Physio makes Design Council Spark awards final

A physiotherapist reached the finals of a prestigious product design competition by developing the B.Bar, a specialised dumbbell for people with long-term musculoskeletal conditions.

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Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden congratulates Anna Lowe 

Anna Lowe, a physical activity clinical champion for Public Health England, was shortlisted as a finalist in the Design Council Spark innovation programme.

More than 500 people applied to take part in the programme, but only 12 made the final selection.

Ms Lowe impressed the judges with her idea for a tool to make strength training easier for people with long-term conditions

She told Frontline: ‘I developed the B.Bar for people with long-term conditions, particularly those with hand impairments which might be caused by arthritis, multiple sclerosis or stroke.

‘It’s safer and easier to use than standard dumbbells, and could be used to do a whole body workout.

‘I’m hoping people will be able to use it pre-emptively at home, to self-manage their conditions and to stop the pain, disability and deconditioning that people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders often experience. That’s my vision.’

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Public health physio Anna Lowe with her finalist award

Entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, star of the BBC show Dragons Den, announced the winners at the Design Museum in London on 26 June.

And as a finalist, Ms Lowe was invited to showcase her idea at the Design Museum the following day.

Design and development mentoring

Design Council Spark is an annual 16-week programme, which aims to fund and support ideas that could improve lives and have a commercial impact.

Arthritis Research UK sponsors one category, which focuses on products for people with arthritis. Ms Lowe was shortlisted in this category.

‘I knew absolutely nothing about design before I entered the competition and didn’t think for one minute that I’d get selected, so was absolutely staggered when I was chosen,’ said Ms Lowe.

‘It’s been such an amazing opportunity, but very intense, really hard work and a vertical learning curve for me.

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‘But throughout the programme you get assigned coaches and mentors, like product designers and business coaches, and they work with you to develop your ideas and create a viable package.’

As well as benefiting from mentoring and support, each finalist received a £15,000 bursary to help fund the product’s development.

With this support, Ms Lowe developed a series of prototypes and has now submitted a patent application for the B.Bar.

However, she said it could be some time before the finished product launches, as she needs further funding to develop an app to help people use the B.Bar safely and effectively.

Ms Lowe is on Twitter @annalowephysio

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by Robert Millett

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