This week saw the conclusion of Design Council Spark 2017, with all 10 finalists being recognised for their product development achievements. Each Spark finalist has received an initial £15,000 investment award and undertaken an intensive 16-week support programme. Further funding has also been awarded to five individual ventures that the judges felt delivered the strongest business pitches to an investment panel, thereby demonstrating that their ideas could provide the greatest public benefit.

The exclusive Spark Showcase event held on 12 September at Kachette in London’s Shoreditch was attended by a number of industry experts, investors, and of course past Spark programme awardees who were all on hand to provide valuable advice and words of encouragement to this year’s finalists.

Previous Spark awardee Matt Barrett from Handy-Fasteners took to the stage and explained how the last year has been a real whirlwind for him and his team. Taking on the application process for Spark, facing the judging panel, and then being told they had made it as a finalist all seemed to have been a blur, but then finally seeing his product take shape was the real success story for him and made the Spark programme a truly worthwhile experience. In his speech, Matt relayed his sense of achievement in the knowledge that a simple product design such as Handy-Fasteners was able to empower and support those people across the United Kingdom who continue to suffer each day from the debilitating effects of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.

The Spark 2017 finalists

Design Council Chief Executive Sarah Weir OBE with the Spark 2017 finalists

Arthritis Research UK, who supported three of the ten finalist ventures were on hand and commented on why they felt Spark was a positive programme for designers and innovators to be a part of, particularly when considering the number of people in the UK affected by arthritis each day. “Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the UK, with 10 million people currently living with it” says Charlotte Guiver, Director of Fundraising at Arthritis Research UK. “It is not a niche condition. This is a huge opportunity for the design community to make products for people that are functional, inclusive and attractively designed.”

Products on display at the Spark Showcase included AirBreathe, a filtration mask for people living in cities with high air pollution; CamCup, a reusable coffee cup made from recycled coffee grounds; Cue Sense, a pair of smart glasses for people with visual impairment which allows them to read faces and engage in non-verbal communication; Drink, a glass holder for wheelchair users; Detail, a folding bicycle helmet; Fuzl, a range of flat-pack furniture for frequent movers that clips together and collapses; and Phytoponics, a new system that speeds up the growth of plants.

Also on show were three products specifically benefitting those members of the UK public affected by arthritis including Kikka Digga, a retro-fitted spade attachment that makes gardening easier on the back; Workey, a door key attachment that makes opening doors more comfortable; and Nubbit, a hand-held grip that makes electronic tablets simpler to support and hold, all of which were supported by Arthritis Research UK.

Significant further investments were awarded to Drink and CamCup; the Arthritis Research UK fund awarded to Workey; Fuzl and Detail received Highly Commended mentions from the panel and a funding contribution.

As this year’s Spark programme comes to a close, the search now begins for the next design and innovation ideas for 2018.

If you have an idea that you believe to be groundbreaking, and one that will help improve the lives of the people around you then we invite you to find out more and apply to Spark 2018.

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