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Millie Clive-Smith

MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2011–2013

About 18 months I co-founded a healthcare start-up with help from Imperial College. We provide low-cost blood counts from a simple finger prick. There are a lot of point-of-care, rapid diagnostic tests available but at the moment the only way to get a blood count done is to go to a GP and have a vial of blood taken from your arm. We have got a few products that we are focusing this technology towards: one is for a really low-cost anaemia diagnostic, and another is for oncology, monitoring patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. We are launching the anaemia product next year and it is specifically aimed at the developing world, as anaemia is epidemic in a many resource-restricted settings but if you can diagnose it accurately then you can effectively provide a cure. We’ve designed it so that it can be used by anyone, with no clinical training and it works in power cuts.

I studied physics and astrophysics at undergraduate level and was always really interested in using design, thinking about how you can bring cutting-edge technology into the world. I studied physics because I was really interested in how things work and there’s a lot of experimental work that you do in physics to solve problems. In the back of my mind, there was always an interest in product design and user experience. I’m fascinate by how you get from having a great research project to making it into a tangible, real-world product. And I think that is what lead me to apply to the Innovation Design Engineering programme. It really seemed to be a one-of-a-kind programme that takes on big challenges and far reaching thinking.

I found out about IDE from a real chance meeting. I met somebody in the street who asked me for directions. We got talking and it turned out he had just graduated from the IDE programme. Then I obviously did a lot of research, came to the open days, spoke to the head of programme and tutors. The multi-disciplinary approach really appealed to me. The further I went through the programme and even now, I think that is such an important space for a designer to work. Because design is so broad and encompasses so many skills, but you also have to work alongside experts. Designers can understand very niche pieces of information enough to deliver a good design project, but you can never become an expert in everything. I think you can bring teams together and really challenge each other’s thinking by having multidisciplinary teams.

It was an enormous, very intense, learning experience, particularly in prototyping physical things and the solid design skills of understanding how to make things to a very high quality. I learned a real appreciation for aesthetics and form, and how to blend that into function so that they are one and the same, not separate. Coming from a physics background, it was very daunting. I was extremely nervous on the first day. I was only familiar with the science and the research world and I wasn’t familiar at all with art school.  

The atmosphere of the peer group was really supportive. All the projects in the first year are structured to be very collaborative and you form very close friendships. You get extra teaching and lectures at Imperial College, but ultimately you are learning from one another. Everyone is always willing to help out and share their knowledge.

"It was an enormous, very intense, learning experience, particularly in prototyping physical things and the solid design skills of understanding how to make things to a very high quality. I learned a real appreciation for aesthetics and form."
Millie Clive-Smith
Millie Clive-Smith, Millie Clive-Smith Portrait