Down Memory Lane

Motitech wins prize for getting the elderly moving with immersive stationary bikes

Motitech

Photo: Fanny Trang / Motitech
Navigating St. Andrews in Scotland from co-working space MESH in Oslo, is United Kingdom’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, on the bike. He’s watched by, from right: Norway’s Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit; Duchess Kate of Cambridge, the duke’s wife; Pål Næss of Innovation Norway; Motitech CEO Jon Ingar Kjenes (crouching); and Anders Mjaset, founder of MESHNorway.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Norwegian company Motitech, which specializes in equipment to encourage physical activity among the elderly and those with dementia, was named the 2017 Norwegian Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the European Venture Philanthropy Association conference in November in Oslo. Holding the conference was Ferd Social Entrepreneurs.

In 2012, the Motitech founders collaborated on a project with the city of Bergen to develop tools and equipment to motivate seniors and people with dementia to become more physically active. The company was started the following year. Motitech’s solution: let users bicycle through well-known surroundings by using video, music, sounds, and memories, called MOTIview. Participants use pedals on a stationary exercise bicycle and video to “take them different places.”

MOTIview has gained worldwide recognition. During their recent visit to Oslo, the United Kingdom’s Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge stopped at the co-working space MESH with Norway’s Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. The duke tried out a bicycle with MOTIview to travel on well-known St. Andrews surroundings like streets, coffee-bars, a dormitory, and the campus of his and his wife’s alma mater, St. Andrews in Scotland.

“MOTIview-videos are mainly tailor-made based on information about the user,” said CEO Jon Ingar Kjenes in an email. “We asked Kensington Palace, through the British Embassy in Norway, about what area would be most recognizable for the Duke and Duchess. We asked about their favorite music, since we add different playlists to each video. Since St. Andrews in Scotland was the place they studied and met, it was a natural place to choose.”

Over the next year, MOTIview will have ongoing activities in Toronto and Ottawa, Canada, and Motitech plans to introduce it in the United States.

From Aug. 21 to Oct. 1 last year, almost 1,100 seniors in nursing homes in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada competed in Road Worlds for the Elderly, traveling many miles around the world from the comfort of their wheelchair or bike and video screens. While there were men, women, and team champions, the health benefit was the most essential reward. After the first three weeks, the competitors had travelled 8,000 miles, or from Oslo to Nairobi, Kenya. The male leader had biked an average of 22 miles a day.
The Social Entrepreneur of the Year prize is NOK 500,000 ($64,190), granted to an entrepreneur that has developed an exceptional solution to social challenges. Emphasis is placed on innovation, a double bottom line, and potential for growth. Potential scalability for other countries was given special consideration by this year’s jury, which included expert members from several European countries. The jury was chaired by Johan H. Andresen, the owner and chairman of Ferd. According to Andresen, Motitech has a clear social mission and delivered health services and social solutions.

“It’s a great honor for all of us in Motitech to win the award,” said Kjenes on the Motitech website. “It is a great acknowledgment and inspiration in our work to contribute to better health among the elderly and people with dementia, both here in Norway and internationally.”

In Norway, social entrepreneurship is attracting increased attention. It emerges in the borderland between the public, the private, and the civil society. Combining a strong sense of social responsibility with the entrepreneurial drive of the private sector, social entrepreneurs bring new and innovative solutions to the challenges of the welfare state.

Ferd, formerly a tobacco company, is today a family-owned Norwegian investment company with extensive involvement in social entrepreneurship.

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives in Oslo, Norway.

This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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