Researcher creates smart clothing to monitor muscle performance

Inpulse app and shirt
Southampton PhD researcher Devon Lewis hopes Inpulse will improve muscle performance and quality.

Devon Lewis, a PhD researcher in Neuroscience from the University of Southampton, has launched his own business to further develop smart clothing that monitors and enhances muscle control to improve injury recovery and overall sports performance.

Devon hopes that his company ‘Inpulse’ – which finished runner-up in the Start-Up category of the UK national Engineers in Business Competition (EIBC) Award – will give people, from world-class athletes to patients suffering from neurological disorders, the best possible control of their muscles.

“Many sectors from elite sport, to recreational exercise, to medical rehabilitation, share a common goal: to realise individual potential by improving muscle performance and quality of movement,” Devon explained. “The problem is that achieving meaningful improvements and realising potential is difficult, time and effort intensive, and often requires specialist intervention, together driving multi-million-pound markets.

“In sport, muscle weakness and poor control limits performance and prevents full recovery from injuries,” he continued. “More widely, insufficient and unbalanced muscle control leads to the majority of musculoskeletal disorders, the leading cause of pain and disability in the workplace, affecting half the adult population and costing over one trillion pounds annually.

“I’m fascinated by the idea that we can directly activate our muscles non-invasively with small electrical currents,” Devon concluded. “The way our nervous system coordinates movements of the body is incredibly complex, and problems can arise at any stage, leading to a huge range of movement disorders. Conventional approaches usually seek to identify and improve specific biological issues, but we can use electrical stimulation to bypass all of these issues and treat everything from minor tremors to complete paralysis without drugs or invasive surgery. Inpulse is my solution.”

This year, Devon was the winner of the University of Southampton’s innovation competition and won £3,000 from EIBC. He then entered and won a place in the national EIBC Champion of Champions Final, participating in an online ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition where he finished second, winning £1,500. The prize will go towards the continued development of Inpulse.

As a postgraduate researcher who is now steeped in entrepreneurship, Devon is passionate about business education, particularly for engineers and technologists.

“The level of engineering talent coming through universities is staggering,” he enthused. “Despite being one of the most challenging and time-consuming degree areas, I see more engineering students working on projects outside of their course than any other area.

“These people are driven by a passion to build great things and they have the technical ability to create solutions to the biggest problems our society is facing but so few have the entrepreneurial skills to bring their innovation to market and make it a reality,” said Devon. “Far too much innovation is lost because of this and if we want to increase our chances of building a sustainable future for humanity to thrive we need to do more to give these innovators a clear path to bring their technology to market.”

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