Breaking into an already populated industry is challenging. You need an idea, an innovation, something that has never been done before. A few years ago, when selling standard medical examination gloves to the NHS, it struck me that there was potential for a new product that would revolutionise this overlooked aspect of the health service. These were products that were used day-in day-out but no big-impact innovations, with such huge healthcare benefits to the features of the glove, had ever made it to the market. With infections being a huge cause for concern in hospitals and other health centres, especially with the rise of ‘super-bugs’, the scope for developing these common medical gloves was vast and a great potential area for innovation. However, good ideas do not come without obstacles, as I found on my journey to developing the antimicrobial glove that could help reduce cross-contamination and infection rates in hospitals around the world.
I had a little experience in healthcare, when in 2006 I created a patient pack to help people heading into hospital protect themselves from the risk of infection, but I had no experience in medical innovation. But I was not new to the idea of entrepreneurship. Having initially worked as a computer programmer at Cap Gemini, I had established my own printing company, London City Press. Knowing that I had the skills of a successful entrepreneur and a secure knowledge of the manufacturing process drove me to keep finding new and challenging opportunities, such as my newest venture.
The biggest obstacle that I faced was the lack of funding for innovation in healthcare. As a businessman taking on a new field of innovation, I struggled to find a government, financial or research institution that would provide any funding for my idea. With that in mind, I had to risk every asset I owned into making the product a reality. For an already financially disadvantaged health service, providing funding for innovation may not be the most practical of investments. But I knew that my idea could help to reduce the spread of infections in hospitals across the world, so it was an idea that was worth pursuing even without external funding. Part of being a successful entrepreneur is taking risks, and I was confident that this risk would pay off.
A further struggle of developing a new innovative healthcare product is the lack of money available within institutions that will eventually purchase the product. In the UK especially, particularly with the NHS, there is no budget to pay more for everyday equipment. It was crucial that the new technology didn’t dramatically affect the overall price of the product to ensure that it could be distributed easily into the health service without creating any financial barriers. In addition to this, with all new innovative technologies, they need to be safe and reliable. Working within the difficult parameters of providing a product that’s safe, cheap and is highly effectively was a huge challenge both for myself and my team with a great deal of testing required.
As a businessman, not a scientist, I was always going to struggle to develop the technology needed for this product and I’ll be the first to admit that chemistry was not my strong point at school! The scientific formula behind these anti-microbial gloves is complex and challenging to understand, and I needed to work with a team of incredibly skilled scientists and academics – including Dr Paul Wight and Professor Richard James – to produce the correct microbe-killing technology. The process is intricate, and I was working with scientists far more qualified than myself, wondering why I was managing academics, PhDs and people who were much more intellectually superior. It takes a strong person to attempt to innovate and infiltrate into an environment that you have little experience in, but I knew that the expertise I could bring to the product was equally important to the science. That being said, collaborating with scientists to synthesise this product was inspiring, and the end-result is something that could ensure the use of antimicrobial medical examination gloves within healthcare worldwide – the next generation of medical examination gloves.
Having developed the idea for this new anti-microbial agent and created the scientific formula that supported it, I needed to find a glove manufacturing company that would up-scale the product to industrial levels. Finding a manufacturing company that was prepared to do so was challenging and I struggled to find one that shared my vision. During this time, I was spending my own money desperately looking for that company that would share the same passion for innovation as myself.
Eventually, I found Hartalega, a global leader in medical glove manufacturing and was humbled by such a successful company who showed immediate interest in this new technology. They understood the scalability of the anti-microbial molecule and the change that it would bring to the world of healthcare, all the while remaining a financially viable option for health services. They took the gloves and the new microbe-killing agent and created the industrial-scale product, which will be launched on the 31st May 2018.
Every entrepreneur experiences inconveniences and problems, especially when developing a new product or service. For me, I was also innovating in a scientific field that I had very little experience in. But the moments of frustration are worth it when you have an idea that will change an industry in a positive way. Of course the NHS is struggling financially, so when you’re working in this field, much motivation comes from the fact that the outcomes and results could help to release the burden on the health service and save lives in the process.
I had experience in business and knew that I could bring together the right people with the right skills to create something groundbreaking. Even though I have encountered issues along the way, pioneering this new product that will transform the use of medical examination gloves and potentially other medical devices, was worth every hardship.
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