The intelligent walking aid "Sprout" was developed by a Spanish start up and optimised in a co-creation process with Styrian partners and users.

In January 2021 the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) cooperated with a number of other renowned Styrian organisations to organise the Health Tech Hub Styria - Pitch & Partner 2021 event (HTH 2021). Part of this event, in addition to other elements such as the EEN B2B Networking, was the Corporate Call, where large Styrian companies can look for technological solutions presented by start-ups. The overall aim of the Corporate Call is the cooperative development or further development of products and services.

The Geriatric Health Care Centers of the City of Graz (GGZ) participated as a corporate and together with nowa, a non-profit organisation in the field of lifelong learning, were looking for a suitable partner with ideas that support a self-determined life in old age. The GGZ are a competence centre for geriatric medicine and care. In order to be able to continuously adapt to the changing needs of older people and societal requirements, scientific research results are used in close cooperation with universities and public health planning institutions. Connecting treatment and care with research and teaching guarantees high-quality service and the continuous development of medicine, nursing and geriatric care models. nowa is a non-profit organisation working in the field of lifelong learning with a special focus on gender equality. It offers a range of training options, such as ICT courses and a local learning centre. Through national and international projects, the equal participation of people is promoted – an important goal in the I-CARE-SMART project, which is about co-creation with senior citizens in care.

Along with several other companies, the Spanish start-up DARWIN Biomedical with its prototype for a sensor-based rollator (project name "Sprout") stood out in the Corporate Call of the HTH 2021. Sprout is an intelligent walking aid that can minimise or even eliminate the risk of falling and helps users to move safely on uneven surfaces, in curves etc. Darwin Biomedical, a company managed by EEN partner Universidad de Navarra, focuses on biomedical engineering, particularly the design and development of medical devices, and improving the quality of life of users through devices that adapt to their needs in a personalised way.

Co-creation: "This is exactly how product development should happen".

With the support of the EEN, these three organisations came together in a collaborative project. The co-creation process between DARWIN Biomedical, GGZ and nowa, funded by the INTERREG project I-CARE-SMART, started at the beginning of May 2021. The Spanish development team spent some time in Graz and together with GGZ and nowa conducted numerous user tests, workshops and participatory observations to learn more about the needs of seniors and their mobility and to further develop Sprout based on these needs.

Adrián Jiménez, Co-Founder and CDO of DARWIN Biomedical sees the value of co-creation: "We combine our passion for developing products with innovative design and advanced functionalities with our desire to give back to society by improving users' quality of life through devices that adapt to their needs. We develop devices by working directly with future users and improving their quality of life by adapting to their needs. We strongly believe that this is the only way to guarantee the best user experience."

Customised products or services require the participation of users and the input of their experience and ideas. This gives companies a market advantage because people are more willing to pay for products or services that meet their personal needs. For the clients of GGZ and nowa and the senior citizens involved in the user tests, co-creation is a chance to get recognition for their vast experience and extensive knowledge and to find space for creative thinking in the group.

For GGZ and nowa, the cooperation means that "the knowledge of experts and users has been incorporated from day one of product development. This makes it possible to develop meaningful products and services with and for the customer, which we as users can actually use later in practice."


Kerstin Löffler of GGZ asserts: "The honest interest of the development team in the needs and feedback of the senior citizens and health care professionals was certainly the special feature of the cooperation for us as a health facility. This is exactly how product development should work.”



Valentina Pettinger of nowa fully supports this view: "This cooperation is a successful example of how companies can contribute to strengthening a good life for all. It's about participation and listening to what people really need."

Take part in the next Health Tech Hub Styria event and avail of the opportunity to find project and research partners.



Gudrun Meier, Steirische Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft SFG

+43 316 7093-218


Credits: © Jerusalem, © Denise Bouvier, © DARWIN Biomedical S.L.U.