ExoAtlet, a Skolkovo resident that makes medical exoskeletons that enable disabled people to walk again, won the RBC media group’s award for the Breakthrough of the Year in an awards ceremony in Moscow on Tuesday evening.

The startup received the award “for developing a product capable of changing people’s lives for the better,” the organisers of the RBC awards wrote on the event’s website.

ExoAtlet pilot Denis walks with the aid of an exoskeleton at Skolkovo earlier this year. Photo: Sk.ru.

“ExoAtlet obtained certification as a medical product from the Health Ministry at the end of June 2016, so now the company can sell its exoskeletons to rehabilitation clinics across Russia,” the description of the startup on the RBC awards website read.

“Developed in 2013, the product is designed for disabled people: patients are able to walk, go up and down stairs, sit down and get up without anyone’s help. As of this spring, ExoAtlet had more than 70 pre-orders for its exoskeletons, and the product is due to go on sale before the end of the year,” the description concluded.

The RBC awards are given in nine categories divided into three main areas: people, companies and society. ExoAtlet shared the award for Breakthrough of the Year with Yandex.Taxi, a taxi service app that was praised by the jury for its international expansion.

“ExoAtlet is a truly unique project whose significance has yet to be fully appreciated,” said Albert Yefimov, head of the Skolkovo Foundation’s Robocentre, and in whose honour an early ExoAtlet model was named.

“Russia is putting a lot of funding into the research of high-tech means of rehabilitation, but only ExoAtlet has managed to bring a finished product to the market, having survived the valley of death that every innovative project must go through,” he said.

“I suspect that a not insignificant role was played in this success by the joint support of three different federal development institutes: Russian Venture Company (RVC), the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and Skolkovo. Skolkovo’s role not only consisted of financial support, but in the provision, free of charge, of a fully equipped tech workshop – the hackspace where homegrown exoskeletons are literally being created,” said Yefimov.

ExoAtlet, which grew out of a joint project between Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry and a team of scientists from Moscow State University, won the first prize at Skolkovo’s Startup Village in June 2014 and became a resident of the foundation’s IT cluster soon afterwards. Last year, it was awarded a grant of 50 million rubles ($793,000) by the foundation for the second stage of its development.

Soon after the company received its official certification this summer, a man in Russia’s northern city of Arkhangelsk was able to walk down the aisle for his own wedding with the help of ExoAtlet, after an accident nearly a decade ago left him unable to walk on his own.

Recently, ExoAtlet began clinical research into the use of its exoskeletons to help people with multiple sclerosis, who may also lose the ability to walk as their illness progresses.