Ideas from Aarhus – Vol. I: A Tale of Sustainable Crutches

From left to right: Kasper Tindbaek, Mads Reinholdt, Mathias Snejstrup and Morten Keil.
Photo by: Greg McQueen
Written by: Emma Elisabeth Holtet

This is the first article in the series entitled “Ideas from Aarhus”. Here we will present interviews with the creators of innovative ideas that have the potential to affect, not only Aarhus, but also the world around us. Each time we interview an inventor, we ask for a referral – other interesting projects and ideas that they know of within the city. The next interview will be with the people behind one of these ideas – creating an exciting journey into the world of innovative thinking in Aarhus, following a route dictated by the inventors themselves.

From Cardboard to Bamboo – A Tale of Sustainable Crutches

Did you know that when a patient receives a pair of crutches, it costs the hospital money if the patient, as agreed, returns them after use? This may sound silly, but it’s true – the cost of cleaning and handling the crutches is higher than the cost of making a new pair.

Four young Danes have come up with a simple solution to this problem: Cheap, disposable, sustainable crutches.

This time last year Morten, Mathias, Kasper and Mads were students at The Business Academy Aarhus. They entered the Regional Championship in Entrepreneurship and presented their idea of crutches made from cardboard.

Today, on a windy morning in May, I am meeting Morten and Mathias in Navitas where they have their office. They share the space with other up-and-coming companies, so we find a quiet corner in a hallway and sit down to talk about the fast-paced journey they have been on for the past year.

We start at the beginning – when they entered the Championships in Entrepreneurship. I ask how they came up with this concept, and synchronised smiles instantly spread across Morten and Mathias’ faces.

“We had to create a business plan for an exam, and we decided to go all-in and try to develop a concept we actually cared about. We used an innovation-tool called a “convenience-map”. We picked three areas of interest: 3D printing, optics and recycling. From this, we created a chain of associated words. Normally you create a chain of about 20 words. We created a chain of 180. From this, we picked the words “Cardboard” and “Doctor”. We looked at each other and simultaneously said; “Crutches”.

They both laugh, and go on to explain how they had read an article about the Danish dancer Silas Holst. Holst had twisted his ankle and had been frustrated when the hospital had denied giving him crutches, because they did not deem his injury serious enough to merit such an expense. Morten goes on to explain, that he had read about an Israeli inventor who had created a fully functioning bike from cardboard.

“His company is called “Cardboard Technologies” and a friend of mine presented me with the idea of importing his bikes to the Danish Market. It never happened, but the idea of using cardboard to build products stuck in my mind.”

The four inventors won the Regional Championships in Entrepreneurship and went on to win not only the Danish Championship, but also a second place at the European Championship.

Today they are working full-time in their company: DCT – Danish Care Tech ApS. Initially, the name was Danish Cardboard Tech, but today the concept and company have evolved.

“As the project moved forward we realised that cardboard is not so sustainable after all – many areas do not have the infrastructure and technology needed to breakdown and reuse the material. Today, we are using bamboo and eco-friendly resin to construct the crutches. Bamboo is extremely strong, versatile, and above all, sustainable and affordable. The crutches are our key-product, and getting them into production is our main goal, but we also have new ideas and products in the pipeline. The overall mission is to create medical equipment from sustainable materials.”

I ask if they can reveal any of the other products that they are working on, but Morten and Mathias are reluctant. They want to focus on the crutches, as they are still the main focus of the company and they don’t want to muddy the waters. However, they stress that the company’s strategy is long term, and that off course, in the future other products will be developed – all of which will be sustainable medical equipment. None of the four entrepreneurs have medical backgrounds, but they see this as an advantage rather than an obstacle. By not having any preconceptions, they are able to question problems and challenges, in a different way than the experts working within the industry.

“The hospitals have been very helpful. When we call and explain the concept they are more than willing to give feedback, and we’ve even been invited into the hospitals to see the challenges they face for ourselves.”

The future looks bright for the four inventors from Aarhus, who have come a long way since presenting their idea to the world a year ago. With the help of Væksthus Midtjylland (Business Development Centre Central Denmark), they are now working with a skilled capital coach, with the prospect of getting investors on board so the company can grow and production can go ahead.

I ask them what other great ideas they have seen coming from Aarhus recently, and they quickly give me a list of interesting companies and projects to contact. Thank you to Morten, Mathias, Mads and Kasper for letting us into their interesting world of cardboard, bamboo and crutches and stay tuned for the next interview, and the next Idea from Aarhus.