Cutting edge technologies get design to speed up route to market

A wearable radar-on-a-chip tracking device with many safety applications, solar-powered equipment to generate clean water and electricity, and a self-sterilising catheter are among a raft of innovations expected to emerge from a new initiative using designers to help speed up the commercialisation of new technologies from some of the UK’s leading universities.

The Design Council’s Innovate for Universities will bring teams of designers into the technology transfer offices of universities to help scientists and technologists accelerate the development of astonishing new applications for their research.

The six participating universities, announced at an event at the Design Council tomorrow, Monday 1st June, won their place through a competitive entry process. They are Aberdeen, Cambridge, Leeds, Nottingham, University College London and York. Each has nominated four fledgling technologies that will be supported by intensive design mentoring for 12 months.

The 24 new technologies include innovations addressing vital issues such as chronic disease, crime and the environment. Among them are:

·        Solar powered equipment to generate clean water and electricity

·        A device using oxygen to speed up the healing of chronic wounds

·        Crime-predicting software

·        Intelligent robotics to restore limb function in stroke victims

·        A comprehensive and accurate consumer food allergy testing kit

·        Next-generation MRI scanning technology.

David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council, said: “In the UK we have a world-class science base with researchers working at the forefront of new thinking, plus an equally potent design capability with the skills to translate ideas into products and services that meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumer. Innovate for Universities is about combining both these elements early and smartly so we commercialise our technologies around the needs of real people and create enduring new solutions and businesses.”

David Secher, Chairman of Unico, the professional body for commercialising research, said: “Until now, technology transfer offices have not routinely employed designers to help develop their ideas. Innovate for Universities will allow designers, through their strategic advice and ability to understand user needs, to enhance the economic and social impact derived from translating research into public benefit.”

Lord Drayson, Minister for Innovation, said: “This exciting Design Council project will offer innovators in universities really practical advice to help bring their innovations to market.”

Innovate for Universities is based on a successful Design Council support service for high-tech start-ups that is part of its national Designing Demand business programme. It has proved that when designers are involved at the early stages of science and technology-based product development, commercial propositions that meet a market need emerge more rapidly. It is funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Innovate for Universities will culminate in a showcase of the resulting innovations and products in June next year.


Notes to editors


1.   Innovate for Universities is a 12-month programme of intensive design mentoring, including regular one-to-one visits and “Design Clinics”, culminating in a showcase event in June 2010.

2.   The 24 technologies from six winning universities are:


Solar powered equipment to generate clean water and electricity

A vibrating exercise machine to rehabilitate patients with broken limbs and osteoporosis

A non-invasive method to measure infant respiratory function

A new form of contact lens technology which reduces rejection rates


Oxygen therapy device that speeds up the healing of chronic wounds

Microdroplet technology

Electronics innovation that could lead to smaller, cheaper devices

DNA protein detection technology for forensic, biosecurity or military applications


A safety tracking device using a radar-on-a-chip implanted in clothing

Intelligent robotics to restore limb function in stroke victims

A medical emergency kit for dentists

Smart-labelling for food to monitor time and temperature



Solar thermo chromic film for windows to control light and temperature in buildings, reducing need for air-conditioning

‘Heartlight’ sensor which measures heart and breathing rate from any part of the body

3D virtual reality visioning software for remote working

Accurate consumer food allergy testing kit



Crime mapping software

A self-sterilising catheter

A heart valve that can be implanted without surgery

A mobile fuel cell for storing hydrogen



A totally new 3D medical scanning technology – the next generation of MRI

Advanced ‘electronic nose’ which detects organic compounds

New generation face recognition software

3.   For extended case studies from the pilot phase of Innovate for Universities, which took place at Isis Innovation at the University of Oxford, read more here.

4.   For case studies from the Designing Demand Innovate service read more here.

5.   The Design Council is the national strategic body for design. Our mission is to inspire and enable the best use of design to make the UK a more competitive, creative and sustainable nation. (

6.   The government’s 2007 Sainsbury Review looked at ways to ensure the UK remains a front-runner in exploiting its science base. One of the recommendations was to consider the expansion of Designing Demand Innovate to provide technology transfer teams with access to strategic design advice.

- ends -