The European Commission awarded today €1.5 million to three innovative solutions that are aimed at improving the life of aged people, whose mobility is compromised. The prizes are funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.
The top prize of €1 million went to Danish company Walk With Path for developing a shoe attachment called Path Finder that helps people with an unsteady and irregular gait. The two runner-up prizes, of €250,000 each, were awarded to the Swiss company MyoSwiss, the inventor of “wearable muscles”, and the Municipality of Toulouse (France) for its Mob4Seniors project, which has put in place a scheme that aims to increase the participation of senior citizens in community activities.
These innovations make a real difference for our senior citizens by helping them maintain an active social life as well as their autonomy. These projects also demonstrate how EU support opens the door to new innovative businesses and inspires cooperation between innovators and organisations from civil society, and the private and public sectors. This is a great benefit to all of us.
Commissioner Moedas launched the prize contest in 2017 at the “Opening up to an era of social innovation” conference in Lisbon. The Commission was looking for replicable and scalable solutions that promote creativity at the local level. A jury of independent experts selected the winning projects from among 10 finalists.
More on the winning projects:
The Path Finder is a hands-free and automated device that relies on visual cues created with the help of lasers. It is particularly useful for people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease, who commonly suffer from Freezing of Gait (FoG). FoG is when a person feels as if their feet are suddenly frozen to the ground whilst trying to take a step.
MyoSuit is a lightweight garment-like device that combines robotics with functional textiles. With the help of algorithms, it detects the user’s movement patterns and provides optimal support to the lower limbs for activities of daily life such as walking, climbing stairs and transfers in sitting positions.
Mob4Seniors developed MonToulouse Senior, an intelligent card that provides easy access for free or at reduced prices to a wide range of cultural, leisure, digital, sports and social services for senior citizens in Toulouse and its surrounding rural areas. One example is Allô Seniors, a service that provides physical support to older residents in Toulouse to move around the city.
Horizon Prizes are challenge prizes (also known as 'inducement' prizes) which offer a cash reward to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge. They act as an incentive for innovation by prescribing the goal, but not how the goal should be achieved.
The theme of the Horizon Prize for Social Innovation was identified through a public consultation, whereby 32% of the votes supported the topic of ageing population.
Successful innovations resulting from earlier Horizon Prizes include the QUARITE project, which developed a method of analysing and tracing the causes of maternal deaths in hospitals in Senegal and Mali, and then applied that knowledge to prevent more deaths. With the help of this solution, maternal deaths have been reduced in hospitals overall by 15% in the two low-income countries. Other Horizon Prize-induced innovations include new, more accurate methods of predicting electricity flow through a grid, as well as food scanners, which are mobile solutions that enable users to measure and analyse their food intake.