Oliver Armitage and Emil Hewage are on a mission. After founding Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems last year, they devised and invented an implant that they believe will change amputees' lives forever.
The invention, which works by connecting bionic devices like a prosthetic limb to soft-tissue systems in the body, has been described as a "USB connector" for prosthetics because of its adaptor-like ability to standardise connections.
That it can also process information from an amputee's nervous system could make it a game-changer. They hope the implant, which is in pre-clinical tests, will eventually replace the widely used "debilitating" cup and socket mechanism and make bleeding and uncomfortable stumps nothing more than a painful memory of days gone by.
While the science behind giving amputees the ability to walk, wave or simply move in comfort is exciting, so too is Oliver and Emil's long term ambition of making the technology available through the National Health Service (NHS).
"To me, making someone's life better has to happen for the conversation to even happen in the first place. It's whether or not you can do it in a way that will get adopted in a large economic environment," Oli tells IBTimes UK.
"There are people who fly to Australia for this discontinued research implant that people are trying to buy. It comes with loads of infection risks and it is dangerous. People are doing that even though it is incredibly dangerous and expensive. We are trying to make a better solution widely available."
Oli, 26, from Cambridge, and Emil, 27, who grew up in Aberdeen, both studied bio-engineering and were first year lab partners. They are now housemates and as Oliver completes his Phd, Emil shuttles back and forth between Cambridge and London trying to attract investors.
Even though the company was incorporated in May 2015, it feels like Armitage's whole life has been leading to this invention. "Even in the first year Oliver would say how he wanted to put chips in people's brains," Emil laughs.
I had another 15 months until I finished my Phd! But I thought 'Fine, f*** it!'"
"I've been trying to think about ways of integrating advanced biotic limbs with the body for over a decade," Oliver explains. "Obviously my ideas have significantly refined over that period from a 17-year-old who thought "just shove it in there and it'll be fine" to now where my Phd is about material interactions in the body. But it's always been with the same target.
He remembers that, the first time he sketched the implant, was on a napkin at a talk at the Royal Society of Physics in 2011. So did Oliver have to convince Emil of his vision?
"When Oliver explained to us at university what fascinated him actually made some sense. He said the only thing he cared about with the engineering stuff was that you could use technology to make your body work better or replace parts that aren't working."
"It's hard to describe how transformative properly integrated prosthetics are"
"In terms of the tech side of things, I conceived it," Oliver states. "It wasn't that we discussed it together but then I was sort of saying 'Oh, I know I'm going to do this once I've finished my Phd' and Emil was more like 'Can we just start it now please'. I had another 15 months until I finished my Phd! But I thought 'Fine, f*** it!'"
One boost that CBAS received along the way came in the form of a £50,000 cash injection from start-up accelerator MassChallenge. The Wapping-based incubator helped the founders apply their idea, set goals and set up meetings with mentors, enabling them to build a global network of contacts, including those based in the United States, a market they have hopes of cracking.
Now, almost one year down the line and the pair are targeting 2018 for a market release of the implant, which will cost between £3,000 and £5,000 and have a lifetime in excess of 20 years. The release date can't come soon enough for Oliver, Emil and amputees. "We think the way that prosthetics are done at the moment are just structurally wrong in so many ways," Emil claims.
"We spoke to amputees who tried the research type Implant devices and they said it was like having their limb back. A lot of people lose this phantom limb pain they have because they can identify with something that is there. At the moment these amputees say they don't want to use their current prosthesis for half the year because they hate these things. Wearing a socket feels like walking around inside a sea shell.
"It's hard to describe how transformative properly integrated prosthetics are to an amputee because prosthesis right now are connected with sockets that are incredibly debilitating."
Clinically safer, more comfortable and economically viable, the implant would also give back to amputees what was taken away on the operating table: freedom. Recipients would be able to go hiking in the morning and a black tie event in the evening after only a few twists and clicks. As Oliver puts it: "As long as we don't limit what people can build, then people will do really cool things."