NIHR Devices for Dignity are pleased to announce that Jen Turner from JT Rehab has joined the D4D Industry Ambassador programme – joining Tookie, our TITCH Industry Ambassador.

D4D recognise that at times it can be difficult to see how new and exciting ideas from industry can gain a foothold in the NHS – particularly early stage ventures. Successful SMEs that have worked with D4D and our partner organisations have experience of D4D’s methodology and how industry, academia, patient groups, charities and clinical teams can collaborate to accelerate innovation for patient benefit.

The D4D Industry Ambassador programme connects SMEs at the early-stages of developing medtech innovations for people with long-term conditions, with more experienced SMEs in order to benefit from:

  • peer-learning regarding innovation challenges and how these were overcome,
  • introductions to recommended contacts within the national medtech innovation ecosystem,
  • an increased understanding of the innovation pathway and funding mechanisms,
  • learning about exemplar projects involving multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Conversations with the D4D Industry Ambassadors are co-ordinated by the D4D team and available to projects meeting the eligibility criteria through the collaboration portal that can be found here.

Devices for Dignity have worked alongside Jen in development of the S-Press innovation. We spoke to Jen about her innovation journey and why SME connections and shared learning are so important.

Can you tell us a bit about you & your innovator journey?

“I’m a physiotherapist by background, working for 22 years in the NHS and 4 years in private practice, and specialising in rehabilitation for older people. I left the NHS in 2016 to focus on development of my S-Press innovation.

My driver was the realisation that through development of the S-Press I could help more people – potentially nationally and internationally – than I could as an individual.

I think I was an ‘entrepreneur in waiting’. I’ve always been practical and inquisitive, making things (and taking them apart!). I’d say I have an engineering mind; I look at physiotherapy as engineering for the body. It’s solving problems and creating solutions to help people to achieve their best physical condition following their injury or illness.

It was daunting to make the leap to become a technology entrepreneur, particularly as I’d describe myself previously as risk averse. However, I recognised much of this was about mindset. I was confident in my capability to learn and had true belief in the unmet need and market opportunity for the S-Press.  But with all my experience being solely as a clinician, the learning curve has been steep and very challenging.”

Where did the idea for the S-Press come from?

“The idea originated from frustration with the existing product offer. In 20+ years working with the same client group, many who were living with more and more complex co-morbidities, rehabilitation hadn’t changed. I was seeing innovations in other areas of healthcare but not rehabilitation.

Despite new technology solutions being developed in recent years, fundamentally the tools for helping somebody get stronger for hospital discharge were limited to very expensive devices or Theraband and ankle weights. These are affordable, but not helpful or usable for many of my more vulnerable patients. My focus was to reduce deconditioning in the first instance. I started seeing more older generations of people coming into my local gym and using equipment to gain strength with confidence and I wanted to pull that idea into the healthcare environment.

The S-Press has been developed to be used as early as possible in the rehabilitation process and remove the common barriers to exercising. It is being developed so that those too weak to stand, with tubes, lines, or catheters, falls anxiety, pain, or preventative medical conditions like cardiac or respiratory conditions can participate in safe, comfortable, therapeutic level resistance exercise from their beds or chairs.

With my idea as a concept, I wasn’t initially sure how to take it forward, until I entered an Arthritis UK design competition in Frontline, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy magazine – I thought, it’s now or never! I was selected for the pre-accelerator and won the competition which funded my first concept designs to share with users.  I’ve been on this technology innovation journey ever since.”

Why do you as a start-up innovator in the healthtech sector feel it is important to access peer learning from other SMEs?

“I think there’s incredible value in SMEs sharing knowledge to understanding the innovation process – I had no knowledge of how to progress my idea in the early days. Healthcare innovation is so complicated – for example I found it extremely hard to get my head around the regulatory requirements and complex documentation, or how to engage in meaningful patient and public collaboration and user-centred design practices.

When somebody else has been through this journey and can share experiences with you it definitely makes things feel easier. It can be very isolating without a big team around you, and just knowing you are doing things correctly is such a relief and confidence boost. My mindset is “if they can do it, I can”. I take information and value from every meeting I attend and every contact I make.

I remember speaking with Stephen Tooke of Tookie (the first D4D Industry Ambassador) and I was impressed about how clearly he articulated the innovation pathway. I could see where I was on that pathway and what I had already done and that peer to peer learning gave me confidence in my direction and ability to move forward.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

“There’s been lots of good advice! I’ve valued the time and the insight I’ve gained from Devices for Dignity and meeting fellow innovators and mentors on the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) Accelerator.

I’ve learnt how to take critique from people and organisations whose expertise and advice I trust. I’ve been extremely open to insights throughout the co-design process. I am keen to know “What do you really think?” to open up that process to include other people’s perspectives.”

And finally, what are your thoughts about becoming a D4D Industry Ambassador?

“I’m really looking forward to it! I first met the team when they hosted a clinical panel reviewing new technology concepts. It was challenging but fantastic for obtaining early-stage feedback. I’ve since worked with D4D for engagement with different user groups and identifying the market opportunity – it was particularly valuable for the market assessment to have been undertaken by D4D independently of JT Rehab.

I enjoy hearing about what innovators are up to and networking. I must confess I didn’t used to like networking, but I’ve come to enjoy making connections and sharing experiences.  My physio career has always been based around helping people as much as I can. Now knowing exactly what it feels like to be a MedTech innovator, I look forward to helping and advising people with very different needs”