Designs for Life cash takes projects closer to

The designers behind three socially inclusive projects are looking forward to the prospect of taking their designs to a wider market, after being awarded grants totalling more than £75 000 this week.

Through its Designs for Life programme, the Audi Design Foundation has donated grants to fund the development of physical prototypes including innovative medical devices and a natural low-energy cooling system.

Audi Design Foundation grants manager Rebecca Myrie explains that the charity’s focus has shifted this year to postgraduate and senior academic research projects.

‘By targeting postgraduates or lecturers, projects tend to have a better outcome, as these designers often have more of an infrastructure around them and the likelihood of designs making it to market is higher,’ she points out.

Loughborough University design and technology lecturer George Torrens and consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Hillingdon Hospital John Dooley are among those to have been awarded a grant.

The original patent for Fit-Splint, a device offering a more effective method of splinting for wrist fractures than traditional plaster, was filed back in 1994, but Torrens and Hillingdon were unable to take the next step because of the difficulty in raising funds to clinically trial the design.

Torrens explains that without the £19 840 grant, taking the design to the marketplace would have been virtually impossible. ‘We tried other funding bodies such as venture capital groups and major medical companies, but the problem is that you need to prove your design clinically with trials, and that itself requires funding. It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation. Without the trials, it’s too much of a risk for these companies. Audi offered the bridge to get to the marketplace,’ he says.

While the application of existing plasters requires two clinicians and the treatments require realignment of the fracture, Fit-Splint simplifies the process, enabling just one clinician to fit a supporting brace, as well as to record, monitor and alter initial settings.

Designer Daniel Tagg and Dr Tom Hilliard’s respiratory physiotherapy device looks at ways of enabling patients to receive treatment, while making the experience more interesting or giving patients the opportunity to do something else. Patients report that the existing treatment is both monotonous and boring.

‘It annoys me that [the original respiratory physiotherapy device] was designed to control symptoms rather than thinking about the end-user and trying to fit into someone’s life,’ says Tagg.

The team initially considered the Technology Strategy Board for funding, but was put off by a lengthy and complex process. With the £26 954 grant from ADF, Tagg and Hilliard plan trials to further develop prototypes, eventually taking the device to a commercial market. ‘The existing design is intentionally schematic and its development will depend on the personal response of patients,’ explains Tagg.

The third project, an energyefficient air-cooling system, designed by Karina Torlei, Mathew Holloway, Daniel Becerra and Will Penfold of the Royal College of Art, stores ‘cool energy’ from night time and uses this to reduce indoor temperatures during the day, thus avoiding using unnecessary energy and generating heat into the atmosphere. This project was awarded £22 000.

Designs for life

• The Audi Design Foundation Designs for Life programme started in 1997

• The foundation has a total fund of at least £80 000 a year for prototypes or

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