If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that there are currently 4 leading exoskeletons for wheelchairs in various stages of development. Each of the manufacturers are headquarted in very distant corners of the world (USA, Japan, Israel and New Zealand).
Recently I came across an interesting article revealing that one of the manufactuers, Rex Bionics, may be forced to move in order to get the funding they need to continue.
According to CEO Jenny Morel:
The biggest issue here is the lack of funding in New Zealand. We would like to keep this company based here but the reality is the funding is overseas and it's very likely we'll be setting up a head office overseas and keeping our research and development here..
I wrote to my contact at Rex and he confirmed by writing "we always realised the New Zealand market was small and ultimately we would be looking offshore, that is what we are now doing."
While it is not clear where Rex will move, the most likely destinations would be either the USA or Europe. There would be arguments for both. Since funding seems to be the main reason to move, the logical destination would be the USA where venture capitalists are flush with cash to invest in cutting edge technology. This is where I would bet that Rex is headed. However, there are two important reasons for Rex to consider moving to Europe, both related to marketing issues rather than funding. First, no late stage exoskeleton is currently headquarted in Europe. Being headquarted in Europe would be a strong competitive advantage for a start-up company hoping to sell products there. The other reason for Rex to move to Europe is that, and I have no data to support this arguement, it seems to me that European health care systems are more liberal about spending money on technology for people with disabilities.
Where ever Rex ends up, I wish them the best. With its superior stability and the fact that it can used by Quads, the Rex Exoskeleton has an important place in this exciting market. Read more about Rex Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users.