From medical devices to treat nosebleeds, portable baby rockers and origami-like plant pots, to assistive devices for musculoskeletal conditions supported by our partners Arthritis Research UK, all of the Spark 2016 ideas have the potential to change lives. We are delighted to introduce the Spark inventors of 2016.

Alastair Moore: Ambulo Crutch 

After retiring from his job as a Taxi Driver of 20-plus years due to an injury, Alastair Moore, 53, took the unconventional route of becoming an inventor of assistive devices. Alastair’s Ambulo Crutch is a travel aid for long-term crutch users which has the benefit of folding up very small while still sustaining more weight than a regular travel crutch.  

My Spark experience

I have found the Spark programme both challenging and informative. We gained a new understanding of product development as well as how to identify our target market. We have really been able to explore how our product can be adapted to help reach a wider audience within our particular sector.  

Vision for the future

Our vision over the next three years is to enter the market with Ambulo Folding Crutch, our premium product, after which we intend to expand our brand offering with three more products; Ambulo Comfy, Ambulo Paediatric and Ambulo Folding Walking stick. 

What the mentor said

“Alastair was keen to learn everything he could about marketing including using tools like surveygizmo, analysing research, setting up account forms, margins in retail and wholesale, etc. He was excited to share the videos, asked lots of great questions and effectively leveraged the opportunities on the Spark programme. Best of luck Alastair. I hope I have given you a few tools and ideas to help you succeed.” Vicky Mitchell, Better All Round.

Simon Foxhall: Shuttlepack

Human Factors Consultant from West Sussex, Simon Foxhall, 44, has put a new spin on the faithful backpack. The Shuttlepack, an idea that originated from a children’s fantasy adventure Simon was writing, allows you to move the bag from your back to your front and vice versa, without having to take the backpack off.   

My Spark experience

Spark is a great name for the programme as without it I would have never thought of taking my product any further than the design drawing. Thanks to the Design Council’s funding and specialist support, not only do I now believe my product will be a success, but I can now apply what I’ve learnt to any ideas I have in the future.

Vision for the future

I’m hoping Shuttlepack becomes a common sight on people’s backs (and fronts) and aim to achieve this by launching the daypack through a crowdfunding campaign.

Matthew, Natalie, and Thomas: Handy-Fasteners

Matthew Barrett, Natalie English, and Thomas Fantham, 22, are all final year students from Sheffield University, studying Aerospace Engineering and Psychology. Together they set out to design something that would help people with limited dexterity, while also working with magnets. Handy-Fasteners is a set of magnetic buttons that can be retrofitted to any garment and replace fiddly buttons that are especially challenging for those with arthritis in their hands.  

Our Spark experience

Spark provided the inspiration – and the invaluable business advice – to help us progress our initial idea into a company. We had no experience in starting a business or in product development. We are now in a position where we feel confident to develop our product, service and business and leave the supportive wings of the Spark programme on our own two feet.

Vision for the future

We aspire to offer a retrofitting package for any shirt quantity. We also want to explore licensing Handy-Fasteners to existing clothing manufacturers to broaden our market to not just those with dexterity issues, but to anyone that prefers the ease and speed offered by our technology. We'd really like to set up a scheme that supports Arthritis UK and the incredible work that they do. 

William George Dolman: Ezi-Plug

William George Dolman, 64, is a Mechanical Design Engineer and serial inventor who hails from Shouldham, Norfolk. He began creating Ezi-Plug, a modern design domestic plug and socket designed for ease of use, when he saw his mother struggling to remove a standard plug from the socket. “I thought there must be an alternative. Then Ezi-Plug started to take shape.”

My Spark experience

Design Council has opened doors and created important links to useful contacts for possible business partners. This opportunity has allowed me to pursue my passion of making the Ezi-plug into a product and a business. 

Vision for the future

I'd like to see Ezi-Plug as the next standard. The plan is to break into a very strong market by targeting a specific audience and gradually expanding and building into the general market.

Gavin Thomson: GinGanGoo

Industrial product designer Gavin Thomson, 49, is certainly no stranger to the world of invention. His resume is a smorgasbord of ideas, and this time it’s the much loved barbecue that Gavin has turned his tinkering mind to. GinGanGoo is a telescopic barbecue grill and oven that improves the experience of the on-the-go barbecue. “While it can barbecue like normal, it is also fitted with an under-grill oven, so it can cook anything from a ready-meal curry, to mussels, to a full blown roast chicken.”

My Spark experience

I wanted to make sure I was pursuing the right concept direction and creating a strong business platform. Spark has helped me to fully explore ‘disposable’ and ‘reusable’ routes with particular consideration of user insights, market segmentation and vital business elements.

Vision for the future

I intend to fine-tune my product and essential accessories for UK launch in 2017, aided with a crowdfunding campaign. The focus will be on direct sales via an interactive website and social media to create the GinGanGoo brand and to expand the culinary experiences.

What the mentor said

“Gavin is already a very experienced product designer, so I wouldn’t say he changed during the project. However, the project itself has had massive changes in direction throughout it’s development. Seeing these changes, and how Gavin was able to adapt and overcome them, was a pleasure to watch. Designers often live with their projects emotionally, and this is especially true in the case of this barbecue. It is revolutionary, exciting and has taken a lot of blood, sweat, tears and grey matter to get to where it is today. I take my hat off to Gavin for having the passion, energy and perseverance for getting this far.” Dan Black, Black and Blum.

Begum and Bike Ayaskan: Growth

London designers, Begum and Bike Ayaskan, 26, were sitting in a garden in Turkey when they started talking about the idea for a plant pot that could grow with the plant. Before long Growth, the origami-like flower pot, was born. “We knew we wanted to make it look like it was complete in its initial stage so when the transformation started happening it would be a surprise. We wanted it to transform by unfolding over time.”

Our Spark experience

It’s really important to have people around you that are excited about your product and your personal growth, and that’s exactly what we found in Spark. The expert advice that we received, along with the diverse programme, really helped us to bridge the gap in our knowledge that can only be acquired by years of experience. 

Vision for the future

Our vision is to create products that inspire people to bring nature back into their lives and to create a studio that inspires sustainable product design and a greater appreciation of the environment. There is so much that we can learn from nature, and we try to incorporate natural processes such as evolution, adaptation and symbiosis into our design as much as possible. Growth will be our flagship product, which will enable us to expand our vision. 

What the mentor said

“Having started with a strikingly seductive product concept, Begum and Bike's main challenge was how to deliver the promise. I was impressed by their ability to tackle the minutest of design details to improve the manufacturability and user experience. Their appreciation of the wider issues of market and manufacturing grew throughout the process. By the end, they had not only consolidated their initial product but had sketched a path for future product development.” Sebastian Bergne, Sebastian Bergne.

Danny, Craig, Matt, and Gregor: LOKI one

Danny Kane, Craig Lynn, Matt Marais, and Gregor Aikman are design consultants with a lot of experience taking ideas from sketches through to mass manufactured products. Their latest idea, LOKI one, is a compact camera support that transforms into a shoulder rig to provide a stable filming base. LOKI one can be taken everywhere, set-up in seconds and stabilise the camera for high-quality, shake-free video.

Our Spark experience

Through the course of the 20-week programme we really learnt to refine our product message, re-engage with our customers, manufacture a first production batch and start selling to customers and retailers. The combination of the financial and academic support has enabled us to accelerate the business to this point and build a momentum we intend to continue growing. 

Vision for the future

Our vision is for the LOKI one camera rig to become a staple item in every photographer and videographer’s kit bag, and the go-to item for enthusiasts looking to create more engaging content. We aim to achieve this through a combination of online and traditional marketing strategies with a strong focus on promoting user generated content.

Giuseppe Fasano: NoMess

Giuseppe Fasano, 45, is a successful card publisher and designer with an illustrious client list including the Tate Modern, Conran and Selfridges among others. His invention NoMess is a disposable sandwich box that allows the consumer to keep their fingers off their food while eating. “After dissecting and reassembling many sandwich packs I slowly found a way where it is possible to eat without the fingers directly touching the foodstuff.”

My Spark experience

Being associated with Design Council certainly helps open doors and get access to people and organisations otherwise difficult to reach. Also, taking time out from my day-to-day business to talk to advisors and focus on the big picture was very helpful.

Vision for the future

A 2009 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that, when swabbed, 28% of UK commuters had faecal bacteria on their hands. We would love to see food retailers adopting our packaging to create a more hygienic experience for their customers.

Wendy Minks: Rhinamite

Wendy Minks is a a trainee in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from Newcastle. Wendy’s idea, Rhinamiteis designed to stop nosebleeds in a simple and comfortable manner. The aim is to help the 15% of the population who are troubled with regular nosebleeds, to be able to stop the bleeds themselves in the home, or to be used by first-aiders in the sports setting to limit injury. “I became frustrated treating nosebleeds in A&E and felt there must be a better solution to prevent uncomfortable and inefficient treatment for the patients I encountered.”

My Spark experience

This has been an intense accelerator which has seen our product taken from concept to manufacturing stage in just 20 weeks. We have taken on an immense amount of expert advice, which has ensured a high quality outcome.

While medical innovations set out to provide a higher standards of treatment for patients, we have come to appreciate just how valuable the application of design into these innovations really is. We hope to work hard in the future to incorporate design into bettering our practice.

Vision for the future

We want to make the most of our potential to reach out to healthcare systems worldwide to treat nosebleeds more comfortably and efficiently. It is so important that patients can be provided with the tools to address such conditions in the comfort of their own homes rather than hospitals. Rhinamite’s potential to aid sports people is huge by reducing time out of play with bleeds and addressing swelling and bruising injuries to the face.

Matt, Matt and Nick: Rockit

Matt Sparrow, Matt Dyson and Nick Webb have taken it upon themselves to answer the call of sleep-deprived parents everywhere. Rockit is a portable baby rocker that can be fitted to push chairs, car seats or cribs and is designed to gently rock and soothe the baby when the pushchair stops moving. As Nick Webb said: “When my daughter was very small she would often wake up when the buggy stopped moving. I made a prototype portable buggy rocker one night at about 2am, using an old printer motor with a weight attached and a simple circuit to control the speed.”   

Our Spark experience

Spark has helped us to rapidly accelerate our progress. The workshops and mentoring helped us to remain focused on the key issues when bringing a consumer product to market. With the help of our mentor, we have completely redesigned the Rockit’s casing and are now in the position to tool for manufacture. It has been an intense 20 weeks, but we have benefited so much from the advice and expertise that Spark has given us access to.

Vision for the future

We already have an initial order for 10,000 Rockits in the UK. Our vision is to expand rapidly into overseas markets as there is currently no other product quite like Rockit. Within two years we aim to have launched a MK2 Rockit with additional features and benefits. We want to create an internationally recognised brand and cement our position as the baby rocker company.

What the mentor said

“Like all of the best ideas, Rockit was born from an inventor’s necessity. It is one of those rare ideas that should already exist, but weirdly doesn’t. It was Matt, Matt & Nick’s openness to criticism and their agility to reiterate during the mentoring process that allowed us to shape the product into a mass market proposition. Now they have a product ready for production, which is a perfect marriage of function, message and form. A rocket, that rocks it! What’s not to like?” Gary Pyper, Seven Towns

Fred Festy & Tim Watson: Safe Root

Physicist Fred and dentist Tim’s Safe Root is a optical device that lets a dentist know when a root canal is clean, non-infected and ready to be filled. Using an indicating solution, it checks for the bacteria on the little paper points that a dentist uses to dry the canal prior to filling. The dentist will then know if it is safe to fill the canal, or continue cleaning, and should help to reduce failures in root canal treatment.

Our Spark experience

With Spark we have learnt to stand back from our invention and analyse critically the demands and opportunities of the market, user requirements and the manufacturing challenges of our device. With simple prototypes of the Safe Root infection detector in hand, we are now well placed for negotiations to license the product to the big dental manufacturers. 

Vision for the future

Our vision is to see the product taken up by a large dental manufacturer and incorporated into their range of instruments so improving patient outcomes in root canal treatment. We will extend our clinical trial data and develop concurrently the technology with our licensee to make this a ‘must-have’ item for any dentist when undertaking endodontic treatment. 

Duncan MacRae: Skapya

Duncan McRae, 40, is a National Parks Consultant in St Agnes, Cornwall. His Skapya pioneer jacket is a hardwearing outdoor apparel that not only folds from a jacket into a backpack, but also keeps the same accessible storage space – which means that anything placed into the pockets of the jacket will still accessible when it is being used as a bag.

My Spark experience

Spark has been exactly what my business needed. Not only has my concept and product been tested, I have too. Through capturing the detailed feedback, I now have a much better understanding of where I have come from and where I need to go.  

Vision for the future

I intend to create a Kickstarter campaign and continue sales B2C via my website. I want test the ground with small independent shops before approaching large retailers and wholesalers. After that I would be keen to license the patent.

Peter Bailey: TickleFlex

Peter Bailey is a consultant engineer, which can also translate to being a professional inventor. With the TickleFlexPeter refocused his attention towards something more personal – improving the experience of injecting insulin. As a type 1 diabetic, Peter wanted to find a way to take some of the pain and human error away from the process. The TickleFlex clips to the needle and works by creating a pinch that concentrates the subcutaneous tissue, controls the needle depth and saturates local sensory inputs which then block the pain pathways. The result is a safer and more comfortable way to inject insulin.  

My Spark experience

I started off thinking that good design was the key to a successful product, but Spark taught me that it is only a part of the challenge. Good design only becomes meaningful when the product is shared by customers and makes a positive difference. Spark opened my eyes to how my meagre personal resources can be leveraged by strategic thinking and the application of best practice.

I have also come to realise that it’s not a choice between invention nirvana or managerial drudgery – there is beauty and creativity in all things, if you look closely enough.

Vision for the future

I would like to improve the quality of life of diabetics who have to inject. The principal of distraction analgesia can then be my springboard to commercial growth as it’s applied to many other product concepts.

What the mentor said

“Over the course of the Spark programme, Peter has progressed incredibly well and has always taken my comments on board – which can’t have always been nice to hear – without any resistance or negativity. The design of his invention and its associated packaging have developed dramatically. He is now looking to finalise the rest of his marketing collateral to bring it in line with the quality of his product which should result in an incredibly compelling offer. I look forward to seeing it on shelves in the not too distant future and am sure it will be a commercial hit.” Colum Lowe, Design Council Design Associate

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