03-Mar-2022

Added to the list of medical aids in December 2021: Scewo BRO

The young entrepreneurs convincingly presented their assistive vehicle. With impressive styling, excellent manoeuvrability, intuitive operation and user-friendliness, the BRO masters stairs and uneven terrain.

BRO in stair mode
BRO in stair mode. Photo credits Scewo AG

“Three young Swiss entrepreneurs – Thomas Gemperle, Bernhard Winter and Pascal Buholzer – have achieved their goal of creating an e-wheelchair that “combines suitability for everyday use, simple operation and cool design”. The trio took advantage of the research and support opportunities offered by ETH Zurich to create the Scewo BRO, an innovative e-wheelchair that can climb stairs.

The success story from this talent factory is a stair-climbing wheelchair, innovative in its technology and design, and Swiss-made by Scewo. Great interest was sparked by the prototype of this medical product, which evolved from a student project at ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts. Technology and software specially developed by three former ETH students enable this wheelchair to recognize the foot of a staircase, climb the stairs in reverse, and descend the stairs afterwards. The seat is automatically kept horizonal throughout the process. The inventors’ successful combination of complex technology and cool styling won them a gold medal in the category of “Excellent Product Design” at last year’s German Design Award.

The road to serial production was a long one. A sizeable amount of development capital was needed and the search for investors was challenging, but the young entrepreneurs convincingly presented their assistive vehicle. With impressive styling, excellent manoeuvrability, intuitive operation and user-friendliness, the BRO masters stairs and uneven terrain and can raise the height of its seat by as much as 87 centimetres. “This enables the user to reach the top shelves when shopping. Many assistive devices are only useable within narrow limits. They make it more difficult for people with disabilities to fulfil their desire for an individualized lifestyle. We want to change that for the better.” The assistive device upholds high standards and is manufactured primarily near Winterthur, Switzerland.

Scewo Founders
Scewo Founders. Photo credits Scewo AG

In order to survive on the German market, the start-up company applied for an aid number. The experts at the GKV-Spitzenverband were convinced that the innovative wheelchair genuinely offers medical and everyday-relevant benefits, so the GKV created a new category for this medical device: “wheelchairs with self-balancing driving principle and integrated stairway climber.” One and a half years were needed to conduct the diverse tests and testing procedures leading to certification (TÜV, CE labelling, etc.), along with the associated material testing, stability testing, requirements for mechanics, battery, etc. including weather tests in cold and heat chambers. The Scewo BRO was added to the list of assistive devices in December 2021. Natalie Rotschi, media officer at Scewo, proudly explains: “It is enormously important for us that the BRO has been classified as a full-fledged electrically powered wheelchair.” The GKV’s list of aids is not legally binding, but the specific ten-digit HMV number makes it easier to bill health insurers. Medical supply stores appreciate this convenience.

A great many people are potential users of the BRO: “Our device is ideal for all non-pedestrians, from schoolchildren to senior citizens, who want to lead independent, active lives”, Natalie Rotschi explains. “Thanks to its sensors and integrated control, the BRO maintains a stable sitting position in every position for users in weight classes from 40 to 120 kilograms. An extension for lightweight or particularly heavy users is also planned. This enables us to offer many people with disabilities a viable perspective towards greater independence.”

The chassis is standardised, so individual adjustment is achieved via the seat. The electrically powered wheelchair is currently controlled by a joystick in the armrest and can be linked to a smartphone to save the user’s personal settings.

BRO in drive mode
BRO in crawler mode. Photo credits Scewo AG

The Scewo BRO is genuinely reliable. Climbing stairs in a restaurant is no problem now! The wheelchair is slim enough to pass through normally wide doors. An integrated app controls the rear-view camera to enhance safety. To facilitate transporting the wheelchair by car, the Scewo BRO can be folded in and out via remote control. A stable parking position allows it to be used on public transport. This is how compensation of a disability, access to one’s personal environment and genuine participation can be achieved!

The young entrepreneurs are proud of the “Swiss-made” label. “We want to drive the further development of our product ourselves – that’s why proximity to users and suppliers is important to us.”

In the meantime, the Scewo BRO is now in serial production. With a current total of 40 employees in Winterthur and with production in Stein am Rhein, the young team is growing steadily. This innovative mobility aid will be presented to a broad audience – live, to touch, marvel at and try out – at the Mobility and Everyday Aids Marketplace in Hall 2 at the next REHAB trade fair.