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Groundbreaking artificial arm specialist flexes its muscles in new overseas markets after reaching record sales in 2013

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Touch Bionics is an investee of our investment arm, the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB). Working alongside the company, SIB’s portfolio management function has provided invaluable support over the years.

Last year the Livingston-based company notched up sales of £12.3 million, up 23% on the previous year. This allowed Touch Bionics to consider a greater international reach for its innovative technologies.

Around 75% of Touch Bionics’ sales are in the USA, and chief executive Ian Stevens is aiming to seize more business from markets closer to home in the coming years.

He said: “While the US is our main market and there is still plenty of room for us to expand there, Europe is now a big focus for us. Europe only accounts for around 15% of our sales and we see Germany in particular being a major opportunity for us.

“Ultimately, we want to become a global company and our vision is to be the world’s premier – and largest – upper limb prosthetics company.”

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Touch Bionics' livingskin devices are hand-crafted from high definition silicone and hand-painted to match skin tone and appearance.

Innovative technology

Formed in 2003 after being spun out of research conducted as part of the NHS, Touch Bionics is responsible for launching the world’s first powered prosthetic hand.

i-limb has five articulating fingers that bend at the natural joints and the first powered partial hand prosthesis, i-limb digits. In 2008, Touch Bionics acquired US firm Livingskin, which manufactures lifelike prosthetic coverings for the i-limb hand.

In 2013, Touch Bionics launched the world’s most advanced bionic hand, the i-limb ultra revolution. It features an electronically rotatable thumb, allowing users to accurately grasp and manipulate objects in a manner similar to a human hand.

Further flexibility in control is possible through Bluetooth connectivity from the i-limb to the app enabled by i-limb software on the wearer’s hand-held mobile device.

i-limb wearers can now confidently perform everyday tasks, allowing them to lead more independent lives.

Ian Stevens explains:  “The loss of an arm or a hand can have a devastating impact on people’s lives and they tell us how much of a difference our prosthetic limbs can make to them.

“Simple things like being able to tie their own shoelaces, cook a meal, or, as we’ve just developed, use a touch screen on their phone or tablet, can help people feel like they’ve got their lives back again.”

How we helped

To help achieve its ambitions, Touch Bionics has forged a long lasting relationship with Scottish Enterprise (SE). The company has received support to help it grow at crucial stages of development through the Scottish Investment Bank’s Scottish Co-Investment Fund and Scottish Venture Fund.

Our account management has played a valuable role in the company’s development over the years, facilitating access to appropriate support mechanisms along the way. Innovation support, including a SMART: SCOTLAND grant, allowed the company to test the feasibility of its technology in the early days. And Scottish Development International helped the company access new international markets and establish overseas contacts. Our Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) has also worked closely with the company to improve productivity.

Veronica Tyrrell, the company’s portfolio manager at the Scottish Investment Bank, said: “Touch Bionics is a shining example of a company rooted in Scottish ingenuity and research that’s now doing business all over the world. There are significant opportunities for growth in locations such as Europe, South America, China and the Far East.

“We‘ve been on a long journey with Touch Bionics and our support continues to this day. It’s been tremendously gratifying to have played our part in helping the company become such a successful, outward looking and ambitious business.

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