Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Touch Bionics hand The iLimb hand.

Hugh GillHugh Gill (b. 1958), engineer who developed the multi-articulating bionic hand

Engineering achievements

Hugh's most prominent contribution has been in developing the partial and full hand multi articulating prosthetics products for Touch Bionics of Livingston. This has revolutionised the capability of those who lose a hand. Hugh joined Touch Bionics in 2007 and has significantly advanced the company and product originally conceived by founder David Gow. During this time Hugh has achieved 16 patents. The engineering behind this is now at the front end of high technology - encompassing robotics, wireless communication, i-phone apps, advanced myoelectric sensors that pick up microvolt signals from muscles beneath the skin, and the covering, or cosmesis, for durability, appearance and elasticity, a major materials advance. Over 4000 patients have been fitted with i-limb hands and over 500 partial hand patients. Hugh has led the technological developments creating a major impact on many patients throughout the world.

Earlier in his career, Hugh had sole responsibility for structural integrity of the channel tunnel machine to withstand full overburden mass of 100ft of water and 100ft of soil. Hugh then joined Burroughs and later Unisys. During this time Hugh designed a high speed document optical and magnetic reader and achieved 2 successful patents. At Polaroid, Hugh developed a business called Wideblue which spun out in 2006 with Hugh being the Director of Design and Operations. Whist working at Polaroid, Hugh also co-founded Dream Maker Ltd to exploit a modular drumstick with patented technology, winning the John Logie Baird Award for innovation.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born in Glasgow, Scotland 1958
16 Apprentice Draughstman, Hugh Smith 1974
22 Development Engineer, Bonar Hugh Smith 1980
25 Graduated BSc (honours), Mechanical Engineering, Strathclyde University 1983
25 Mechanical Engineer, Burroughs Machines 1983
27 Leading Engineer, James Howden Ltd 1985
29 Engineering Manager, Unisys 1987
34 Engineering Manager, Teknek Electronics 1992
39 Design/ Program Manager, Polaroid 1997
41 Elite excellence award for new film product, Polaroid 1999
42 Director of Codadrumstick/ Dream Maker Ltd 2000
43 Winner of John Logie Baird award for innovation for the modular drumstick 2001
44 Winner of Gold Excellent award, Polaroid for global supply chain 2002
47 Creator and Director of Wideblue Ltd2005
49 Touch Bionics, Director of Technology and Operations 2007
50 Touch Bionics wins RAEng MacRobert Award 2008
53 Touch Bionics, Chief Technical Officer 2011
55 Twelfth patent granted since 1990 2013
55 Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame 2013
55 Honorary Fellow of IESIS 2013
59 Vice President of R&D Upper Extremity Prosthetics, Touch Bionics 2017
59 Managing Director, Touch Bionics 2017
59 Saltire Society Fletcher of Saltoun Award for Outstanding Contribution to Science 2017
61 Honorary Member of American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists 2019

His Legacy

The i-limb hand created a new era in upper limb prosthetics with Touch Bionics being the world leader in multi-articulating hands. Approximately 4500 patients have been fitted with i-limbs or i-limb digits, The most recent hand i-limb revolution provides a powered rotating thumb advancing the ease of patient use. In Hugh's words "As an engineer I thrive on solving problems. However people with negative attitudes create obstacles and that encourages me to overcome problems. I enjoy leading and I have always had the courage to overcome all obstacles placed in front of me and the pleasure of achieving the solution and learning during the journey".

Hugh's eagerness to listen to patients and transform the technological advances in prosthetics is an inspiration to others. "One needs the courage to lead significant changes in prosthetics and to overcome barriers to success. The journey in Touch Bionics has been exhilarating and the future innovations will help to transform the lives of more patients. There are so many emotional stories I have to share, from an 8 year old girl to an 85 year old gentleman in New York. A patient came over from Africa, lost his hand five years ago, never had a prosthesis. He walked away three days later - and he shook my hand."

More Information

Hugh Gill, Touch Bionic's director of technology and operations. The Engineer, 26 Jan 2009.
Medical Miracles Aren't Cheap. Forbes Magazine. 6th March 2013.
Three pieces of smart, compassionate science. The Patriot Ledger. 10 Jun 2013.
Bionic prosthesis hands: A review of present technology and future aspirations. Clement, Bugler and Oliver.
Teenager who lost limbs fitted with bionic hand Scotsman.
The Surgeon, Dec 2011. Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.
Royal Academy of engineering "Touch Bionics: enabling a new age in human prosthetic"
i-limb Hand
Reconstructing Lives
UK trade and investment Exports
Download: Hugh Gill acceptance speech Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 4 October 2013

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