The American association Wheelchair Foundation estimates that 132 million people worldwide are in wheelchairs or need one. And unfortunately for them, there are not enough alternatives.
It was while talking to one of his physiotherapist friends that Damien Roche, an engineering student in the construction and energy sector at the time, became aware of this problem. His friend confided his frustration at seeing patients get up and walk again during a session, but remain confined to their wheelchairs when they leave the practice. So the future engineer began working on a solution alongside his studies.
Lifebloom was born in 2019. The company is incubated at Eurasanté, a European center of excellence for biotechnology research in Lille. The startup is gradually developing a medical device that helps people with reduced mobility, whether they’ve had an accident, are frail, elderly, or chronically disabled. “We assist them with strength and balance to enable them to get back on their feet and walk again on a daily basis with greater autonomy,” explains the CEO.
“Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have adapted our bodies to walking and standing. Today, when a walker is not enough to compensate for a functional deficiency, there is no solution that preserves this ability to walk alone and live upright. This technological limitation means that a whole section of the population has to endure a sedentary, seated daily life, with all the attendant consequences of a deteriorating quality of life, poor health and loss of autonomy… This problem also overburdens carers, and is a major brake on the efficiency of our healthcare systems. Our work addresses this problem and aims to push back the frontiers of loss of walking“, says Damien Roche, founder and CEO of Lifebloom.
After winning the i-Lab national competition for innovative technology start-ups (run by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research) in 2020, Lifebloom is once again being supported by the French government, this time as part of the i-demo call for projects, with 5 million euros to support R&D for its Everwalk project from 2024 to 2026.
This funding is part of the France 2030 plan and NextGenerationEU.
The i-Démo call for projects, part of the France 2030 plan, aims to develop industrial and service companies in growth markets that create value and competitiveness for the French economy. This aid supports companies at the industrial or pre-industrial stage.
Over the years, Lifebloom has advanced its developments through an iterative approach to design, prototyping, testing, compliance and continuous improvement. The medtech company has a 200 m² facility on the Institut Pasteur campus in Lille. It manages its product from design to assembly, and works with around forty French manufacturers.
The Everwalk project will fund further R&D work, followed by evaluation of the technology’s medical efficacy with a view to industrialization. A fund-raising campaign will also be carried out in 2024.