For nearly two years, the WOLFF GROUP assisted by Piotr Palczewski has been developing the NeuroGate – Thought Control System, which, in the first place, is to help the people who are completely paralysed (with the possibility of writing on the computer and control the wheelchair) and, further, may also be used in more mundane jobs, such as video games controlling.
Initially, the company has been treating its engagement in the project as part of its CSR policy focusing on supporting the young Polish engineers. Subsequently, the WOLFF GROUP assisted by Piotr Palczewski established a team to commercialise NeuroGate. Below please find an interview with Sebastian Gruszka, Marketing Department Manager at the WOLFF GROUP, given for the purposes of the article published in the “Innowacyjny Start” [Innovative Start] journal.
Editors: Have you supported many projects of young innovators like Mr Palczewski?
Sebastian Gruszka: We have been trying to best support the Polish engineering efforts. Every project is different and requires other engagement from us. Our current cooperation with Piotr Palczewski has been already lasting nearly two years. Earlier, we supported the AGH Racing Team – a team of students dealing with construction of a racing car to start in the SAE formula. These are surely not the only projects in which we will be engaged.
E: Have you cooperated with such institutions as the AGH University of Science and Technology or the Cracow University of Technology?
SG: Our company stems out of the scientific circle, so we cooperate with universities in various aspects. It may be said that we have it in our genes. The founder of TESSA, which has been later renamed to the WOLFF GROUP, was Andrzej Wolff, a member of the scientific staff and lecturer of the Cracow University of Technology for many years. Therefore, at the beginning of the company existence, the Cracow University of Technology was the basic source of attracting qualified staff.
E: What are the features of the projects which you would like to support?
SG: The history proves that the success of the project depends mainly on the people. Just to mention, as an example, such companies as Apple – a vast part of the technologies which have been made popular by them were available before. Yet the teams that had developed the solutions and later marketed them missed the “spark”. IBM started selling the prototype of a smartphone already in 1992, long before iPhone whose first generation was marketed only in 2007.
So, on the one hand, we care for innovativeness and commercial opportunities of the projects, and, on the other hand, we care for the teams that stand behind the projects. Without sufficiently determined people who have clearly defined objectives, even the best idea has little chance of success.
E: The NeuroGate project is now at the stage of commercialisation. When can we expect the first NeuroGates on the market?
SG: In the recent months, the system code that served the initial confirming of our assumptions has been written anew to a major extent, which has significantly improved its quality. Right now we have reached the testing stage. We search for the paralysed people to test the system capacity and report their comments. This stage will show how much work is still ahead of us. Then we will be able to set a specific date.
E: It is obvious that implementation of such a project is related to high costs. Does your company cover the costs in whole and assumes the whole risk of the project viability?
SG: At the present moment the project has been fully founded by the WOLFF GROUP. However, I think that the ambitions of our team make all of us mentally responsible for the project. I have understood that when I read a history of a person that enrolled for testing the NeuroGate software. Many paralysed people are going to pin their hopes for a better living on us – this is a major burden we have to bear.
Depending on the development of the project, we do not exclude the possibility of searching for an external investor. If there is an interesting proposal, we will surely consider it. At the moment we have not carried out any activities focusing on attracting third party finance.
E: What does your cooperation with the young innovator look like? Does his task end only with presenting the idea and the company takes over the subsequent stages? Does the young innovator have influence on the development of the project till its very end?
SG: I see no other possibility than cooperation on partner basis. Everybody should understand what competencies are their strengths. For example, the innovator together with the team determines the direction of the activities development. We are sort of mentors, provide guidance, show the possible directions, discuss so as to achieve the best possible effect. We never force our arguments, this would not be viable. Our role will grow at the moment of commercialisation and promotion of the NeuroGate system. Keep your fingers crossed!