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Life Changing Product Hits High Street Thanks To Prize Fund

Inventor Developed Product To Help Disabled People With Help From Law Firm


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

An inventor who created a product which helps disabled people open packaging more easily has seen his design come to life after winning funding from national law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Simon Lyon’s ‘Nimble’ – a tool to help those with limited mobility in their hands open packaging – won the £10,000 funding from the law firm’s Design For Life competition.

‘Nimble’ is aimed at people with hand disabilities for people who can’t grip strongly between their finger and thumb such as arthritis or neurological conditions.

The small but effective product allows people to open problematic packaging with just a simple swipe of the hand.

Picked for its scalability and potential to help so many different groups of disabled people, the 26-year-old’s design has come to life over the past 12 months.

The Loughborough-based entrepreneur’s journey began when he entered the competition to find an innovative solution to help those with a disability live more independently. 

Since winning he has been able to use the funding to develop the product to the point where it went on sale at major high street retailer, BHS, for the first time in December 2015.

He said: “So much has happened since I won the competition. The prize money meant I could design more prototypes, allowing me to experiment with more flexible materials and different blades.

“I did a month long usage and attitude survey of 160 volunteers to see how people got on with the product in their homes, as part of their everyday routines. The feedback was really positive. 

“I’ve been able to go to a number of high profile trade shows, including one in Germany, where I have exhibited Nimble to customers, retailers and distributors which gained me interest from over 40 companies in countries as far away as New Zealand and Switzerland.”

Simon’s biggest break since winning the competition happened when a friend of a friend set up a meeting with Simon and the CEO of British Home Stores in November, last year.

He said: “It was totally by chance that I was introduced to him. He liked the product and gave us the go ahead to manufacture 1,000 devices to sell in store during the run up to Christmas.

“We had five weeks to get them made and I had to spend a week packaging them all up in my flat. The product sold pretty well and there was a lot of interest from customers and I have an open invitation from them to get back in touch with any other ideas or designs I have.”

Following on from its success in BHS the young designer is now in talks with RNIB who have expressed a strong interest in selling the product from their website.

Simon said: “The funding from Irwin Mitchell has helped me hugely and I’ve managed to get a lot done with it. It’s paid for the production of the 1,000 Nimble’s we put on sale at BHS, it enabled me to have stalls at two trade shows, and helped me develop packaging.

“It came along at the right time and effectively allowed me to develop the product to a point where it could be manufactured and sold and is helping me find clients and distributors.”

Simon, who is now designing an easy-to-use docking station for Nimble, said the Design For Life project had been hugely rewarding.

He added: “It’s been a busy year but seeing how the product is helping people and hearing the feedback that it is changing people’s lives for the better makes all the hard work worth it.

“One occupational therapist told me a patient of theirs was able to use it to open a bag of crisps, which they hadn’t been able to do for six months. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you consider how often you open packaging to eat food and imagine how it would feel if you had to ask for help each time you did that, you realise how life changing it is.

“At first I was just designing it for arthritis but from talking to people who have used the product I’ve come to realise a range of disabilities which cause problems to hands and which people would benefit from Nimble.”

Expert Opinion
"It’s fantastic to see how much Simon has achieved since winning the Design For Life competition.

“We work very closely with people with a range of disabilities which affect the strength and mobility in their hands and it is great to see that this product is helping them gain more independence.

“We can’t wait to see what he does next with Nimble and wish him all the best as he continues to develop the product.”
Stuart Henderson, Partner

Simon is one of ten finalists shortlisted to win £50,000 funding from charity, Nesta.

To win the ‘Inclusive Technology Prize’, applicants were asked to create or develop a product to make a difference to the lives of disabled people.

The winner is due to be announced on March 17th.

You can keep up-to-date with the progress of the Nimble on Simon's blog.

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