Archived—Public-Private Partnership Helps Entrepreneurs Revolutionize the Crutch

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SideStix founders Sarah Doherty—entrepreneur, athlete, occupational therapist and amputee—and Kerith Perreur-Lloyd, engineer, are confident they have designed the world's best high-performance forearm crutch.

SideStix founders Sarah Doherty and Kerith Perreur-Lloyd pitched their forearm crutch to a panel of Canadian business moguls on CBC's Dragon's Den television show in December 2011. Their product sparked the Dragons' interest and SideStix reached a deal with Bruce Croxon, who'll invest $60,000 in exchange of a 30% share of the company.

SideStix founders Sarah Doherty—entrepreneur, athlete, occupational therapist and amputee—and Kerith Perreur-Lloyd, engineer, are confident they have designed the world's best high-performance forearm crutch. Ergonomic and shock-absorbing, their forearm crutch significantly reduces joint compression and the secondary injuries that often arise from using crutches. The interchangeable tips, which enable customers to navigate ice, snow, sand, and mud, add even more value.

But when it came to marketing, SideStix realized that proving a product's value can itself be difficult. Sarah and Kerith, like so many other entrepreneurs, lacked the scientific and engineering resources required to offer savvy consumers the scientific evidence they demanded. This is where Mitacs-Accelerate and the National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) came into play.

Mitacs-Accelerate is Canada's premiere research internship program which connects companies with over 50 research-based universities through graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. NRC-IRAP provides technical and business advisory services to help businesses grow through innovation and technology.

SideStix forearm crutch

Through cost-sharing with Mitacs-Accelerate and NRC-IRAP, SideStix was able to hire intern Megan MacGillivray, a Ph.D. student from the University of British Columbia, who, with the help of her supervisor, Dr. Bonita Sawatzky, is evaluating the biomechanical differences between SideStix crutches and traditional forearm crutches. SideStix is already using preliminary research results to make product design improvements to aid walking and reduce overuse injuries.

How companies benefit from internships: Some firms use industrial research and development internships as a test project before embarking on a larger research project. Others use it to achieve short-term, proof-of-concept development goals or as an effective technology transfer mechanism as part of a larger collaborative strategy. Some companies use the program to determine whether to create new R&D positions within their companies and try out potential future employees.

"Being able to demonstrate to our consumers—with empirical data from an objective and credible source—that our crutches reduce overuse injuries gives us a real advantage over our competitors," explained Sarah Doherty. "That's because there has been minimal to no research to date on forearm crutches, which is why too many people are making due with very primitive, non-ergonomic designs. Thanks to Megan's work, we are able to show how a joint impact can be measured. Megan also provided some valuable information on ISO designations, which will help to open up new markets for us in Europe and the United Kingdom."

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