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Exporting Safety – A short story about one SME’s desire to save lives in the US

At this point, most of us have heard about the revolutionary bicycle helmets made by Swedish start-up Hövding. An “airbag for cyclists” was their innovative solution. A collar worn around the neck which turns into an air helmet upon impact. Since the launch in 2011 the company has been selling their popular bicycle helmets to bicyclists across Europe. The company later expanded to selling their revolutionary helmet solution in Japan. When asked if the company is looking to the American market they’ve replied that it is not in the pipeline at the moment. 

This is odd however. According to Hövding about 30 % of people visiting their website is based in the US. This comes as no surprise. According to the CDC, over 900 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 494,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries in 2013. Data from 2010 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion. It would therefore seem rational for Hövding to sell their helmets to people in the US? 

"“In the US there are regulatory standards which, for no obvious reason, are slightly different from European standards,” says Fredrik Carling, CEO of Hövding."

For the company it’s not a matter of “want” but an issue of can – or rather cannot. Due to the complicated trade procedures and regulations, Hövding’s helmet has not been certified and stamped as “safe” in the US – even though in Europe it has been shown to perform significantly better than traditional helmets. “In fact, if you are in a crash at the speed of 25 kilometers an hour where your head is hitting the pavement, the risk of fatal injury with a traditional helmet is more than 30 percent,” Carling notes. “With Hövding, that risk is reduced to nearly 0 percent.” sadly, the European CE safety marking is not sufficient for American authorities and since there are no similar products on the market for comparison there is no way for them to assure that Hövding’s helmet will perform as intended. Domestic insurance regulations also make it unnecessarily difficult for them to sell to American customers. 

"“With Hövding, that risk is reduced to nearly 0 percent.”"

For Hövding, the obvious solution is TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A trade agreement between EU and the US would make trans atlantictrade much easier, reducing regulatory barriers, easing mutual recognition of safety standards – and finally allowing Hövding to enter the American market.


To read the full article on Hövding and their quest to save lives, visit:

Tags: SME, Freetrade, TTIP

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