The Innovation of Socioeconomic Prosthesis in Developing Countries

Nonspec

3. Good Health and Well-Being 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 10. Reduced Inequalities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Nonspec is committed to providing affordable and adjustable prosthetic limb systems to all amputees. Our devices have been designed to provide high-quality care every time.

Authors

Sophie Bartlett

Sophie Bartlett

Perla Ponce

Perla Ponce

Gabriela Raimundo

Gabriela Raimundo

School

University of Massachusetts Lowell

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Professor

Michelle Veilleux

Michelle Veilleux

Innovation

Nonspec is a company that delivers an adjustable, durable, and affordable prosthetic limb to amputees around the world. The prosthetic limb is mass-produced with plastic parts and is comfortable enough for daily wear. Their product is made to grow with the patient. It can be adjusted to shadow the length of the other leg. This feature decreases the number of times patients need to change their prosthetic limbs in the duration of their lives. Nonspec’s model reaches amputees who wouldn’t likely be able to afford a prosthetic.

The Innovation of Socioeconomic Prosthesis in Developing Countries

Nonspec Adjustable Prosthetic Limb

Inspiration

Dr. Keaney admits that she is fortunate enough to not be directly connected to the problem of amputation, but is driven by the impact her product has had in amputees' lives. She is grateful that her father’s career in the plastics engineering industry encouraged her to pursue an education in the plastics engineering field.

Dr. Keaney's inspiration to start a business in the prosthetic industry occurred during her senior year at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In her capstone class, she worked closely with her co-founder Jonathan de Alderete. Their goal was to create an adjustable and affordable limb. Their initial idea was a prosthetic hand for kids and teenagers that would grow with them. This idea developed into a prototype that would eventually guide them to the prosthetic limb they now offer. While researching the field, Dr. Keaney learned that there are 54 million amputees worldwide and many of them do not have the resources necessary to get back to their daily lives. She wanted to help them. This was the main reason that she started the company and why she continues to work toward the mission her company stands for.

Overall impact

Nonspec has helped approximately 200 amputees worldwide and has directly impacted patients who typically would not be able to afford a prosthetic limb. A prosthetic limb positively impacts amputees’ overall psychological and physical well-being. Being able to move like they would before their amputation encourages them to pursue an active lifestyle. A story that Dr. Keaney is always excited to share entails a 13-year-old girl breaking her prosthetic leg. What seemed like a product malfunction was only the result of overuse. The girl was playing soccer with friends for the first time since the amputation. She was so ecstatic that she could play her favorite sport, that she played all day. When the prosthetic broke, Dr. Keaney immediately received a phone call requesting a new limb as soon as possible. They hadn’t seen their daughter that happy since before the amputation. Nonspec has changed the lives of many, including that girl who can now return to her previous lifestyle.

Business benefit

Nonspec has the potential to partner with well-known prosthetic companies in the United States. Currently, they offer their product in India, Rwanda, and the Philippines. They may be able to expand to other countries in need as well.

Their adjustable technology could be configured for prosthetic arms and hands. Also, they could expand their model to fit other parts of the body that amputees struggle to use. As the company gains more momentum, sales will increase resulting in profits to help them continue their research and innovation.

Social and environmental benefit

Nonspec’s mission was to create prosthetic limbs for children and teenagers that would grow with them. Young amputee patients naturally grow out of their prosthetic limbs as they get older. Therefore innovating a limb that grows creates less waste for the environment. When a patient grows out of a limb it tends to just get disposed and not recycled. Also, overall there are a limited number of prosthetics that are created. Therefore the growth factor of Nonspec limbs creates less of a carbon footprint industrial wise.

Dr. Keaney stressed the fact that in developing nations such as India and Rwanda, it is very hard, without insurance coverage, for amputees to get the resources they need to get them mobile again. Wheelchairs tend to be the only option patients are supplied with which limits their overall mobility. As a result, many amputees tend to become physically unmotivated. This can lead to other health issues such as heart disease. It is vital for these amputees to have access to low-cost prosthetics. Prosthetics give these patients another chance at life.

Nonspec's main focus has never been financial gain. Dr. Keaney said they have had many offers to buy her company. But she felt their interest in buying the company did not align with her beliefs to reach developing nations throughout the world. So she declined those offers. She mentioned that if a patient does not have the ability to afford the prosthetic limb, they will donate the custom limb to them no questions asked. Nonspec would rather have a recipient of one of their prosthetic limb regain the ability to resume their normal lifestyle instead of focusing on profits. After training teams in India and Rwanda, Nonspec returned to Lowell and has begun to reach out to local nonprofits to see what impact they can make in their community.

Interview

Dr. Erin Keaney, COO

Photo of interviewee

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Nonspec

Nonspec

Lowell, Massachusetts, US

Business Website: https://www.nonspec.org

Year Founded: 2014

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Nonspec provides affordable, durable prosthetics and orthotics. Their specialty is an adjustable pylon system that quick-fits to any below knee amputee. Their goal is to provide low-cost, durable prosthetics to those in need with a specialty in prosthetics that grow along with pediatric patients.