Catch up with the Makers with a Mission: Health Tech Cohort

By Esther Ellard

Catch up with the Makers with a Mission: Health Tech Cohort

As the Covid-19 global pandemic hit Europe in Spring 2020, Makerversity’s incredible community brought their collective talents together to produce urgently needed PPE for frontline workers. Led by Nathaniel Petre and Tim Burrell-Saward members collaborated with ICU doctor Dr Dominic Pimenta whose charity the Healthcare Workers’ Foundation funded the project. Together they produced a comfortable and sustainable face shield, made from bio-plastic filament and reclaimed ocean plastic, which could be disinfected multiple times

As a result of this we focused our next Makers with a Mission cohort on those working in health tech. Back in April 2021 we welcomed four teams to Makerversity, with 6 months free membership and mentorship.

We caught up with each of them to see how things are going, what they’re up to now and what’s next.

 


Christian Tighe

Tell us a bit about your project

Although the global COVID-19 pandemic has pushed health inequalities into the public spotlight, the ‘health gap’ is still a major problem in the UK. Life expectancy in the most deprived areas of the country is significantly shorter than that of the most affluent areas. Worryingly, digital-health and public health initiatives aimed at boosting outcomes can, if not deployed equitably, worsen existing inequalities. The project explores the use of innovative new products and systems to reduce health inequality. The project has used a combination of desk research, expert interviews, participatory action research and speculative design to explore ways in which the public and the healthcare system can be involved and empowered by the design of solutions. I am also looking to explore applying participatory action research methods utilising social media and speculative design in collaboration with other organisations as a means of targeting healthcare-related challenges.

What made you apply to the MWAM Health Tech Cohort?

I began working on the project as part of the MRes Healthcare Design at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Whilst completing my thesis, I read about the MWAM Health Tech Cohort and applied in order to continue to develop the project and explore broader opportunities for health-tech innovation within a studio or design consultancy model.

The MWAM cohort is a valuable opportunity to meet other innovators working within the burgeoning field and I have always wanted to be a part of a vibrant community like Makerversity.

How have you found your first few months being Makerversity members?

The first few months of being involved have been great despite the implications of working during COVID-19. Charlotte (Makerversity’s wonderful Community Manager!) was incredibly friendly on my first visit and really made me feel like a member of Markerversity. Working in proximity to projects and start-ups at a later stage in their journey has been an invaluable insight into the reality of starting and running a design-led business.

What is your plan for furthering your project and how will being part of Makerversity help with that?

I am working on turning the methods used in the project, including social-media based participatory action research and speculative design, into a translatable research and development process which could be applied to other healthcare challenges through a studio-like model. Exposure to Markerversity and the diversity of problems being worked on creatively has been an inspirational process so far and motivated me to continue with the project and associated service. The facilities at the studio have also led me to consider the use of non-tech based solutions and prototyping, most recently as part of a collaborative project conducted with Kings College Hospital and South SLaM Mental Health Liaison.


Davin Browner

Tell us a bit about your project

I am developing a miniature spinning disc based robotic liquid handling module that is 70% 3D printed allowing for low cost automated manipulation of liquid media. The cost of each module is in the region of £100 and they can be built as stackable server-like architectures for development of biological or chemical protocols in small companies, labs makespaces, or at home. I will be developing the basic module including CAD and PCBs as an open source project (CERN OHL) and files will be shared on completion via gitlab (https://gitlab.com/xor_design_labs) and elsewhere. The electronics design makes it easy to add additional components such as machine learning hardware, additional sensors, and multiple arrays of motor drivers for bigger or more advanced setups. Custom modules such as discs with conductive traces for sensing changes in the liquid media following dispensing can also be added or the platform can act in static mode over a well plate.

Easy access to devices like this and associated experimental protocols could lead to many opportunities in low cost automated tools for biological and chemical design, test and optimisation and open up new design for manufacture opportunities and avenues for fabrication. I hope this design can contribute and merge with other approaches to liquid handling automation and provide even lower cost refinements and new designs.

What made you apply to the MWAM Health Tech Cohort?

I have always had a great experience working in makespaces/makerspaces in the past and I think that low cost related technologies have the potential to reduce inefficiency and high overheads in the production of healthcare related products.

How have you found your first few months being a Makerversity member?

It has been great to be able to access the space 24/7 and there is lots of sharing of expertise.

What is your plan for furthering your project and how will being part of Makerversity help with that?

I look forward to 3D printing the final designs for the robot and finalising the PCB. Hopefully the idea will be useful to some people or introduce them to an emerging area of fabrication and design in a way that is accessible.


Soapstone

Tell us a bit about your project

We are Pete and Eli, two product designers and friends who were tired of ugly, wasteful and boring ways of sanitising hands. So we designed Soapstone. Simply, its a pocket-sized hand sanitiser dispenser machined from aluminum. It is a refillable, durable object, eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles, ultimately leading to a more sustainable market of hand sanitiser dispensers.

When you press down on its button it dispenses sanitiser onto your hands – no need for a lid or cap. You can also use it like a bar of soap; pump it in your hands and rub it to clean the device AND your hands, so you can safely share it with your friends. You can loop it to your bag or belt and sanitise with a single hand in seconds. Soapstone uses an airless-pump mechanism which allows it to take all viscosities of sanitiser as well as the ability to be pumped upside down.

What made you apply to the MWAM Health Tech Cohort?

Within one month of lockdown, 10 million plastic sanitiser bottles went to landfill in the UK alone (BusinessWaste, 2020).The BBC also reported 42% of people do not wash their hands regularly enough (BBC 2020). We wanted to create something that encouraged people to both use refillable bottles and to want to sanitise their hands. We developed the first product over a 6 month period and successfully launched on Kickstarter.

We wanted to develop a second version which had a larger capacity, smaller size and with increased environmental credentials – design for repair, less material etc…- and also to explore expanding the business with a refill service. We found out about the programme after hearing about the 3d printed visor factory in the space (we were also printing visors in Pete’s bedroom, at a smaller scale). We were drawn to the programme as it offered physical space and the access to equipment and machinery necessary to expand an idea, but most importantly it offered the community of like minded people and creators who could help us do this.

How have you found your first few months being Makerversity members? Can you share any anecdotes about the space, or meeting other members etc.

I Absolutely love it. It’s spacious, friendly and a bit of a maze… in a good way! The place has a lot to offer and the people are always there to help (I have had some chats about additive manufacturing bicycles with a member already). I particularly like the Fika on Wednesdays (free cake) and the social element of 2-4-1 beers and cocktails at the bar. And of course the machinery. And what a location?!

What is your plan for furthering your project and how will being part of Makerversity help with that?

We have designed and built the newest proof of concept prototype and are waiting for samples to arrive back from a factory. We are also in the process of licensing the 2nd version of Enayball to some crowdfunding experts, which should expand the company beyond our efforts and get it out to as many people as possible. We are exploring different routes of diversifying the business (possibly a refill service) and will use the mentoring opportunities to discuss that and our personal freelance endeavours. We want to ensure that the business is responsible, ethically and environmentally, and aligns with our values that started the project in the first place. Makerversity offers valuable insight and advice to help us do so, through its peer network and members.

Find out more about Soapstone here

 

 


 

Bia Care

Tell us a bit about your project

Bia Care is a modern menopause clinic, combining technology with personalised treatments. Our remote care solution ensures that women are provided with the knowledge needed to control their symptoms, access clinically validated treatment options, and are given the ability to share their experiences in a confidential setting. We are committed to being a holistic evidence-based and clinically-led platform that delivers care in an accessible and empathetic way. Treatment options available through the clinic include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), nutrition advice, physiotherapy and emotional fitness.

What made you apply to the MWAM Health Tech Cohort?

Bia Care was created in 2020 by Ms Fernanda Dobal and Dr David Huang, a doctor and NHS Clinical Entrepreneur with experience setting up NHS remote care services. The idea for the company was inspired by the pair’s regular visits to a South London menopause cafe before the pandemic stopped in-person gatherings. Bia was founded as a part of Zinc, the UK’s largest social impact accelerator and its mission is to support the millions of women who go through menopause every year with excellent care, meaning that the “makers with a mission” was a perfect fit.

How have you found your first few months being Makerversity members?

Being part of the Makerversity and Somerset House communities is a wonderful opportunity for a young company. Though access to the space is beneficial, the real highlight is being surrounded by inspiring makers and entrepreneurs who are building an incredibly diverse range of impactful businesses and projects in the heart of London.

What is your plan for furthering your project and how will being part of Makerversity help with that?

Bia Care’s goal is to be the most comprehensive menopause care provider on the market while still remaining accessible to as many people as possible. We are working with various NHS PCNs and CCGs to provide an alternative menopause care pathway for their patients. This reduces GP’s workload while also ensuring women get direct access to the specialist care they need. What sets us apart is our focus on therapeutic benefit to patients and clinical outcomes.
Being part of Makerversity network has been a valuable part of our journey so far through its network, space, and support.

Find out more about Bia Care here

 

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Posted By Esther Ellard