A bionic prosthesis ‘Made in UCLouvain’ is on the doorstep of one of the field’s world market leaders. Since 1 October, Prof. Renaud Ronsse’s team has been developing its prosthesis in partnership with a company and is aiming for commercialisation by 2026-27.
On 1 October, a four-year partnership officially began, during which UCLouvain researchers will be responsible for improving a promising version of the bionic prosthesis designed by François Heremans, a PhD student in the team of Prof. Ronsse (IMMC, Louvain Bionics). This has attracted the world’s second largest producer of prostheses, mainly because it addresses the remaining challenges facing bionic prostheses – which provide mechanical energy to the user like muscles do – currently on the market. ‘Prostheses that are too heavy, too cumbersome and too noisy,’ Prof. Ronsse says.
The advantages of the bionic ankle-foot prosthesis designed at UCLouvain include:
- lightness, thanks to using numerous parts manufactured via 3D printing;
- compactness, by integrating all technological components within the foot itself;
- low fixation point, at the same place as the biological ankle joint;
- very energy efficient, by using very simple mechanical parts.
In the years to come, one of the major improvements necessary to progress from a laboratory prototype to a market prototype will be integrating a battery within the prosthesis.
Each year about 200,000 people worldwide undergo lower limb amputations, particularly as a result of complications from diabetes, and could potentially be fitted with this type of prosthesis.
The story of this bionic prosthesis is a fine example of knowledge and technology transfer from university laboratories to a company for the benefit of society – a success story made possible thanks to the guidance and support of the Louvain Technology Transfer Office (LTTO), which UCLouvain researchers can rely on throughout this type of process.