Designability, formerly known as Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, was established in 1968.
Creating medical equipment that makes a difference to people’s lives
We are an independent charity first set-up by famous inventor and engineer, Bevan Horstmann, and local consultant surgeon, Kenneth Lloyd-Williams.
It was the birth of Mr Horstmann’s daughter Nicola that made him personally aware of the severe lack of suitable medical products available to professionals. Kenneth Lloyd-Williams shared this concern and was aware that some of his colleagues were already designing some of their own surgical equipment as a result. The pair embarked on a mission to create a platform for engineers and clinicians to design and develop medical equipment. They aimed to draw on the expertise and resources of as many individuals as possible to ensure their products really worked.
Supported by the University of Bath and the local health board, the two set up the charity with an Executive Director, a Projects Committee, and a Board of Governors which included our first President, Sir Barnes Wallis.
Keeping close links with local clinical experts
We were first situated at St Martin’s Hospital in Bath. Placed so closely to an NHS hospital meant clinical experts could be consulted and trials could be easily organised.
It was in 1987 that we moved our offices to our current base, at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath, where we’ve been ever since.
The RUH has been a great second home, providing us with continuing close working links with clinicians and opportunities to work with the Children’s Centre and the Older People’s Unit. For example, the Wizzybug was trialled in the RUH Children’s Centre and the Ward Orientation Clock was similarly developed through time spent in the Older People’s Unit.
Below are some of the pictures from our earliest days.
We have completed over 300 projects which have helped over 250,000 people
Some of our most important milestones include:
- We created the world’s first spring assisted armchair.
- Sir Barnes Wallis led the development of callipers for children with polio whose legs needed strengthening due to the condition.
- In the early 1980s, Bevan Horstmann led the design of some anaesthetic connectors to enable the tubes to be more secure.
- We created ‘comfy crutches’ in partnership with the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (then known as the Royal Mineral Hospital) using thermal imaging.
- Our production unit was first established which enabled us to build prototypes and manufacture specific assistive products in-house.
- The first product we started making in-house? The Bottom Wiper. We had our first production injection mould tool set-up which lasted us to 1,000 units.
- We recruited our first ever electronics technician to assist with the development of our Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA) System and early robotics projects.
- We recruited our first occupational therapist to work as part of the team at Designability.
- We started working with the Restricted Growth Association to address the lack of accessible equipment for people with restricted growth. The first product we developed was a Custom Bike.
- We developed the original BIME Junior Buggy for young children with limited mobility which led to the eventual creation and launch of the current Wizzybug.
- In the early 2000s, we recruited a product designer whose first creation was a toilet seat which we built to assist people living with brittle bone disease.
- We set up the pioneering Gloucester Smart house, significantly progressing smart home technology.
- We launched the new and improved Wizzybug – the fun and innovative powered wheelchair designed specifically for children under five.
- We launched our first wheelchair baby carrier.