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Smart textiles which turn rigid under vacuum
25
Nov '13
The ageing of the population is an inevitable world phenomenon which will cause significant changes to society and generate numerous business opportunities that will contribute to the socio-economic development of countries. 
 
The TECNALIA applied research centre will present in Barcelona the technologies that will improve the quality of life for the elderly and, at the same time, offer new business opportunities for companies, such as a robot for rehabilitating stroke patients through the use of video games or a smart fabric material that can fit any shape.
 
Every year, two million Europeans reach the age of 60 and if this trend continues as expected, the percentage of elderly people will rise to about 30% of the population by the year 2020, compared with the current 17%. The percentage of retired people in Europe will rise to about 40% in 20 years. As such, it is estimated that there will be more than 2 million people over the age of 60 in Catalonia by 2020.
 
In order to respond to this new challenge posed by ageing, TECNALIA, through applied research, develops ideas that are turned into business for companies and which guarantee healthy ageing to a population with an ever increasing life expectancy. These initiatives will range from health care to autonomy in the home, through functional foods, new drugs and medical devices.
 
More than a hundred Catalan companies have attended the “Economy of Ageing”, conference organised by TECNALIA and have made a commitment to innovation and new technologies. It is worth highlighting the success stories presented by the Guttmann Institute and Janus Development, among others.
 
A NEW BUSINESS FOR VARSTIFF
 
Janus Developments is a biomedical projects incubator which began in academic environments. Last year it turned its attention to VARSTIFF, a pioneering development of TECNALIA. This is a smart fabric material that can be adapted to fit different shapes which, under vacuum, becomes rigid until it hardens like a conventional plastic. The material returns to its flexible status when vacuum is removed.
 
The first product in which VARSTIFF will appear will be an emergency immobiliser for accident victims. To support its launch to the market, a new technology-based company is expected to be created before the end of the year which will initially operate in the health sector, but with plans to extend its activity to other sectors such as the automotive, sport or leisure industries.
 

Tecnalia


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