Throughout 2016 I’ve been working on an idea to improve diabetes care related to bolus calculators. I don’t want to go into any detail yet because I’m still in the early stages and lots could still change! However, I wanted to write this post to share all the support I’ve received over the last year and encourage anyone with diabetes who thinks they might have an idea that can help people, to act on it!

Getting the idea out of your own head.

There are lots of organisations who can help you with this and develop your idea. As a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, I have access to Enterprise Campus. They help postgraduate students in Scotland by providing mentoring and financial support which has been valuable. I also receive support from Scottish Institute for Enterprise and placed third in their national student enterprise competition. This involved a weekend workshop in Loch Lomond and two-minute pitch which was a great experience.  

If you’re not a student there are also organisations such as Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway (and whatever the equivalent is in other parts of the UK) to help you. Encouraging small business is something the government are very much interested in so there is lots of support.

 Testing your idea – talk to lots of people

When it comes to explaining your idea to people, having type 1 diabetes is a strength. When I explain my idea to people they might not understand much about diabetes but they appreciate I understand some of the problems of living with type 1 diabetes. It’s also easy to demonstrate to people I am highly motivated because living with diabetes requires us to invest so much into it every day.

And then when it comes to speaking to other diabetes entrepreneurs, I think they understand you’re not motivated by money, you’re motivated by a desire to improve diabetes care, and they’re willing to give you some of their time. I’ve spoken with founders and co-founders at Timesulin, mySugr and Social Diabetes over the last year who have all kindly offered help and advice.

Twitter has also been a great way to talk to clinicians and other people with type 1 diabetes. Partha Kar openly offers his time to people who are working on ideas to help people with diabetes. Other clinicians and patient advocates are also happy to share their thoughts which is a great way to receive early stage feedback.  

Developing your idea

Once I had talked to lots of people about my idea and felt this could really help people, the next step is to try to build something which usually requires money and the people with the right skills. My PhD is in health economics so I’m not able to build any software or hardware but I have been lucky to find a highly experienced engineer. I’ve also received a By-Design grant from Scottish Enterprise to fund the development of a functional prototype. Even though I’m a student with no money, there is finance available if you look for it.

And the next step is trying to get support from a big organisation. In Scotland, the Digital Health Institute is interested in all things digital health and are very interested in diabetes. And there is also Scottish Health Innovations Limited, the innovation arm of NHS Scotland. If you can get one of these organisations on board, or another organisation which operates near you, you may secure investment to build your idea and take it one step closer to market!

Go for It!

Based on my experiences of 2016, it’s a good time to have an idea to improve diabetes care. There is a lot of interest from the government, the NHS, and the private sector to find ways to help people with diabetes. One small warning is there will be lots of ups and downs, spending weeks on a grant application and receiving an email a couple of weeks later with a one sentence response saying we’re not interested is hard to stomach  but I think that’s all part of the journey. The way I look at this experience is that even if my idea never gets built, I’m meeting fascinating people along the way and learning lots.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions – liam@thetype1diabetesproject.com