In the context of INBOTS Working group on market analyses & support to SMEs Jody Saglia, CTO and co-founder of Movendo, answers to our questions revealing how they are working to change the market of rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
Who you are? Please describe briefly yourself.

Hello my name is Jody Saglia. I’m 36 years old and I am a mechatronics engineer. I studied at Polytechnic of Turin and I spent some periods in Finland and in London where I did some years of research. Then, I did a PhD in robotics and I did R&D of robotic technologies for assistive applications and, in particular, for physiotherapy and rehabilitation. It has been a long journey. So, the current product the company is selling now was actually my master thesis.

Which was your role in the company at the beginning and what is your role now?

I was in the initiative from the very beginning as a developer and I am one of the co-founders of the company and now I’m the CTO and innovation manager for the company.

What was your vision of your company at the beginning and how this vision changed during the years?

Initially we thought of creating a company that would design, develop and sell exclusively medical devices for rehabilitation based on robotics technology. Now, we’re changing our mind and we are understanding that the real value is in providing a service which can really change the market of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. So, it’s not just a matter of selling devices; it is a matter of providing the best tools that can manage the whole process of rehabilitation to change the way the physiotherapy is delivered.

Would you define three milestones in the growing of the company?

First of all, it was developing technology that works and that can actually be applied to the field that you’re targeting. So, the first milestone was to develop a product which could be really used in real clinical settings. The second milestone was to set up a team of people that could actually be the basis of the company creation and find someone to support us in terms of financial investment (i.e. providing the funding to start the company). Finally, the last milestone we had last year was the real product launch on the market: presenting a commercial product in a clinical setting which could be used in an everyday life of a clinic was amazing. So, this was actually one of the last and maybe even the most important one.

Which kind of barriers did you find? Please define the most critical ones.

When you target product development, you had to forget about technology and so on. Unfortunately, usually researchers tend to focus more on the technical aspects of a solution, while somehow neglecting or forgetting or at least not thinking very clearly about the real problem they’re trying to solve. So, the first barrier is that you need to change your mindset, you need to focus on what is the problem that your customer has to solve and then use the technology leverage to solve it. And this is, culturally speaking, in academic environment or in research environment, the first barrier that you certainly find.

Therefore, you need to find right people and team up with people who are really focusing on the end user and not just on the technology development. The second one, that we are actually facing now, is that when you do something very innovative, people tend to resist to the change. And, these cultural barriers in every market, are due to the fact that people always tend to stay conservative and try not to change the way they do things every day. Actually, this is the biggest barrier for us. Indeed, now we have a product which is very innovative, which brings a new way of doing things, and people try to avoid the change.

What was/is the role of the academia in the creation and growing of the company?

It is very important. First of all, because that’s where we come from. And that’s where we were able to access the top technologies in our field, in robotics and in the bio mechanical engineering. And it was very important for the product development at the beginning. And for sure it will be more and more important in the future because, as a small company as we are now, we are not able to do everything on your own. We need to partner up with universities, research institutes or R&D companies to support our development in a sustainable manner.

Which is the most critical element for the growing of a company in our sector?

It’s finding the right market niche because there are a lot of initiatives, there are a lot of technologies. Technologies for assistive applications are nowadays becoming more and more mature but you need to find, and again I’m not saying anything new now, but you need to find a killer application. So, the technology itself, as I said, it’s a tool but it’s not the solution. You need to find how to solve a problem. And this is true for every market. And even more, for the healthcare sector because you are dealing with people. And you have a lot of constraints around, you have a lot of regulations, you have a lot of competitors. So, you need to find the right solution to the real problem. Then you need to work on it, to prove it, to partner up with the top clinicians, top institutions, top hospitals and then drive your development from there.

Which is the biggest opportunity for a company in our sector?

There is a number of opportunities out there. I would say that the biggest is the fact that our population, and I’m not saying anything new, is aging. The average age in general is increasing a lot of people will have issues related to their basic abilities to move, to walk and to do everything as they did when they were younger.

So, people want to live healthier and better for longer. And to do that, they need support from the technology side. They need support from new approaches in healthcare services: more sustainable and reliable approaches. Approaches that will rely on measurements and quantitative evaluation of your health and your status, and not on the capabilities of the operators to really see and understand how you feel or what you need from a healthcare viewpoint. So, developing technologies for this kind of market, it’s going to be a big thing in the next years.

Interview to Jody Saglia