Virtual Cycles of Wellbeing


The N8 Industry Innovation Forum (N8 IIF) has helped bring about a new partnership which is using innovative research techniques to design products and services for older people and their carers to support them in improving their wellbeing.



Most of the partners met, identified problem areas and developed some objectives all within one day, as part of the N8 IIF meeting focussed on Healthy and Active Ageing in November 2012. As discussions progressed, ideas developed and the team brought new partners in to respond to opportunities as they arose.

As early as possible, the team engaged with target users at workshops organised by partners at Hull City Healthcare Partnership CIC and Carers Leeds. This helped the team better understand their problem areas and they were able to draw and build prototypes – and get feedback – as the conversations took place.


The healthcare market is constantly evolving, and as a result better targeted interactions with patients and healthcare providers are being increasingly called for.


The group has now created concept designs for internet-based services and physical products for older people on low incomes focussed on two areas – wound care and support for carers of people with dementia. The partners have also developed prototypes for people with long-term wounds to help them manage their own care via a software tool that could sit on a Kindle, which means it could also be used by carers and peripatetic nursing staff.

Since gaining seed funding from the N8 Industry Innovation Forum, the partners have been successful in securing further funding from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust to explore barriers and opportunities to leisure activities for older people, and also supported a project which has received funding from the College of Occupational Therapists Institute of Social Psychiatry Award to look at ill health prevention regarding stress management among carers.


“This has been a great opportunity since it’s unlikely that this kind of work would have been funded through the ‘usual’ routes, and as a result we’ve not been constrained in terms of the areas we’re exploring and how we work.

It’s also unlikely that the project team would have had an opportunity to meet or develop such a collaborative relationship, so the N8 IIF has made a huge difference. The ongoing support we had from the team at N8 was very helpful too – guiding us, rather than governing us.”

Alison McKay, University of Leeds

“This project was completely different to anything we’ve done before, as we looked at addressing patients’ needs as articulated by them, and designing a solution together. This has enabled us to look at patient care with completely fresh eyes: being involved with this project has helped us realise that you don’t have to work in healthcare to have an opinion on a potential healthcare solution, and we’re now looking at some of the challenges we face in a much broader, more creative way.”

Heather Joy, Senior Operations Manager, Hull City Healthcare Partnership CIC

“The N8 IIF gave us the perfect environment in which to meet new partners. Through conversations we had on the day, we started to think about how we could contribute our expertise, but also how we could work with someone who could help us engage with patients directly. It’s not the first time that Smith & Nephew has collaborated with academics in a multi-partner project, but this project has been different in terms of how dynamic it’s been and how we’ve been able to involve patients directly. It’s helped us question what’s possible and where we can push the boundaries. We have used a model of diving deep to understanding our customers’ needs for some time, but bringing together the multi-disciplinary team approach of Academic-HealthCare Provider- Industry is much newer and has provided new dynamism and understanding of what a solution needs to deliver.”

Rod Hulme, Customer Insights Specialist for Advanced Wound Management, Smith & Nephew