one off accessory that nobody else can wear, basically like vintage Chanel.”

“You should be proud of what makes you different, and I think being able to wear a fun looking prosthetic is something to be proud of! You're basically saying to the public “my arms cool and I know”.”

Grace Mandeville wearing bionic hand

Open Bionics' COO Samantha Payne said that the idea behind the Swarovski hand was to show off the possibilities for prosthetics within 3D printing.

Samantha said: “We printed Grace a socket and robotic hand in three days, and because 3D printing is so affordable we can add Swarovksi crystals and create something really eye-catching that will not break the bank. We also added four fibre optic wires to the socket so that whenever Grace closes her hand, a blue light would shoot up her 3D printed arm.”

“Prosthetics are entering the realms of fashion and we wanted to show how bionic prosthetics can be functional and fun.”

“We've been very experimental with Grace's hand. This is a completely new socket design and this is the first time we've experimented with placing the EMG sensors above the elbow. Grace is actually controlling her hand by the muscle signals from her back.”

“The idea is to give hand amputees more option and a choice to have something they'd get some enjoyment out of wearing.”

“We've been told a lot by amputees that they want something that will get a compliment not a strange stare, something far away from a 'flesh' coloured prosthetic.”

Grace Mandeville giving thumbs up with open bionics robotic hand

Grace's sister, Amelia Mandeville, said that having an attractive prosthetic could help turn something that is seen as 'negative into a positive'. Amelia echoed her sister's stance for having the option to stand out, asking “Who wants to be the same?”

Grace Mandeville Open Bionics Arm

As Grace eloquently puts it, “Why try to blend in? When you can have a piece of art as an arm instead?”

Grace was given a traditional cosmetic prosthetic when she was little and has one now but says, “I never wear it, I don't like wearing it, it gets in the way.”

Grace said: “I love what Open Bionics is doing. So many people at the 'Wearable Tech Show' thought I had a hand and that I was wearing a fashionable sleeve, making some kind of fashion statement. I had to keep pulling my arm out and showing people that I wasn't wearing some kind of glove but an actual bionic arm.”

“I found the hand really easy to operate, I tried it on for the first time Monday and I could control the hand straight away. I thought it was going to be really heavy but it wasn't. I obviously still feel the difference, I was born with a foreshorten forearm so wearing anything is going to feel different and will always be an added weight.”

“I don't ever wear prosthetics because I don't feel like I need to. I would however absolutely love a bionic hand like this for events and evening's out. I love fashion and this looks incredible.”

Open Bionics is still developing their robotic prosthetics and hope to be selling 3D printed hands within a year.

Open Bionics has won multiple awards for their open source 3D printed robotic hands and was recently named as one of the Top 50 international robotics companies to watch along with Google.

Video of Grace taken at the show by a Robin Fearon:

Read more on 3Ders3D Print Industry, and 3D Print.

Robotics mission in Japan with Prince William

Two Bristol-based robotics startups have been chosen to represent 'the best of British innovation' in Japan this week.

The 'Innovation is GREAT' campaign was opened by Prince William in Tokyo earlier today.

The robotics trade mission, put on by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), will hear from inventor Joel Gibbard, of Open Bionics, and Reach Robotics founder Silas Adekunle.

Both Joel and Silas, whose businesses are based inside the Bristol Robotics Laboratory's Tech Incubator, will showcase their inventions. 

Silas will demonstrate his spider-like 'battle' robot at the opening campaign event, and Joel will present his latest 3D printed robotic hand.

The UKTI hopes to strengthen the working relationship between academics and businesses in Japan and Britain.

A spokesperson for the British embassy said Joel is proof that 'harnessing entrepreneurial skills and design principles can lead to the development of life-changing products.'

The campaign is designed to to drive innovation, research and development, and commercial partnerships between the academic and business sectors.

A spokesperson from British Embassy said: "Great ideas flourish in Great Britain. The highest standard of universities, a well established business environment and governance, government support and incentives help make creative ideas come to life."

The UK is known for its entrepreneurship and spirit of innovation. Our discoveries, inventions and ideas have a profound impact on the world. Famous entrepreneurs include James Dyson and Richard Branson, and famous British inventions include the worldwide web, the automated teller machine (ATM), the wind-up radio which has helped share vital information in protecting against infectious diseases, and the wonder-material graphene.

Joel Gibbard demonstrating bionic hand in Japan

'Innovation is GREAT' is a year-long campaign by the British Government to build partnerships between the United Kingdom and Japan to lead positive social change in the future. The British Embassy Tokyo is launching its campaign on the occasion of the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to Japan by showcasing the best of British innovation at a series of launch events.

Joel will also give a talk at the University of Tokyo later this week about how design and innovation can be used for social change. Find out more here:

Open Bionics makes Top 50 robotics list

A South West startup has been ranked amongst Dyson, Google, and Panasonic as one of the Top 50 robotics companies to watch in 2015. 

The international RBR50 list named Open Bionics as one of the most noteworthy companies in the global robotics industry for 2015.

The Open Bionics Team

Chosen by the robotics community through the Robotics Business Review (RBR), RBR50 companies are recognized based on their innovation, groundbreaking application, commercial success and potential, and represent many different levels and facets of the robotics ecosystem.

Open Bionics was considered for their groundbreaking work into 3D printed robotic prosthetic hands.

Joel Gibbard, Open Bionics’ founder, said: “Looking at the list and seeing our startup’s name feels incredible. Pretty much every single company on the list is a company I have aspired to work for in the past and certainly aspire to match in their success in innovation in the future.”

This international compilation spans 11 countries and in addition to the large conglomerates, 20% of the list is comprised of lesser-known startups. The RBR50 list is dynamic, with robotics companies entering and leaving on an annual basis and thus creating a list that is indicative of where the global robotics industry as a whole is headed.

“2015: Year of the Inflection Point in robotics. What a great time to be counted among the global best in the fastest rising industry in the world. Once again, the robotics community has done a stellar job in selecting those few to represent all,” says Tom Green, RBR Editor in Chief.

With the robotics industry more competitive than ever, new companies are popping up all the time. Of those companies, the RBR50 list outlines those who should be kept on your business radar. 

This is the latest international recognition for the Bristol-based business after a string of recent award wins including ‘Best Product Innovation,’ at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Video: An early prototype being tested, the first time anyone has been fitted with a custom-fit robotic hand created with a 3D printer and 3D scanner. 

Founder of the Year Award

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While Open Bionics was in San Francisco pitching for half a million dollars, our founder Joel Gibbard was named 'Founder of the Year' at The Sparkies awards.

TechSpark set out to shine a light on the 'very best people, products and companies' that make up the tech sector in Bristol, Bath, and the broader West of England region.

The awards celebrate individuals and companies that champion and drive tech innovation in business.

As well as Joel winning 'Founder of the Year', his company Open Bionics made it as a finalist in two other categories.

For the 'Founder of the Year' award judges were looking for someone in the tech community who has consistently demonstrated a significant entrepreneurial spirit and whose digital activity has shown commitment, enthusiasm, success and achievement.

The judges said of Joel and Open Bionics: ‘Brilliant use of new technology to disrupt a tired old sector and transform lives by making prosthetics more capable, affordable and accessible. Joel combines technical brilliance with a positive social mission, making this a real example of entrepreneurship at its best.’

Joel was sad to have missed the annual tech event but had electronics engineer Patrick Brinson to pick up the award for him.

You can see the full list of winners and those nominated here: The Sparkies. 

TechSpark put together this video to celebrate Bristol and Bath's tech scene. Spot our founder and robot hand (we love the ending best).

Open Bionics is based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a world leading research and innovation centre for robotics.

Prosthetic Innovation Award

Joel Gibbard has been shortlisted for an award celebrating innovation in the prosthetics industry.

Joel Gibbard Open Bionics robotic hand

Limbless Association, who provide support to amputees and the limb-loss community, will host the annual 'Prosthetic and Orthotic Awards' in London on December 3rd.

The awards recognize and reward outstanding contributions and achievements in the limb-loss and healthcare communities and the prosthetic and orthotic industry.

Awards' organiser Ed Pearce said: "I am personally really pleased to see that Joel and Open Bionics have been nominated for the award as they offer the  average amputee a high quality product at a more affordable price."

"We have had dozens of inspirational stories and outstanding candidates and I know the judges have had a difficult task with choosing the winners!"

The awards attract professionals who work in the prosthetics and orthotics industry as well as user groups and inspirational people with limb differences.

Joel Gibbard said: “The awards ceremony will be a fantastic evening. I'm looking forward to meeting the industry professionals and people from the limb-loss community so I can gather their thoughts on our project. There's going to be a room full of people with a lifetime of invaluable experiences and knowledge, so we're very grateful to have been included.”

Joel was nominated because of the work he is doing with Open Bionics. Joel is using new technologies to create affordable robotic hands for amputees that will change the healthcare industry.

Joel is focused on making current high-tech robotic hands that cost anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 for as little as $1,000. 

Categories for awards include 'The Inspiration Award', 'Life Time Achievement Award', 'Outstanding Service by An Individual', 'Disabled Service Centre or Limb Fitting Centre Award', 'User or Support Group Achievement Award', and the 'Prosthetic Innovation Award'.

Open Bionics' big win from Intel

Open Bionics won $200,000 to continue developing bionic hands after finishing second place in Intel's wearable technology competition.

Intel Make it wearable winners open bionics

Founder Joel Gibbard said: "It has been an awesome experience learning from business experts and the other teams. We're far more customer focused now and the result is going to be a prosthetic that is perfectly suited to the needs of amputees. With the money we've now won we can complete the development of this device and get these hands on amputees."

“We totally believe this money will help to revolutionise the prosthetics industry with the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology.”

Joel added: “Team Nixie totally deserved the win, they are an amazing set of people who are using technology to open people's minds about what's possible. Likewise, ProGlove are a team of immense talent and I have no doubt that we will be seeing huge innovations from them in the future. It feels great that the winning teams were all from Europe and that we could represent Bristol and the UK.”

brian krzanich venus williams samantha payne joel gibbard

Open Bionics teammate Sammy Payne, said: "This competition has been incredible. We have come a long way and we're very grateful to the industry experts and mentors in Silicon Valley for their coaching and guidance. We've been overwhelmed with the messages of support from people who need bionic hands and we'll be using the $200,000 prize money to get these prosthetics to those people faster.”

“It feels particularly great as a woman because of the five women who were finalists, two walked away as winners. Both teams that placed first and second were the only teams that had women pitching. I think this speaks a lot to the technology and business industry."

"Having the CEO of Best Buy come over to congratulate me on our pitch was a bit surreal. He said he thought our ideas were amazing and it was great to have his support. It was also pretty fantastic when Stefan Olander from Nike stopped me to say hello and shake my hand. The judges seemed impressed with our pitch and offered some great advice." 

Open Bionics won the biggest applause of the evening when the team told judges their work was open source.

The company plans to use the money to get their 3D printed bionic hands fully developed and through medical testing and FDA approval.

The team is driven to create bionic hands that are affordable, comfortable to wear, and that look inspiring. 

Open Bionics is based inside the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK, it is a world-leading centre for robotics and research. 

Feel free to join the chat, tweet @openbionics!

Open Bionics Pitching In The USA

Open Bionics won a place in a global wearable tech competition put on by Intel in August this year.

After being shortlisted from 400 startups in August, Open Bionics has now reached the final top ten.

open bionics intel

On Saturday Open Bionics will pitch to a panel of judges in San Francisco, including Venus Williams and the chairs of Nike, Best Buy, and Louis Vuitton, in a bid to win $500,000.

Founder Joel Gibbard wants to win the funding so he can develop affordable bionic hands and bring them to market. Joel particularly wants the money to begin developing creative children's hands for young amputees.

He hopes the judges will see how investing in this technology could make a real difference to thousands of amputees.

Joel, and his teammate Sammy Payne, are currently in California learning from UC Berkeley and Intel business mentors.

The competition, called Make It Wearable, is run by Intel and supported by UC Berkeley and Vice.

Here's the video Vice made of the team that has reached over 90,000 views:

The competition pushes startups through rigorous business mentoring, and a business incubation scheme.

Open Bionics is competing against two other teams from the UK. You can see a full list of the ten finalists and their inventions here. The lists includes a wearable selfie drone called Nixie:

intel logo with robotic hand

You can show your support for the team by tweeting @Openbionics and using the hashtag #MakeItWearable

World First for 3D Printing and Bionics


Open Bionics has performed a world-first by fitting a person born without a hand with a 3D scanned and 3D printed, custom-fitted prosthetic socket, and robotic hand.

24-year-old engineer and Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard used commercially available technology he found online to fit Daniel Melville with his first robotic prosthetic hand.

dan melville shaking hands with open bionics robotic hand

This is the first time Joel's robotic hand has been used as a prosthetic. 

Daniel, 23, from Reading, was born without a right hand and contacted Joel after seeing his crowd-funding campaign to develop affordable robotic hands last year.

The whole of Daniel's family backed Joel's campaign, and Daniel volunteered to help with Joel's initial test period last week, bringing his older brother Jonny Melville along to watch.

Daniel said: “It's just too hard to explain at home. You have to see it to get how awesome it is, so I had to bring him.”

Jonny watched and took photos as his younger brother moved around the room picking up objects and manipulating them with his robotic hand.

The thrilled older brother said: “Shaking Daniel's hand was incredible. It didn't even feel like a robot hand, the way it gripped me, it felt just like Dan was shaking my hand.”

In just 20 minutes Joel scanned Daniel's right arm using a 3D sensor, created a 3D mesh of it, and set up his 3D printer to print Daniel a custom-fitted prosthetic socket.

Although 3D scanning and 3D printing a prosthetic socket has been done before, it was the first time anyone has used the technique to custom fit a 3D printed robotic hand.

The socket, which fit the first time it was printed, took 40 hours to print, and it was the first time Joel had used the 3D scanning software. This is a dramatic reduction in time and cost for the prosthetics industry.

Daniel said: “It fitted like a glove. I can't believe how easy that was. Usually, I'd have to have a mold taken of my arm and then wait weeks or months to get the socket. Last time I had a socket mold on my arm they burnt me taking it off, so this is much nicer.”

Joel was happily surprised, saying: “I didn't expect it to come out so well and fit perfectly. But I am going to change the design a bit in future.”


21-year-old Olly McBride, who studies Robotics at UWE, has been working as a programmer for Open Bionics.

Olly connected the robotic hand to Daniel's muscle signals and said: “The best part was seeing the excitement on Dan's face, as he went round trying to pick up everything he could.”

I never really understood how rewarding it would be. It's not just a product  that people buy for a bit of fun and then get bored of, this product will play a major part in their lives.”

Daniel said he stopped wearing his cosmetic prosthetic hand after it kept 'getting in the way' and wished he had a robotic prosthetic hand that looked 'cool' when he was younger.

He added: “This is great now and it will continue to get better but it would have been amazing to have this when I was younger. I would have loved a 3D printed Power Ranger hand. It would have made me feel better about my difference, I think. There are robotic hands out there that I can buy now but they're more expensive than my car. Who can afford that?”

Joel said: “It was heartwarming to see something I've been working on for a year give someone some extra capabilities. Watching Dan write, pick things up, and just play with stuff was pretty exciting for everyone. I did get to shake the hand I made on Dan and it was a bit surreal.”

The next hand I've designed weighs half the amount as that prototype which will make a huge difference for the user and it looks far better.”

Joel admitted he was afraid he was going to be guilty of 'over-engineering' his open source robotic hands.

He said: “I'm not going to be able to stop until I've made something that is perfect. It has to be light-weight, low-cost, and creative. It has to offer something.”

We have some quirky designs for children's hands that will encourage younger amputees to feel good about their difference.”

Patrick Brinson, who also studies Robotics at UWE and works as an electronics engineer for Open Bionics said the first testing stage was 'very touching' to see.

The 22-year-old undergraduate said: “It was great seeing for the first time the mechanical, electronic, and software working as one to give Dan the ability to have a hand he can control. It will give him the ability to do tasks most of us take for granted.”

Patrick added: “It was a great insight into seeing how modern technology can be used to help those less fortunate than others, if there were only more people like Joel in the world putting technology to good use. I can’t wait to see how Open Bionics will change hundreds of people’s lives across the world and I'll be here to help along every step of development.”

Open Bionics, which is based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, one of the world's leading centers for robotics, hopes to have an affordable robotic prosthetic on the market next year.

Tweet us your thoughts @openbionics

Open Bionics Shortlisted for Tech Awards

TechSparkUK's SPARKies awards celebrate 'the best in west' in the world of technology, engineering, and digital creativity.

This year, judges had to whittle down over 220 nominations for the fourteen categories. The judges said candidates had to show a number of traits including 'digital creativity,' 'big ideas,' and 'ingenuity'.

Open Bionics made the shortlist for two of the categories and is in with a chance to win the 'Best Startup' award and the 'From Chips to...' award (a category that celebrates innovative uses of hardware).

Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard, was also shortlisted for the 'Founder / Entrepreneur of the Year' award. Check out the competition here: The Shortlist.

Rumour has it the awards ceremony will be hosted by Bath's leading comedian, Tom Craine.

It has been a good year for Open Bionics. The business has won a number of awards and grants and is currently in the running to win $500,000 from Intel's Make It Wearable competition.

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