Canada’s technology and aging network, AGE-WELL held its second 2019 National Impact Challenge, the Startup Edition earlier this summer, and while I was keeping an eye on the finalists as they made their pitch presentations, summer vacation activities and other aging and longevity topics seemed to have delayed my report on the actual winners.
Since 2015, AGE-WELL has made some amazing strides in this narrative on developing technology solutions in support of older adults and their caregivers and these challenge competitions are but one of the many initiatives in their innovation treasure chest.
This summer from June 13 through July 25, fifteen finalists capturing participants from several provinces gathered in three regional hubs – Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto to make their pitches and the winners of each region received $15K in cash plus in-kind prizes.
Following with great interest a number of technology pitch competitions now peppered across the globe, for me it has come down to observing which products are becoming repetitive in nature in terms of the older adult need they are addressing, and what similar technologies are they applying, such as sensors. At the same time, some lingering questions remain – what traction will any of these winning products gain, getting quickly to market, and which ones will have sustainable consumer brand recognition?
So how did we do with the winners in this AGE-WELL start up edition? Speaking of sensors, the winner of the Montreal region challenge was a research team from McGill University and their Heel2Toe Sensor, which addresses safer walking and thus fall prevention. Under the name Walk-Well Universe, part of startup Physio Biometrics Inc., physiotherapist Ahmed Abou-Sharkh spoke to my market traction question: “We need to get the product out there and known.”
Edmonton based True Angle Medical Technologies was the Vancouver region winner with its Mobili-T swallowing therapy system for older adults with swallowing difficulties. This I can identify with from my own personal issues with this from time to time. Once again, Dr. Gabi Constantinescu, the Chief Product Officer at True Angle echoes the get to market issue: “…lot of ideas and startups out there, but it’s very difficult to move to the next step…beyond research and into commercialization so those in need can access these technologies.”
Closer to home, Niagara Falls based startup, Bisep won the Toronto region pitch. Bisep presented a device that attaches a wheelchair directly to a walker to support a person in their move from wheelchair to walker, allowing for safer practice in daily exercises with no need for someone to follow behind with a wheelchair. Obviously, this has great application in elder care facilities. Similar to the other winners, the AGE-WELL prize will help Bisep “manufacture more devices, fill pre-orders, promote and bring the device to market by 2020.”
Indeed 2020 is fast approaching and AGE-WELL along with other entities in the technology and aging space will be into another round of challenge competitions to help accelerate get to market strategies. The next stop for AGE-WELL is October 22-24, their 5th annual conference in Moncton – Exploring the Future of Technology and Aging. As in previous years, AGE-WELL attaches itself in front of the 48th annual conference of the Canadian Association on Gerontology.