‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ so the old proverb goes.

For Guillem Singla Buxarrais, that necessity stemmed from his uncle; who was struggling to recover from a stroke suffered in 2010.

The Spanish inventor-turned-entrepreneur says: “I wanted to find a solution to motivate him, that was at least affordable to buy and was also fun; that was my criteria and I couldn’t find anything at the time.”

Guillem was looking for an antidote to his uncle’s upper limb problems; a device to fire up his morale and get him exercising towards recovery.

After a fruitless search, he set about creating something himself.

His background in biomedical engineering and as a sometime dabbler in neuro-technology aided his journey.

So too did the input of the device’s eventual co-founder Dimitris Athanasiou, as well as a cast of fellow technologists.

Stroke survivors, physiotherapists and patient-families also played their part, shaping the device’s inception and development.

The result was NeuroBall, which allows users to complete upper limb rehabilitation exercise by playing games; intelligently adapting to the user’s ability and becoming increasingly challenging the more they  use it.

The device, which is used with a tablet computer, also enables rehab professionals and patients to monitor engagement and performance over time to track progress.

“We know that if you had to do 400 repetitions on your hand you would get bored after a few,” says Guillem.

“So we’ve developed a set of games that make it fun to do these repetitions. For example, in one game the user controls a scuba diver in the sea, moving them and collecting items by moving your wrist.”

NeuroBall trains the key physio exercises including flexion and extension, pronation and supination, and grasp and release. Different games train a different combination of these movements. Sensors able to pick up the smallest movements enable the games to continually adapt to the current level of movement.

It is designed for a wide range of impairment levels – patients with highly limited movement can remove the device from its base and use their other hand to assist in the movement.

Demand for products that can boost post-stroke exercise time is certainly intensifying. Worldwide stroke-related illness, disability and early death is set to double from 2018 to 2035.

At the last available count in 2016 there were reportedly 14 million incidences of first-time strokes. In the UK, as reflected globally, services are stretched. Only three out of 10 stroke survivors who need a six-month assessment receive one, according to research cited in the  Stroke Association’s 2018 State of  the Nation report.

The same paper also reports that only around half of the stroke survivors in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are discharged from hospital having been assessed for all appropriate therapies and with agreed goals for their rehabilitation.

It estimates that 65 per cent of stroke survivors leave hospital with a disability, while around three quarters of stroke survivors will have arm or leg weakness.

“Of course, we want patients to be able to train more in hospitals after their stroke and we do have survivors using NeuroBall on wards. But when they are discharged we also want them to be able to continue training at home.

“So this is the device that therapists can use with patients within [stroke care] centres and patients can also continue using the home.”

Last year, NeuroBall won the Inventor Prize – a title dubbed as the best “garden shed invention” in Britain. It beat over 200 other entrants to the £50,000 award, which is backed by the innovation foundation Nesta and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The company also recently received £650,000 in grant funding to support a clinical trial into the technology.

Watch this space for the results, which are expected to be published soon.