In May of 2014, and during his studies at ETH Zurich, one of Scewo’s three founders - Bernhard Winter - came up with the idea of developing a stair-climbing robot. To make this project work, he needed support, and set about engaging colleagues from ETH and the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK, Zurich University of the Arts), with the aim of forming team. Once he had brought them all together, the team went on to create an original, simple prototype.
The ETH Zurich start-up, Scewo, has developed a stair-climbing wheelchair using state-of-the-art technology and featuring a highly modern design. Scewo’s vision is simple: Increase quality of life for wheelchair users by creating unlimited freedom and providing access to previously inaccessible places.
How it All Started
After only 9 months of teamwork, “Scalevo” was born. Using novel technology, this electric wheelchair combines big wheels and tracks which enable the user to go up or down stairs and steer the wheelchair more freely.
The second prototype, “Scewo”, was presented to the public in September of 2016, boasting a very streamlined and modern look, with the main motors having been replaced and a fully redesigned control panel.
Scewo Becomes a Company
In August of 2017, the three founders - Bernhard Winter, Pascal Buholzer and Thomas Gemperle - decided to turn the project into a company. The start-up received the ETH spin-off label and a boost from the ETH Foundation for a Pioneer Fellowship (an ETH grant to kick-start a company based on ETH technology).
On 21 September 2018, the new “Scewo Bro” was launched at Zurich’s Landesmuseum, boasting even more integrated technology. With its ingenious and stunning design, the Scewo Bro is suitable for all people who are cognitively and physically able to operate and steer a hand-controlled electric wheelchair.
Thanks to an impressive array of features, the world suddenly became much more accessible for many more people. Among its many innovative features, the Scewo Bro includes a Smartphone holder (left- or right-handed position) and allows for the selection of a “driving” or “stair climb” mode. For the best possible driving experience, Scewo recommends a minimum body weight of 40kg. The Scewo Bro also features an adjustable seat height, allowing its user to talk with people face to face at social events, for example, or lower the seat to fit comfortably in office settings or at low restaurant tables. The battery lasts for minimum of 25km, or about one day of running time. Battery power levels can be checked with the smartphone app. For recharging ease, the Scewo Bro is equipped with a magnetic plug, and can be plugged into any standard Swiss wall plug.
Anyone can test the Scewo Bro at Scewo’s home-base in Winterthur, or at Zurich’s Landesmuseum. Simply book a date and time slot here. It is also possible to pre-order a Scewo Bro from Switzerland for delivery by the end of 2019. For anyone outside Switzerland wishing to test the Scewo, the team kindly asks that you register your interest on the website. You’ll be informed, in due course, of its availability for testing.
Prizes and Achievements
Scewo has won a number of prestigious prizes, including the coveted “ZKB Pionierpreis 2018” prize, as well as prizes for outstanding design at the “Beazley Design of the Year 2017” and the IFAS Innovation Challenge 2018.
November 2018 was a busy and successful month for Scewo, during which it presented its pitch at the Falling Walls Venture in Berlin and successfully completed the Pioneer Fellowship at the ETH.
The Scewo team consists now of 11 people and is still growing. They are still looking for a Production Leader, an Embedded Software Developer, a REHA Technician, and a Support Technician. There are also several open positions for internships such as Robotics and Hardware Development.
The team is running many test drives and focusing on fine-tuning the current prototype. The first wheelchairs will enter long-term testing with beta users in the summer of 2019, with the first series entering production towards the winter of 2019.
To make further developments and let the company fly, Scewo is currently looking for investors for their first Round A. The three founders can be contacted directly by phone + 41 44 500 86 03 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact - the founding team
About the author
Sybille Zimmermann is responsible for Marketing and Communication at the ETH Innovation & Entrepreneurship Lab (ieLab). Sybille holds a MAS in Digital Marketing and Communication Management from Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Sybille supports the ETH Pioneer Fellows and ETH spin-offs hosted at the ieLab in communication and marketing, to make their start-up fly. Sybille is a passionate traveller - especially in South America and collects her restaurant tips from around the world in a blog.