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UK ‘garden shed’ inventors win prize for device to help stroke survivors

6:30 pm, 18th September 2018

It was selected from a shortlist of 10 “garden shed inventions” which could seriously transform people’s lives in the competition which was sponsored by innovation foundation Nesta.

The winning invention, Neuroball, is a device developed by UK-based company Neurofenix, and it allows people who have suffered a stroke to engage in rehabilitation exercises.

Inspired by relatives of the firm’s co-founders who suffered strokes, Neurofenix aims to improve the life of stroke survivors who may not receive enough support after they leave hospital.

By connecting to an online platform, the device enables patients to improve dexterity in their hand and arm in competitive and collaborative training.

The team behind the device have been announced as the winners of the Inventors Prize, launched as part of the government’s industrial strategy last year.

They will be given £50,000 to help get their product to market, where it could be used to help the 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK – with 100,000 more occurring every year.

“We are so excited to be selected as the winners of the Inventor Prize, from the nine other brilliant and inspiring entrepreneurs,” said the Neurofenix team.

The competition was launched to find “Britain’s grassroots and garden shed inventors” and the £15,000 prize for second-place went to Cambridge-based Urologic for their NuCath catheter device.

In the UK over 500,000 serious urinary tract infections per year are contracted as a result of indwelling catheters, and these account for up to 40% of all hospital-acquired infections – with an annual mortality rate of over 2,000.

The estimated cost to the NHS of treating these infections is around £2bn annually.

The third prize of £5,000 was awarded to Edward Rogers for developing the Canute, essentially a “Kindle for blind people”, which Bristol Braille have been working on in collaboration with the blind community, including Steph Sergeant, for five years.

The business secretary Greg Clark congratulated the three winning inventors, saying: “Britain’s makers, innovators and entrepreneurs are a huge asset to our country, adding billions to the UK economy and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

“And the Inventor Prize has uncovered the fact that there are hundreds of people like this, in every corner of our country,” added Mr Clark.

“While we wish to encourage every inventor out there, today we’re excited to see The Inventor Prize award going to Neurofenix, as we believe this invention has the potential to truly impact society and we cannot wait to see the product enter the market.”

Nesta’s head of international development, Constance Agyeman, said: “We’ve certainly witnessed our 10 shortlisted finalists going on incredible journeys as they turn their dreams into reality.”

The competitors have received “financial support and professional mentoring helping them develop their prototypes, source invaluable partners and suppliers and [to] create business plans”, said Ms Agyeman.

“We now hope all our entrants have been given the confidence and expertise they need to turn their ideas into real products and that they too continue their journeys.”

“But we are especially excited to support our three overall winners in getting their products into the hands of consumers,” she added.