This innovation has several target groups including: i) people living with disabilities or medical conditions needing assistance and support, ii) practitioners in rural, excluded areas, iii) people needing rehabilitation devices, iv) orthotists and prosthetists to make their work easier with sustainable workflow methods and skills, v) individuals/organisations involved in 3-D printing and prototyping and lastly, vi) animals living with mobility impairments.
Marco is a 21 year old prosthetics and orthotics student with a vision of making the world a better place by responding to basic human rights and needs through the development of more effective and individualised solutions for people to have improved quality of life. Marco knew from a young age that he would become an orthotist/prosthetist. Therefore, from early on he started to get as much experience as possible. In his first year of university, coming from church one evening he had a revelation. He knew with certainty that he would travel across the African continent providing healthcare to those who otherwise would not be able to receive it.
As opposed to focusing on one product/innovation, the core of Ocram O&P is to develop a system and products that could help more than just people struggling with limb loss. The first innovation they developed is providing a 3-D printed prosthetic arm and leg to a 5-month-old patient that was matched to his not amputated limbs. This innovation led to Marco being nominated for JCI South Africa's Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award for 2020. Another innovation was making a 3-D printed prosthetic cover which acts as a protection for the components within as well as an aesthetic finish to match the patient's other limb. Currently, Ocram O&P is working on developing other alternative solutions, as with the advancements of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) we can use CAD/CAM and industrial 3-D printing to provide better more effective medical devices. The goal is to provide affordable care throughout the African continent using a mobile clinic equipped to see patients and educate practitioners whilst increasing access to their medical devices.
What problem/s are you trying to address with your innovation?
The ultimate goal is to lower the cost and increase the quality of medical devices used by people/animals living with mobility impairments by researching, designing, and manufacturing industry-leading medical devices with the use of additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping. Research suggests that globally, only 28% of people living with severe disabilities have access to to disability benefits, and as one might imagine, these statistics are significantly lower for low-income countries. This is exacerbated by population to prosthetist/orthotist ratios. Furthermore, the limited technological advancements with pediatric prosthetic components leave children and young people at a disadvantage to adult care.
What has been the toughest challenge/s to overcome in your innovation journey?
The toughest challenge has been finding time to live a balanced life as a student, business owner, family man, and an innovator. One thing that has helped to overcome this challenge is living an honest open life, hoping that everyone understands, and having faith that God's plan will prevail in the end.
Where do you see yourself and your innovation in 5 years’ time?
I see myself as the leader of a social impact driven enterprise that will help people live better lives. Therefore, in 5 years' time, I see a wide variety of products, custom devices that put the patient at the centre of design, as well as programs, and online platforms developed and in the works. In 5 years' time I see more than one mobile clinic on the road, training practitioners and providing patients in rural excluded areas with the our medical devices.By 2025, we hope to have reduced the cost of medical devices and increased accessibility to user-specified devices for people and animals in need of this type of care. We also want to establish our business in a way that allows us to work throughout the African continent.
What has been the biggest lesson so far?
Learning to have patience and the importance of time management.
To stay motivated and make the innovation a part of your core being. This will make it easier because when you embark on this innovation journey it will take over. You have to believe and have faith that everything will work out at the end of the day.
Although funding has not been a success, the support and care of individuals/institutions and organisations has been great. Approaches taken to date include looking for opportunities and working on applying for grants and other support solutions such as working with DUT's Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk as well as applying to available incubation programs in order to learn and attain other kinds of support.Innovate Durban has provided considerable support and valuable knowledge into the field of innovation and on how to apply for available support structures.I believe funding will be a success eventually as the right opportunities emerge.