Nova Scotia

Spring Loaded bionic knee brace leaps closer to mass production

Spring Loaded Technology just got $1.9 million in funding from Halifax-based Build Ventures to help bring its product to market.

Spring Loaded Technology received $1.9M in funding from a Halifax-based company to bring product to market

The "compact and powerful" bionic knee brace loads energy while the user bends their knee and then releases that energy when they straighten their leg, providing more stability and support, compared to traditional knee braces. (Spring Loaded Indiegogo page)

A Dartmouth-based company just got another big investment for its bionic knee brace.

Spring Loaded Technology received $1.9 million in funding from Halifax-based Build Ventures to help bring its product to market. 

"Which is an exciting piece of news for us because it allows us to accelerate our market growth strategies to rapidly bring this technology to market and help a lot of people who have needs for bionic knee braces," said Spring Loaded co-founder, president and CEO Chris Cowper-Smith.

Build Ventures works with local startups. It currently manages $65 million in projects. 

According to Cowper-Smith, the "compact and powerful" bionic knee brace loads energy while the user bends their knee and then releases that energy when they straighten their leg, providing more stability and support, compared to traditional knee braces. 

"It's really valuable for people who have a difficult time standing from seated, for example, or maintaining and crouched position," said Cowper-Smith, who developed the product with co-founder Bob Garrish.

"Which is relevant for people who have knee osteoarthritis, or aging athletes who are trying to stay involved in skiing, or even tradespeople trying to continue their careers as a carpenter or mover, for example."

Company keeps expanding

Last June, Spring Loaded won $100,000 in a Canada-wide young entrepreneur contest. The company used that money to set up a manufacturing facility in Burnside. 

"We've significantly grown our team. We're now a team of 15 individuals. We've hired a number of production staff and we've actually started production of these knee braces," said Cowper-Smith.

He said, although the overall design has remained the same, the company has spent a lot of time refining the design of the brace, pre-production, so that it sits comfortably in place. 

Spring Loaded doesn't plan to stop at knees — or humans — for that matter. Cowper-Smith said the spring technology has other mobility applications. (Spring Loaded Indiegogo page)

"It's actually a big problem with standard knee braces on the market already. We've put a lot of effort into making it streamlined, easy to use, to put on, take off," he said. 

"Most people feel like it's a sleeve wrapped around their leg, they can definitely notice there's a little bit of compression but it just feels like another article of clothing."

The brace weighs under a kilogram. It's available for pre-order for the next few days on Spring Loaded's Indiegogo site.

The company met its $75,000 funding goal in just 48 hours when it was first posted less than a month ago. Now, it has raised more than $172,000. 

Spring Loaded will begin delivery of the first bionic knee braces late this summer. 

Not stopping at knees — or humans

The company plans to expand globally but Cowper-Smith said Spring Loaded will keep its headquarters in Halifax. 

Garrish is from Miramichi, N.B., and Cowper-Smith is originally from Toronto. 

"But I've been here for the last 13 years and I love it and I see no reason to leave. It's a great place to start a business," he said. 

Spring Loaded doesn't plan to stop at knees — or humans — for that matter. He said the spring technology has other mobility applications.

"The knee is the most commonly injured joint in the body, so we started there. We have a lot of work to do on the knee first but then we'll be able to apply the technology, potentially, to other joints in the body including the shoulder and elbow," said Cowper-Smith.

And not just human joints, Cowper-Smith is confident the company will be able to provide bionic knees for dogs and horses.

"Because those animals have very similar knee problems to humans."

About the Author

Cassie Williams

Reporter/Editor

Seasick marine biologist, turned journalist. I live in Halifax. I can be reached at cassandra.williams@cbc.ca

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