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Rehab robotics pioneer Fourier secures Saudi Aramco backing



Rehabilitation robotics unicorn Fourier Intelligence is set to take its ongoing global expansion to the next level after securing funding from Saudi Aramco, becoming the first rehab tech company in the world to gain financial backing from a major player in the international investment market. 

Fourier is now targeting global market expansion – with the United States and EU being key targets for the near future – ongoing development of its world-leading technology, and adding further to its international team through the C+ financing round, which the company’s co-founder Zen Koh described as being of “humongous” significance. 

The business, a pioneer in the global rehab tech market, is already on an unrelenting path of growth, expanding into 54 countries to date from its native Singapore, including the UK, with more than 1,000 uses of its technology in 30 of them. 

The adoption rate is increasing “exponentially”, says Zen, with more than 10 million usage hours for its portfolio of over 20 AI-powered rehabilitation robots so far. 

And as well as its work in enabling access to rehab through the popularisation of its technology, Fourier – which has grown hugely during its six years in business – is committed to leading, supporting and participating in international scientific research in rehab robotics, to enable the delivery of technology-led solutions to solve specific clinical constraints.

So far, it has established ten subsidiaries and joint research laboratories in international destinations including Singapore, Chicago – in the world-leading Shirley Ryan AbilityLab – China, Malaysia, Melbourne, Zurich and Spain. 

Now, to add to its stellar progress, Fourier’s securing of backing from Saudi Aramco – the world’s most profitable company and biggest oil producer – is indicative of both the potential of the rehab robotics market and Fourier’s huge presence within it. 

“For the past three decades or so, since we started introducing technologies and robotics into clinical rehab settings, no global players have been willing to enter the field,” says Zen, deputy group CEO of Fourier Intelligence Group. 

“We have witnessed many promising companies, startups and technologies retreating or moving on. But this funding round from such a major investor indicates that the rehab technology industry is now getting the long-overdue attention and support needed to make a positive difference in patients’ lives.”

One initial move in the advancement of Fourier’s work enabled by the investment is the upcoming collaboration with Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) to create an advanced rehabilitation robotic service.

“This round of financing will further accelerate our growth and allow us to invest more into our core technology development, talent acquisition and global market expansion,” says Zen, who has worked in the advancement of rehab robotics for over 20 years. 

“The two main targets for our expansion are the United States and the European Union. We do have some presence in the EU but not yet on a large scale. Initially when you develop products, you focus on places close to you before launching globally, but the time has now come for more aggressive expansion and a larger installation base. 

“The United States is very exciting, it is one of the largest markets in the world. We are entering into a joint venture and are willing to invest in factories and in talent acquisition.

“Being based in Singapore, we are sandwiched between East and West, but while there are differences in those markets, we do not see the politics – we only see that patients need our technology. Our goal is to empower clinicians and serve patients in the global market and that has never changed. We want patients to get back as normal a life as possible and we want our technology to make that happen.” 

In becoming the first ‘major player’ to give its financial backing to a rehab tech company, Prosperity7 Ventures says it has identified the potential of this as a largely untapped industry with huge growth potential, and is supporting Fourier with its network and resources in addition to the funding, with a focus on partnerships.  

To date, Fourier – which has been infusing creativity into exoskeleton and rehabilitation robotics development since 2015 – has launched over 20 self-developed products globally, all geared towards the purpose of improving patients’ lives through better quality and access to tech and robotic-led rehabilitation. 

It also aims to grow its global team, which currently has around 400 people, and will be concentrating its efforts on creating new teams in Australia, the United States and Europe. 

“We are focusing a lot on research and want to add the right talent to the team. We will start in Australia first as that is closest to us, but we don’t see geography as a challenge in preparing teams, working remotely is now something we are all used to,” says Zen. 

In 2020, Fourier developed and launched its pioneering intelligent robotic solution, RehabHub, which is widely used in neurorehabilitation, elderly care, and community-based rehabilitation settings. 

The comprehensive rehabilitation solution is equipped with highly efficient, interconnected, and cost-effective robots that deliver functional training, assisting clinicians in providing treatments and enabling effective and consistent rehab to patients.

RehabHub is an area in which Fourier is set to see significant further growth, with Zen highlighting the potential for collaboration, supported by ongoing investment in all areas of its technology – from  its pioneering hardware, software and AI through to the telerehab system used in support of its implementation. 

“We aim to build a world-leading collaborative rehabilitation ecological system, through our RehabHub concept, and to consolidate Fourier’s global leading position further to create greater value for our customers,” says Zen, who is an ambassador for IISART. 

“We think we are well-positioned to collaborate with some of the leading players in the field through our RehabHub concept. Through collaboration and working together in a positive way, we can move this industry forward – but by competing in a malicious way, that will set us all back. We want to work together for the benefit of this industry so it is responsible and sustainable. 

“Fourier was founded as we had seen the challenges that exist and wanted to see how we could make it better, how could we promote this industry better. We seem to be doing the right things and our strategy has been put together from 20 years in the ‘School of Hard Knocks’- we have learned the hard way through experience. 

“We wanted to change mindsets – 20 years ago, you’d never have imagined using a mobile phone app to get a taxi, but Uber have totally changed the mindset. Technology supports the convenience of this and now makes it indispensable. We have the same principle in empowering clinicians to make a different to patients’ lives. 

“We see collaboration as being something really promising for the future. We have already successfully licensed technologies from universities, completed technology transfer and productisation, and collaborate with more than 30 strategic alliance partners under the RehabHub concept. By working together we will make things happen.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging period for the business, it is now poised for further growth, underpinned by how widely technology has been embraced in healthcare globally, marking a huge departure from its previous approach. 

”Underpinning the successful financing is our impressive growth numbers in recent years, and increased global adoptions, despite the challenging COVID-19 pandemic,” says Zen. 

“This has been a challenging period for us, as it has been for a lot of companies, but the pandemic has fuelled the need to reduce reliance on manual clinical interventions, vindicating our advocation of technology integration in rehabilitation. 

“Rapid iterations and the ability to deliver high performance, low cost, and efficient technological solutions are key to successful clinical adoptions.

“Fourier is well-positioned to capture the opportunity enabled by advanced rehabilitation robotics. We’re pleased to be part of this exciting global shift towards technology-focused healthcare solutions and believe Fourier’s domain-specific expertise will lead and fuel innovative solutions for the healthcare challenges we see today.”

Looking forward, and with significant global plans already in place, Fourier is now set for the next phase of its growth, supported by the backing of Saudi Aramco. 

“Our partnerships with Prosperity7 Ventures and Aramco Ventures inspire and strengthen our resolve in delivering innovative healthcare solutions. Fourier will continue to invest in our core technologies to stay ahead of the competition,” adds Zen. 

“We look forward to the next stage of our journey, together with our strategic partners.” 

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