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Wheelchair brakes win top prize at France’s invention competition

Other winners include inflatable home flood barriers and a water-saving system for swimming pools

Colin Gallois (left) and Lancelot Durand with their invention that allows wheelchair users to brake with a fifth of the effort Pic: Eppur

The creators of a braking system for wheelchairs have been awarded top prize at France’s annual Concours Lépine invention competition.

Colin Gallois and Lancelot Durand scooped the Prix du Président de la République thanks to Dreeft, a pair of wheels for manual wheelchairs.

They say the wheels allow users to brake using a fifth of the effort and without using their hands as brake pads, which often results in skin lesions and shoulder pain.

Read more: British inventors enter 122-year-old French contest for first time

50% wheelchair users lost control on a slope

The wheels are fitted with a coaster braking system, inspired by traditional Dutch bicycles. 

It is activated by lightly pulling the handrim backwards.

Lille-based start-up Eppur, founded by the two engineers, conducted a survey of 164 wheelchair users. 

Half had already lost control on a slope or ramp, and 85% had taken a diversion to avoid encountering slopes.

The product costs €1,990 and is available at 100 distributors in France.

Other winners influenced by climate change

This year’s contest also saw several inventions designed in response to climate change. 

The second most prestigious prize went to Flowstop, an inflatable flood barrier that can be made to fit doors and windows.

Also rewarded was a system for saving water when cleaning swimming pools, dubbed Stop Eau Gaspi. 

The filtration system allows water used to clean the sand filter to be pumped back into the pool, along with the treatment products, rather than going to waste.

Gers-based inventor Patrice Fortin has patented the system but it has yet to go on sale.

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