For four years Design Council Spark has been providing mentoring and funding to help get great products to market. This year another 13 teams join the programme as finalists. Read on to find out about the products that will be refined and transformed over the next 16 weeks.
Bringing smart materials and VR together
Ming Kong, co-creator of ALIE
As VR and mixed reality enter the mainstream, devices that allow the user to interact with a virtual world are increasingly important. Many on the market are cumbersome, interfering with the user’s experience. Ming Kong was a professional user of VR in 3D design work and understood the problems first hand. He is also the CEO of tech start-up TG0. The team had developed a platform technology capable of using just one smart material to sense human touch without electronic sensors.
Inspired by the clumsy devices on the market Ming and the team decided to apply their new technology to a handheld VR controller. ALIE is a compact, malleable controller that responds to the most minute hand movements. As a new company, Ming and his team have little experience of bringing a B2C product to market and are looking for some structured market awareness training from the Spark programme.
Making strength-training easier for people with long-term conditions
Anna Lowe, creator of inclusive strength training equipment
Strength training is not just for protein-drink guzzling gym enthusiasts. It is also an essential part of treatment for people with injuries or other long-term conditions. Chartered Physiotherapist Anna Lowe was frustrated by the lack of suitable equipment to use with her patients, many of whom had arthritis. Conventional equipment, such as dumbbells, can be intimidating and uncomfortable to use.
The product Anna is developing has some unique features that solve these problems without looking like a piece of medical paraphernalia or scary gym equipment. Increasing the muscle strength of people with arthritis can improve mobility, function, bone density and reduce the risk of falls. All of which promote independence and improve people’s quality of life. With little experience in product design, Anna comes to Design Council Spark to learn as much as she can about product development to make sure that this potentially impactful product gets to market.
Tackling health and food sustainability with ancient preservation techniques
Ahreum Jung, Marie Tricaud and Bassam Huneidi, co-creators of The Brinery
The Brinery is a home fermentation vessel. Fermentation fell out of favour with the advent of refrigerators and artificial preservatives. The process has huge potential to improve people’s gut health with naturally grown probiotics. Brought back into the mainstream it could also increase food sustainability by extending the short lifespan of food. The Brinery will provide budding home fermenters with an easy to use and safe vessel. Users will be supported by a digital platform or mobile app to guide them through the process.
The Brinery team are Design Engineering Master's graduates who became interested in the potential of fermentation while researching food systems and sustainability. United by a shared passion, they founded the company Gutface with the mission of bringing back the ancient technique of fermentation for the modern lifestyle. The Brinery is the team’s first product. The design ensures the process is safe and includes an airlock that removes the need for the user to release CO2 regularly. They join Design Council Spark with the ambition to develop the product beyond their first prototype.
Creating the right conditions for the perfectly poured pint
Gary Smith, designer of Dryphoon
Pouring the perfect pint of beer isn’t just about skill. If the glass isn’t perfectly clean, dry and the right side of cold, things get a little flat. Enter Dryphoon, a product designed by IT professional and beer connoisseur Gary Smith. The product prepares each glass by rinsing, cooling and refreshing the interior whilst thoroughly drying the base. This is especially important on nucleated glassware.
The son of a pub landlord, Gary grew up in pubs. In the early 2000s he worked behind bars and saw many complaints from customers about the quality of their pints. His first ideas for a product to solve the problem started to bubble away and over fifteen years later he joins Design Council Spark with a working and branded prototype. For Gary, the funding available on the programme is less important than the mentorship he will receive to help get Dryphoon into the market.
Beautiful functional lingerie that works for woman with dexterity problems
Judith Cook, founder of Elba London Lingerie
Judith Cook, a PR consultant and Pilates instructor, has identified a gap in the market for something she believes should be basic to every woman’s wardrobe – a beautiful well-fitting bra that is comfortable and easy to put on and take off. For most women the daily activity of putting on a bra is taken for granted. But for those with dexterity or mobility problems it can become a frustrating, even painful, chore. When a friend approached her for help to find a bra for her mother who had early arthritis, Judith was shocked to discover that suitable products were hard to find. Few bras for someone with dexterity problems were fit for purpose or remotely stylish.
Judith has talked to women of all ages, conducted extensive market research and tested design drawings and prototypes of a ‘different kind of bra’. Her product combines function and style for the modern woman of any age or ability. She applied for Design Council Spark to access the mentoring and networks that would help her to turn her prototypes into a meaningful lingerie product.
Helping more people cycle with a folding electric bicycle
Alex Murray, co-founder of Hinton Bikes
Right now there are a lot of people driving to work who could cycle. Many are put off by the prospect of slogging up hills or arriving at their destination pouring with sweat. E-bikes can solve these problems, but many people don’t have the space to store them. But great design can change behaviour and this is the ambition of Hinton Bikes. They would like to get more people in the saddle with their exceptionally lightweight folding e-bike.
Alex Murray and the original team members were inspired while living in Beijing, China where e-bikes and scooters are common. They saw the need for a quality folding product for Europe’s space-saving commuters. Their design packs the bike’s battery and electronics entirely into the frame, reducing the weight and keeping a sleek profile and compact fold. Alex joins the Spark programme to boost his knowledge of best practice in design, manufacturing, logistics and marketing when bringing a new product to market.
When life gives you lemons…
Andrew Michell, inventor of JuiceKey
Can you imagine a way of getting the juice out of a lemon without cutting it in half? Clinical Neurophysiologist Andrew Michell could, and he’s made it. JuiceKey magically gets the juice from a whole lemon and transfers it drip-free. No lemon juice on your hands and no orphaned half lemons rolling around in the back of the fridge. Different versions of the JuiceKey prototype measure the liquid output and stand up in the fridge door, preventing wasted juice.
In his day job, Andrew is passionate about innovation driving patient care and has a couple of ventures under way already. But his passion for design goes beyond medicine. Enthused by the reaction when testing his prototype (it drew cheers), he comes to Spark keen to learn design-thinking techniques to refine the product and realise its potential on the market.
Comfort and style after mastectomy
Rosie Brave and Sam Jackman are designers of a new breast form
Rosie Brave, a postgraduate researcher, and Sam Jackman, an Arts and Heritage Consultant, have created a new reimagined prosthesis (artificial breast form) to be used by women after a mastectomy. Their product is designed to transform a women’s confidence to help them feel valued and empowered. It was inspired after Sam’s mother was treated for breast cancer and was issued an unattractive lump of beige silicon to use as a prosthesis. It looked medical – a reminder of the frightening illness that necessitated it.
Their product will offer an alternative that moves the prosthesis away from its medical connotations. Available in a choice of colours, textures and patterns it is aesthetically pleasing, breathable and comfortable. Rosie and Sam applied to Spark to access expertise that could help them to develop a business model that puts women’s experiences at the heart of the design process.
Preventing door related finger injuries
Pulathis Siriwardana, inventor of Save-A-Finger
Each year in the UK over 30,000 children are admitted to hospital after trapping their fingers in doors, with around 1,500 of them requiring surgery. In the US, the numbers are even higher, with 300,000 hospital admissions and 15,000 finger amputations. As a surgeon Pulathis Siriwardana has operated on children following door related finger injuries, however the seriousness of this problem was fully brought home after witnessing an incident involving his own son and a door.
Pulathis created Save-A-Finger, an automatic, brilliantly simple doorstop. It is cheap to manufacture and easy to install. Widely available, it has the potential to save thousands of fingers and enable these children to become future mechanics, computer users, musicians and of course surgeons. Pulathis sees Design Council Spark as a road map to reach its fullest potential.
A saddle for all riders
Anni Stonebridge and Jane Cumberlidge, co-creators of Sculptaseat
Sculptaseat is a customisable orthotic that fits onto a riding saddle, providing the rider with bespoke support to their pelvis and spine. Equine professionals Anni Stonebridge and Jane Cumberlidge were inspired to create the product after observing women riders, who make up the majority of riders today. Many women are uncomfortable in conventional saddles; it is a little known fact that all horse saddles have been historically designed for male cavalry riders and this concept has not changed up to today.
Anni and Jane conducted market research and found that the effects of conventional saddles ranged from mild discomfort and riding difficulties to pain and physical injury. Something better was clearly needed. Sculptaseat is the outcome of practice observations, discussions with other riding professionals and Anni and Jane’s extensive understanding of biomechanics. For two equine professionals embarking on their first product development journey, Design Council Spark is an opportunity to avoid pitfalls on their route to market and learn from experienced design practitioners.
Opening doors with ease
Connor Musoke-Jones, designer of the Unity Door Handle
Connor Musoke-Jones is a product design student with an interest in inclusive design. He joins Design Council Spark with his Unity Door Handle – an assistive handle which supports the natural grip and twist motion with ease. Curious about an observation that people often avoided using aid equipment in buildings, he set out to find out why. He discovered that such equipment discouraged use because of its obviously assistive design, despite the fact that it made people’s interactions with the building smoother whether they were disabled or not.
He was inspired to create an assistive door handle which looked beautiful, was functional and didn’t identify its user as impaired. Connor is brimming with ideas for his new product and will use the Spark programme to take his ideas from theory to reality.
Promoting healthy scalps under the weave
Michelle Kong and Andrew Jackson, co-creators of Weavezzz
Last, but by no means least on the list of finalists to Design Council Spark 2018 is hairdresser and weave specialist Michelle Kong, who created Weaveeezzz alongside her husband Andrew Jackson. Michelle was one of the first people to introduce the weave to the UK. She knows very well the maintenance issues that come with placing the natural hair and scalp under a weave. It is difficult to administer product to the scalp to clean and condition. The scalp becomes itchy, giving rise to ‘weave-patting’, an action so ubiquitous that Beyonce wrote about it in her music.
Michelle’s solution is a micro-comb which doubles as a dispenser for hair products. It delivers the products through the weave without disrupting the style. Michelle joins Design Council Spark to take advantage of the mentors’ product design expertise, but also in her own words “to enjoy the journey and challenge, and to prove to my two sons that hard work and never giving up does pay in the end.”
Design Council Spark is a support and funding programme designed to help you turn your bright idea into a commercially successful product. Register your interest to be first to hear about next year's programme.
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