What has your journey with InnovationRCA been like so far?
I did the MA Writing at the RCA and that’s where I started collaborating with design research and looking at systems rather than products. And where I conducted the design research for the project that would become the Revive Auto-Injector, which was the final year project of my Co-Founder, Abhishek who was studying for the MA Design Products at the RCA.
I became interested in the metrics that are used to decide what makes a good design. At the beginning I wondered whether it would be commercial traction and then discovered that wasn’t the case. We looked at products that were considered gold standards if you looked at commercial traction but that, from a design perspective, would definitely be considered suboptimal.
Looking at healthcare products adds another layer of complication, as there are many regulations and design needs to take into account. We looked at healthcare products that weren’t developed for mass consumption and ended up focusing on EPI pens. EPI pens are currently considered a gold standard and were designed specifically for and by the US military. However, if you look at their ergonomics, the design wasn’t thought through particularly well.
“InnovationRCA has bridged the gap to support us as a Medtech company.”Revive Innovations +
How did these findings turn into a startup?
We weren’t thinking about creating a startup. We just wanted our final project to be wild. We firmly believe that self-management when it comes to health should be treated as self-management and not as an extension of healthcare, because you’d never inject yourself the way a healthcare professional would. So we wanted to focus on functionality and user experience.
Our research revealed that people wouldn’t carry auto-injectors because their shape is inconvenient and they don't fit into a pocket. So we fixed the size to a credit card portion and made it flat, and worked around that. That forced us to change the syringe. We designed a new one with 3D printing and it was at that stage that InnovationRCA got involved. They gave us patent support, we took part in the summer launch programme and were part of the incubator in 2019.
What have you valued the most about being part of InnovationRCA?
We have no healthcare background so InnovationRCA has also bridged the gap to support us as a Medtech company. It’s a complex world because as soon as regulation changes, the market shifts. They helped us a lot to understand the system and have been incredibly supportive throughout. We know they are there whenever we need support.
Everybody at InnovationRCA was very proactive and engaging, especially during covid. They made sure we were talking to investors throughout the pandemic. My MA Writing turned out to be a great asset for grant writing.
InnovationRCA has also provided us with office space, and that has made a huge difference because you don’t feel your imposter syndrome as much when you’re surrounded by other start-ups who are also figuring out what they’re doing. It's sometimes weird to call yourself a CEO when you’re still learning. In the incubator, we are all able to relate to each other.
You recently worked with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on a project exploring the technical feasibility of your auto-injector. What was the outcome?
In 2019, Revive incorporated and initiated a proof of concept (PoC) phase, using a design-based approach to understand better the critical factors and barriers to patient side effects, poor utilisation and adoption. To streamline our approach, a technical feasibility study funded by Innovate UK Smart Grant began in November 2020. To realise engineering specifications of PoC into a functional prototype that could be tested we carried out the initial development of the device and have validated specified design inputs.
We have a prototype in production-intent materials successfully proving the technical feasibility of the Revive auto-injector. The prototype has passed a preliminary technical evaluation that focused on testing requirements in ISO11608 (Needle-based injection systems for medical use) using 250 manufactured units.
“I think it's been my InnovationRCA colleagues that have been the most supportive and inspiring.”Revive Innovations +
What and who are your sources of inspiration?
Sure there are people I admire. However, I think it's been my InnovationRCA colleagues at the incubator that have been the most supportive and inspiring.
If I need to discuss something or brainstorm, I’d go to an incubatee/founder to learn from them. That has been massively helpful.
There are lots of female founders in the Medtech startup world and at the RCA. We are all really supportive of each other, sending each other funding opportunities.
You would think that we’d be competing as we are all producing medical devices. But on the contrary, we’re sharing resources and introducing people to each other. Warm introductions are really important!
What advice would you give to colleagues who are thinking of starting their entrepreneurial journey?
Measure success in growth rather than plain outcomes. Your company needs to grow, change and adapt. Metrics are important, as is having bigger plans for the future. Start-ups have high risk, so build assets in your company to make sure you’re increasing the value of the company as that’s also something investors look at. They want to know how stable you are. It’s also very important to make sure there’s someone in the team with a growth mentality.
Also of interest
For World Water Day, we spoke to InnovationRCA Co-Founder, Beren Kayali. Alongside her partner, Paul Mendieta, she runs Deploy Tech.
They make inflatable concrete water tanks that can be folded, packaged and shipped anywhere in the world – a feature never before seen in the sector. Once arrived, the tanks can be rehydrated and ready to use in 24 hours.
Sindi Breshani and Juliette Coquet (MA Information Experience Design MA, 2020) are the founders of Episod Studio. An InnovationRCA start-up company using video games to tell stories that educate and inform interactive participants on pressing environmental and political issues.
Episod Studio’s distinctive content targets audiences interested in political and dystopian niches, that are present in both the documentary and video games industry. Race for the Arctic for example takes the player on a journey across the next 50 years of environmental, geopolitical and social conflict in the Arctic – bringing three-dimensional colour to the cold data of climate catastrophe.