10 Spark finalists, 10 creators, 10 innovative ideas. From glasses that help the visually impaired to the ultimate cycling helmet, we're delighted to introduce the ideas and the creators that comprise our 2017 Spark finalists.

Keith Pullen, Lawrence Tse, Fiona Pullen: AirBreathe Mask

Engineer Lawrence Tse, City University of London professor Keith Pullen, and diabetes specialist nurse Fiona Pullen have come together to create Airbreathe, a filtered mask that improves the breathing experience of people living in cities affected by air quality issues. The mask relies on durable, changeable screens to filter out harmful pollutants while remaining comfortable and unrestrictive when worn, even when doing heavy exercise like uphill cycling or running.

It's of no surprise that the idea was the brainchild of Keith, who was a serial inventor, already having 25 patents under his belt. However, the real turning point came after he teamed up with Lawrence and they started using 3D digital designs and new manufacturing methods. At this time the AirBreathe team started to utilise social media to converse with early adopters who were beginning to come on board. They have since built up strong relationships with interested parties who regularly offer their thoughts as the product develops. 

Why Spark?

“With all of our expertise in hardware and software design, we still have a lot to learn when it comes to IP, large scale manufacturing, marketing and business. So the Spark programme was a clear and obvious choice. Success of this product will substantially depend on getting the whole design and marketing right, far beyond pure technical function”.

 Gareth Roberts, Xiaobin Zhao: CamCup

Entrepreneur Gareth Roberts has a keen eye for innovation and design. Prior to Spark he invented the PneumaScan, a medical device that measures lung function. Gareth’s focus is now on creating the world’s most environmentally friendly consumer product CamCup, which is a re-useable coffee cup designed using used coffee grounds which are bound together with innovative green glue.

Why Spark?

“This is a heaven-sent opportunity to get help to bring a new product to market. We hope to create a space to gain valuable expert criticism and guidance to help us take the project to market”.

Ben Wylie, Jacob Jelen, Andy Shipley: CUE Sense

University students Ben Wylie and Jacob Jelen share a passion for design. The idea that saw them selected as finalists on Spark 2017 is CUE Sense, a pair of smart glasses that enable a visually impaired person to pick up on non-verbal cues. The idea first arose when Ben and Jacob undertook a creative technology apprenticeship at AKQA and set about trying to create something for the visually impaired. Their original idea was a glove that would provide vibrational feedback, helping the wearer to see through their hands.   

As enthusiasm grew Ben ran the idea past his dad over the phone whilst traveling on the train, unbeknown to him their conversation was overheard by a fellow passenger who introduced himself to explain that his best mate, Andy Shipley began losing his sight at 19 and was legally blind by 28. With first-hand experience Andy joined Ben and Jacob to discuss the idea further and together they collaborated in creating CUE Sense. Andy expressed that most of his anxiety stemmed from not being able to access non-verbal cues, which is not surprising given that 83% of our understanding of the world comes through our vision. CUE Sense glasses are designed specifically to pick up on non-verbal cues. 

Why Spark? 

“Although we had won a number of competitions prior to coming to Spark, none of them could provide the support and guidance that Design Council offered. Having seen a number of other social impact products successfully emerge from the Spark programme, we thought it would be a great place to learn and develop the product as quickly as possible”.

Fiona Jarvis: DRINK

Fiona Jarvis, CEO and founder of Blue Badge Style, a company devoted to redefining disability with style. Her product idea DRINK, is a universal glass holder that allows people in wheelchairs (or anyone) to enjoy a glass of wine hands-free. The holder is completely flexible and accommodates any glass of any size.

Why Spark?

“A designer friend saw Spark online and said I should apply with the glass holder, as it was something he could use even though he was able-bodied. So I did. I'm hoping to receive design expertise and recommendations for refining the system into something that's really marketable”. 

Nick Rawcliffe: Folding Helmet

Mechanical engineer Nick Rawcliffe studied at the Royal College of Art and spent a year at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Since that time he has been designing and making contemporary furniture and various lighting pieces. Nick’s latest idea, Folding Helmet centres around his other great passion of cycling.

Nick describes the Folding Helmet as the ‘ultimate cycling helmet’ as it doesn’t compromise on safety or security as it maintains a rigid shell structure, while still being able to fold up and be tucked away, making it even more convenient for those who cycle to work. Nick had the idea for this collapsible helmet a few years ago but was encouraged to develop it when he saw other folding helmet designs appear on the market, and knew he could make something even better.

Why Spark? 

“I applied for Spark as an incentive to make me progress with my helmet design, as well as receiving funding for design development to bring the product to market. I was also keen to be part of a group embarking upon the journey of development together with their own product. I am convinced that this design creates a safer helmet so I am determined to get it into production”.

Oliver Theobald: fuzl

Designer Oliver Theobald is the founder of fuzl, a modern flat-pack furniture system that clips together. This innovative construction solution for furniture aimed to match the habits of young city dwellers who frequently move homes and are always looking for smart space-saving solutions.

The difference between fuzl and other space-saving solutions is that it remains true to its sustainable and environmentally-friendly ethos. The materials are high quality, yet still suited to mass manufacture and they do not degrade with each assembly/disassembly cycle. fuzl is about lifelong flat-pack furniture. 

Why Spark?

“I really needed an immediate target to focus my energies on and to have an independent body test the idea out for validity in the opening stages of the project. Spark seemed to tick all of these boxes”.

Nick Skaliotis: Kikka Digga 

Entrepreneur, Nick Skaliotis is a pro-driving coach with a long-held passion for design technology (having already designed his own Go-Kart). Nick's latest creation is the Kikka Digga, a labour and back-saving digging attachment that can be retrofitted to any garden forks or spades, removing the stress and strain out of all digging activities.

Kikka Digga not only helps people with back pain, but prevents further back injury by adding a pivoted footplate. The idea came to Nick when he was, naturally, out digging. "I thought of Archimedes' law of levers, and the two combined resulted in the genesis of Kikka Digga".

Why Spark?

“I have brought Kikka Digga up to where I can on my own, being a part of the Spark programme will really help take me to the next stage in development. Having the assistance and mentoring from Design Council will be really beneficial”.

Adam Dixon, Luke Parkin and Neel Patel: Phytoponics

Adam Dixon, Luke Parkin and Neel Patel are three men who have design, mechanical and electronics engineering well covered. Their latest idea is a grow bag, Phytoponics contains features for hydroponic plant growth, such as aeration, plant support, removable tops, root permeable membrane, water chambers and valves.

Phytoponics will have the greatest impact on commercial growers of crops such as tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries. This innovation will help such growers to get 20x the market returns per hectare of soil, with lower capital and operational costs than other hydroponic systems. The system can be set up in minutes after inflation, filling and planting. The idea was the brain child of CEO Adam Dixon, a hydroponics veteran, who was on holiday at the time when he realised you can make a sustainable hydroponic system using the same principles as when welding soft good products.

Why spark?

“The huge network of knowledge and resources available through Spark can really help us to develop our design even further to ensure that the product is truly, scalable, affordable and is human centric in design. We want to make connections with relevant people in the industry, particularly manufacturing based contacts".

Geoff Rolandsen: Workey 

Associate Design Manager, Geoff Rolandsen studied Architecture at University in Australia and since then has worked in the design industry. Workey is a key turning tool that eases the grasping and turning action which is required to operate keys. Workey slides on and off keys to replicate a turn snib on the end of a key which is easier to hold and twist. It is primarily designed for people with reduced hand dexterity who may struggle with small or stiff keys.

The inspiration for Workey came from his father who suffers from reduced hand dexterity and was frustrated with the shortcomings of the few existing products. "We first discussed a concept for a sleek pocket-able tool which could overcome the shortfalls of existing products. Since that conversation the concept has stuck in my head and over time grew from a sketch on the back of an envelope into a range of tried and tested prototypes".

Why Spark?

“When I saw that Spark had partnered with Arthritis Research UK, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to gain professional and commercial support in order to establish a direct connection with a target market. This was a huge incentive to apply, as the driving force behind the products is to benefit those with reduced hand dexterity”.

Clair Boubli: The Nubbit  

Furniture and jewellery designer Clair Stringer Boubli spent 12 years on Broadway and in the film industry as a mechanical special effects expert for theatre and film. Clair's creation the Nubbit, is a tablet accessory that acts as an interface between the straight, hard edge of a tablet or e-reader, and the human hand, replacing it with soft comfortable organic grip. In addition, it also functions as a multi-positional stand.

The Nubbit makes a device easier to handle and infinitely more user-friendly, making it particularly useful for those with difficulties securing and maintaining a pinch-grip grasp. The design was inspired by Clair's daughter who has reduced hand strength and struggled to find a product that could help.

Why Spark?

“I called Design Council out of the blue to ask for advice and that's when I was told about the Spark programme, so I applied and got through! I hope to learn as much as possible to take the product into market and get the Nubbit out there to everyone who needs one”.

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