Loopwheels: delivering a smoother ride for wheelchair users

A business supported by Innovate UK has designed a wheelchair with suspension that is improving the comfort of users across the globe. Simon Edmonds reports, and offers an update on new government funding opportunities.

Loopwheels - Traditional spokes have been replaced with a new design that integrates suspension into the wheel and makes for a smoother passage over uneven surfaces.
Traditional spokes have been replaced with a new design that integrates suspension into the wheel and makes for a smoother passage over uneven surfaces.

Wheelchair design has evolved in recent years but users can still find it demanding to propel themselves.

That can be especially difficult and uncomfortable on rough surfaces such as cobbles and paving stones.

Wife-and-husband design and manufacturing business Jelly Products has come up with a way to make life better and more comfortable for wheelchair-users with its innovative ‘loopwheel’.

Traditional spokes have been replaced with a new design that integrates suspension into the wheel and makes for a smoother passage over uneven surfaces.

The loopwheel was designed by company founder Sam Pearce, a product designer and mechanical engineer. The spokes have been replaced by a new interior that makes it easier to go over uneven or bumpy ground and removes vibration.

Innovative design means the wheel has a stiff structure but an element of compression. The springs within the wheel are made of a carbon composite material.

Jelly Products, based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, first tried the wheel out on a folding bicycle, but people very soon started asking if they could be made for wheelchairs.

It is now making 100 wheels a month, and sales are growing 50% year-on-year. It has distributors across the world including in mainland Europe, Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Africa.

Jelly Products, based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, first tried the wheel out on a folding bicycle, but people very soon started asking if they could be made for wheelchairs.

It is now making 100 wheels a month, and sales are growing 50% year-on-year. It has distributors across the world including in mainland Europe, Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Africa.

Jelly Products was started in 2006 by Sam for design work for other companies and to develop his own intellectual property.

After coming up with the design for the loopwheel, he and wife Gemma realised that it was a risky venture and they would need to prove the product worked and manufacture it themselves to get it to market.

The business won a £24,000 Innovate UK grant in 2013 that helped them to develop the loopwheel for wheelchairs.

A further £240,000 grant in 2017 allowed it to work with two companies – Strategic Simulation and Analysis (SSA) and Composite Braiding – to further develop the loopwheel to go faster and for use off road and on rough terrain.

Next wave of industry and society challenges

The next wave of major industrial and societal challenges to receive investment through the government’s modern Industrial Strategy have been confirmed.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund brings together the UK’s world-leading research base with our best businesses to transform how we live, work and move around. It will put the UK in the best position to take advantage of future market opportunities.

The fund is delivered by UK Research and Innovation and is part of government’s £4.7bn investment in R&D over four years that will support the delivery of its modern Industrial Strategy.

From the next wave of challenges, The Manufacturer readers will be interested in Driving the Electric Revolution – an £80m investment to help develop the next generation of electric vehicles, to be supported by up to £154m expected from private industry.

The investment will help ensure the UK is able to supply products both in the UK and abroad, to help cut carbon emissions from a range of industries including transport, energy, agriculture and construction.

The first competitions in this challenge are open for businesses – see Innovate UK’s funding page for more information.

Also the green light was given for the first competition from the Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge, which will support the transformation of UK manufacturing by encouraging the development and integration of industrial digital technologies.

The new challenge aligns with the recommendations made by Juergen Maier in his ‘Made Smarter’ review for the government of industrial digitalisation and the activities of the newly formed Made Smarter Commission.

Other funding opportunities

Innovate UK Smart Grants is an opportunity to apply for a share of up to £25m  to deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations that can make a significant impact on the UK economy.

Click here for more information.

Innovate UK

Simon Edmonds, director - manufacturing, materials & future of mobility, Innovate UK.

For more information on any of Innovate UK’s funding opportunities, please contact the customer support service:

Feedback! All feedback gratefully received. I can be found on Twitter: @SJSEdmonds