Inventions by University Technical College students for Headway Cambridgeshire slay ‘Dragons’

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Imagine if you couldn’t pick up your dropped mobile phone, or found it difficult to make a cup of tea, or struggled with communicating your emotions, or couldn’t hear what the person next to you was saying because the background noise was too intrusive…

These are some of the difficulties identified by clients at Headway Cambridgeshire, which provides specialist services and support to people with brain injury and other neurological conditions.

Although there have been significant breakthroughs in research and technology, there still remains significant areas of unmet needs in terms of the products available to people with brain injury to help them return to everyday life. This was the challenge taken up by the Mind Your Head Project, organised by Headway Cambridgeshire, the finale of which took place last week at the University Technical College.

Incorporating elements of the BBC’s The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den, the aim of the event was to identify products and services that could be launched onto the market to meet some of the needs of brain-injured people and to raise awareness of the causes of brain injury.

In an open event that drew from expertise and enthusiasm across the county, businesses, colleges and individuals pitched their ideas to a panel of ‘Dragons’. The solutions were wide-ranging and imaginative – wristbands that were able to be set to indicate emotion, an app to help communication, innovative cycle helmets and glow-in-the-dark cycling gear, memory aids and headphones designed to block out background noise were just a few of the ideas presented.

The Dragons who took part were:

 Walter Herriot – former MD of St John’s Innovation Centre and lecturer on entrepreneurship at Anglia Ruskin University

 Peter Cowley – Cambridge Business Angels

 Orsi Ihasz – Judge Business School

 Margi Fosch – assistive technology and telehealthcare manager/lead, Community Rehabilitation

 Jerry Turner – chairman, Team Consulting

 Hugh Roper – investor

 Professor John Pickard – Brain Injury Health Technology Cooperative

 Anne Blackwood – Health Enterprise East

Three of 30 UTC Cambridge Teams were chosen to be in the Mind Your Head Challenge finals on Friday night.

Quartz Clothing member Louis Segal said: “Our challenge was to make a product that would prevent brain injury or aid those with one. Our group, Quartz Clothing, made a glow-in-the-dark jumper. We gave a presentation about it to a group of Dragons and came first in the under-16 age group and third in the overall competition.”

Team member Jade said: “It was the scariest thing ever but when we found out the results, I was extremely proud.”

Team Glow’s revolutionary product was a bespoke glow-in-the-dark cycling helmet, manufactured from a material 30% stronger than that used in the construction of regular cycle helmets. One of the helmet’s unique features was a chin strap designed to specifically appeal to the teenage market.

Project manager Katie Holloway said: “Managing a team is for life. The Mind Your Head challenge stretched my leadership skills to another level – it’s been great as these are transferable business skills that will always be useful.”

Team member Finn appreciated the “real experience into the business world”.

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