KTN interviews Hsin-Hua (Sheana) Yu, Founder and CEO of Aergo Ltd, and Women in Innovation Award Winner, on her responsive postural support seating system designed for wheelchair users and how she is improving and changing lives.

Introduction

When we grow, our bodies are constantly changing. We need support, whether it be the right fitting shoes, braces for our teeth, or a splint if we break a bone. Posture support and alignment are also critical. For those that have muscular dystrophy and other similar conditions where they don’t naturally have the muscle tone, the need for support and posture control is even more important as any delay in treatment can cause an array of problems, particularly in their current seating arrangements which may not be suitable after a period of time due to deterioration of the muscles, and the constant change in our bodies own growth and development. There are currently 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK (Approximately 70million globally) who spend on average 8 hours in a seated position. This is where Aergo comes in, providing an innovative new technology solution to assist with posture support for those that need it the most.

“What inspired me was a collaboration with a specialist school where a lot of their students were affected by neuro-muscular conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. We looked at the process and felt like there must be something we can do to make this a little bit more streamlined and a little bit more independence, and to put the control back into the users hands, which is why we came up with the idea of Aergo.”

Aergo, established in 2015 have created the World’s first automated postural management seated system co-created with wheelchair users, that will and does improve the lives of many people particularly children with neuromuscular conditions that prevent a normal seating position.

“When I was young I had a big accident and developed scoliosis, so growing up with the knowledge that posture is really critical, really seeing the pain points that kids have that I wanted to do something different.”

How did Women in Innovation help?

Sheana was awarded Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award in 2019, recognised as a female role model and received £50,000 business funding and a package of bespoke support to help grow her business and boost the UK economy. The Women in Innovation Award not only helped her be more confident in her abilities as a leader and tech innovator but also helped raise her company’s profile. It enabled her to promote their mission and vision to attract investment and high performers to join the team.

“Innovate UK has been really great providing a platform to learn from and also to learn from other inspiring entrepreneurs. The reason why I got to know about the Women in Innovation programme is because my friends from different industries from the previous Cohort have given me so much great feedback about how much the programme has helped them to achieve what they want to achieve.”

Impact / Outcomes

Aergo’s long term strategy is to license its core air cell technology to seat and mattress manufacturers. This way, Aergo’s health impact will be expanded rapidly to a wide range of user groups.

“KTN helped Aergo source the right suppliers in the UK to make the right fabrics, textiles and materials to help design the device much more comfortable for the users, having this knowledge base really helped guide me through decision making in the company. In the future, KTN will continue to be a great partner to maintain a relationship with.”

For more information on Women in Innovation, visit the Programme page here.