ABLE technology helps those living with spinal cord injury to walk

People living with spinal cord injury benefit from pioneering ABLE technology: an affordable, lightweight and easy-to-use exoskeleton.


Approximately 1.5 million people a year worldwide suffer damage to the lower spinal cord from illness or a car accident.1 This complex, life-changing condition affects the patient and their family, impacting them physically, emotionally and financially. In addition, almost 90% need personal supervision to help with daily living – severely affecting their independence.

However, people living with a spinal cord injury could walk again with a robotic exoskeleton.2,3 The current technology costs 100,000 euros, weighs between 20 and 25 kg, and isn’t adapted to specific motor needs. Enter ABLE technology, the result of eight years’ research at Universitat Politècnica De Catalunya.

“I have tried three exoskeletons and only with ABLE I feel like being in control of my walking again.”

Ivan, spinal cord injury patient

A step forward in exoskeleton history as ABLE allows patients to stand up from their wheelchair, walk and sit down.

ABLE uses an electric actuator, a device which flexes and extends the knee during walking to mimic natural human movement. The technology also features an inertial sensor which detects when people want to take a step forward.

Robotic exoskeletons like ABLE help improve mobility and motor function, allowing patients to walk longer distances with better balance. They can also help alleviate the many health issues of a sedentary lifestyle. Vitally, being able to walk around at home increases patients’ self-esteem, and independence.

With lower rehabilitation expenses and less need for medical visits, ABLE allows patients to continue their recovery at home, saving healthcare costs.

“Developing low-cost exoskeleton technology without sacrificing quality is a challenge that the engineers at ABLE appear to have handled in an excellent manner.”

Paolo Bonato, PhD, International KOL in rehabilitation engineering and exoskeletons

EIT Health has supported ABLE from the start, helping turn the idea into a validated solution.

Market validation has come with over 150 stakeholder interviews, and, better still, the team has 10 interested buyers. Next steps for the consortium include a clinical trial, obtaining the certification mark and developing ABLE for home use.

Eventually, ABLE want to provide solutions for not only people living with spinal cord injury, but also for people with other mobility impairments and neurological conditions.

External partners

  • Institut Guttmann
  • Universitat Politècnica De Catalunya


[1] Anoushka Singh et al – Global prevalence and incidence of traumatic spinal cord injury. Clin Epicemiol, 2014 Ferro S et al. Incidence of traumatic spinal cord injury in Italy during 2013-2014: a population-based study. Spinal Cord, 2017.

[2] P.L. Ditunno, M. Patrick, M. Stineman, J.F. Ditunno, Who wants to walk? Preferences for recovery after SCI: a longitudinal and crossectional study, Spinal Cord 46 (7) (2008) 500-506.

[3] C.L. Calhoun, J. Schottler, L.C. Vogel, Recommendations for mobility in children with spinal cord injury, Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation 19 (2) (2013) 142-151.

Josep Lluís Falcó
| CEO | GENESIS Biomed, S.L.