Open Bionics, a year-old robotics startup that makes 3D-printed low-cost bionic hands for amputees, has been selected to join the three-month 2015 Disney Accelerator programme powered by Techstars.

“We’re really looking forward to learning from the creative and imaginative minds at The Walt Disney Company”


joel gibbard and sammy payneCurrently based at the Bristol Robotics Lab, Open Bionics, led by Joel Gibbard and Sammy Payne (pictured right), will receive up to $120,000 in investment capital to develop their business ideas, along with mentor support from top Disney executives, including Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger, and leaders from Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN and Walt Disney Imagineering, among others.

Mentors will also include other entertainment industry leaders, venture capitalists, and Techstars’ extensive network of entrepreneurs, investors and executives.

Sammy Payne said, “We are thrilled to have been chosen to participate in the Disney Accelerator program. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get support and mentorship. We’re really looking forward to learning from the creative and imaginative minds at The Walt Disney Company.”

Innovation to help people

Open Bionics work is truly ground-breaking – producing replacement articulated robotic hands at a lower price than NHS-provided non-robotic prosthetics. You can see Joel Gibbard talk about how he produces his flexible prosthetic limbs in the video below:


Joel Gibbard added, “We feel very lucky to have been selected for the Disney Accelerator which is powered by Techstars. It is considered one of the best start-up accelerators in the world with fewer than 1% of the companies applying to Techstars being accepted. We can’t wait to see where this creative relationship leads.”

The Bristol Robotics Lab is clearly doing something right in mentoring startups, as this is the second from the technology business incubator to win prestigious accelerator support. Earlier this year Silas Adekunle and the team at gaming robots company Reach Robotics joined the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator in San Diego, US.

Open Bionics in the news

Joining the Disney Techstars programme is an impressive achievement, but it’s not a massive surprise to us that Open Bionics got through. The startup’s premise has truly caught the public imagination in the year since the company was created: Joel landed the Founder of the Year SPARKies 2014 award, the Young Design Engineer of the Year in the British Engineering Excellence Awards and won a £125K Intel prize.

If anyone is looking to follow in Open Bionics’ footsteps, here’s what Joel told us when we interviewed him: “If someone wants to get involved with something they’re interested in, the best way to do that is just to start doing it. Follow tutorials, start making things, engage with communities. The more you do that, the better you’ll become and eventually you’ll get lucky like me and find yourself doing what you love for a living!”

Find out more at the Open Bionics website, or follow @openbionics on Twitter.