National Innovation Centre for Ageing

Work with us

Why work with us

Turning ideas into action

The UK's National Innovation Centre for Ageing provides a dynamic environment within which multiple stakeholders can come together to share knowledge, ideas, experiences and innovations.

Our unique access to expertise drawn from a wide range of disciplines, businesses, and older consumers means that we are aware of market trends, health and social care challenges, and the latest innovations in industry. Our focus on horizon scanning ensures that we are always one step ahead.

The involvement of VOICE members in research and innovation helps to focus academic knowledge, creativity and expertise on finding solutions that will make a difference to and have an impact on people's lives.

Some examples of previous projects:

Cambridge Consultants

Cambridge Consultants is a world-class supplier of innovative product development engineering and technology consulting. Planning to make their first entry into the ageing market, they partnered with the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) to gather feedback on a new product concept for women experiencing the symptoms of the menopause.

NICA worked with OpenLab at Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science to design and run a series of workshops, conducted in Newcastle and Cambridge, with three key aims:

  • Understand the experiences women go through when they have hot flushes and night sweats
  • Understand how women currently manage their symptoms
  • Establish the opportunities for technology to help improve outcomes
Approach

Leveraging their partnership with VOICE Global, NICA recruited a panel of 28 women experiencing menopausal hot flushes and night sweats to attend a series of workshop sessions.

The workshops aimed to generate feedback and ideas based on a product prototype – a cooling device in a wearable watch format – to understand what women might find useful in a product to help manage their symptoms.

In preparation, participants were asked to complete a diary recording their hot flushes and night sweats, as well as an initial questionnaire to build a picture of how their symptoms impacted their work, sleep and home life.

Outcomes

The workshops highlighted a strong demand for new, non-drug based products to provide relief from hot flushes and night sweats. They also provided valuable feedback on Cambridge Consultants’ product prototype.

The workshops confirmed that while cooling devices were a popular idea, the watch format was not what women would prefer. Instead, attendees suggested a range of alternatives, particularly a bedside or desktop unit, which they felt would be more useful.

As well as identifying several additional product opportunities based on the prototype, the research generated a high level of interest and enquiries form press and consumers alike when it was published, further emphasising the demand for new products in this space.

Partnering with NICA gave Cambridge Consultants the insight they needed to confidently enter a new market, helping them understand the true scale of the business opportunity as well as identifying the product opportunities which would make the biggest difference to the lives of menopausal women.

Photo: Cambridge Consultants

Proctor & Gamble

Proctor & Gamble have worked alongside Newcastle University for many years. In this case study they talk about how excited they are to be working with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing and VOICE.

What is your current relationship with the science and data facilities in Newcastle?

Procter & Gamble has successfully collaborated with Newcastle University for many years to develop ingredients that go into our products. We're particularly focussing on the National Innovation Centre for Data and the National Innovation Centre for Ageing and are excited to see how the additional capability at Newcastle University will create new opportunities.

What stands out about Newcastle Helix to you?

For me, it's about designing a space that brings together academic expertise, big industry, SMEs and most importantly the community. The VOICE Global panel in particular is a unique capability that will prove invaluable. Normally, our product researchers need to winkle out what people really want from what they say they want. The VOICE Global panel can tell you this and even offer solutions, so that's very exciting, and a huge resource for us to tap into as a region. The Helix additionally combines this with the wealth of cutting-edge science coming from the University and the wealth of tech innovation from SMEs in the North East.

Five years from now, what would Proctor & Gamble like to see happen here?

What I would love to see is that we actually invent products and services that serve the 55+ demographic. I want us to have invented things here that are helping the lives of consumers in the UK and the rest of the world, creating economic growth for the North of England at the same time.

Tell us a bit about the international opportunity created by Newcastle Helix.

In China and Singapore everyone expects to see massive investment in science. That includes amazing buildings being put up. Someone heard about what we’re doing, saw the building and said: “My goodness, this is like Singapore but it’s in the North East of England!” How fantastic is that!

Tell us about how you will benefit from the future homes on Newcastle Helix.

Proctor & Gamble’s whole mission and purpose as a company is to make the everyday life of people a little bit better. So naturally, we are very interested in future homes because it would give us the ability to gain genuine insight into the way people really live. For us, it’s a phenomenal research tool which could, for example, enable us to design a house that would adapt and change as you get older and prove an incredibly nice place to live as your mobility changes. With the Helix, the ability to really focus on healthy ageing, and use that data, is a great tool that fits with Proctor & Gamble’s mission.

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Vitality Bench

The UK's National Innovation Centre for Ageing and Design Network North joined forces to commission a project that showcases the value of a design process which, was not only age inclusive but, involved multiple partners.

The Vision

The goal was to purpose-build a product that was co-designed with the public, as well as with the knowledge and expertise from research, design and manufacturing partners.

Design Network North, a Gateshead-based design centre of excellence, who provide expertise to businesses, paired Newcastle University with a designer who had a keen interest in innovation and ageing – Jonathan Butters from Butters Innovation.

A VOICE Global panel provided ideas form a consumer’s perspective which enabled Jonathon to produce an informed design. Miko Engineering, a Jarrow based company that design, manufacture and install street furniture, were then commissioned to build the prototype bench.

How we worked

A programme of consumer-led workshops were organised to establish the goal of the design project. These meetings included VOICE members who were given the brief and ask to decide on a product that would be valuable to the public. After much debate, VOICE decided that the project would focus on public seating; more specifically a bench that would be suitable for all ages.

The rationale for the project came from VOICE members. They explained that, if you found walking distances challenging, without the right seating, at the right places, you quickly found yourself excluded from many public places, which could lead to isolation and loneliness. Their observation was that benches for the public realm did not suit their requirements and had not been designed with their needs in mind, often being designed to deter ‘rough sleeping’ or with a primary soft security objective. It was decided therefore, that re-thinking the design of a public bench could have significant benefits.

The needs

Jonathan worked closely with VOICE Global panel and the following requirements were identified: easy to get in and out of, comfortable (warm and dry), a good social space, suitable for all generations, easy to clean and maintain, and a safe space.

The solution

The image below shows the prototype bench and explains each new function.

The bench has been a huge success, with all age groups, and has demonstrated the value of collaboration in the design process, particularly in the involvement of the public. The success of the project highlights the possibilities involved in inclusive design for all products. If we can create such fundamental social impact through redesigning something as traditional as public seating, imagine what could be achieved if we applied this approach to all new products and services.

The future

This product is now available commercially, manufactured by North East SME, Miko Engineering as the Vitality Bench.

4 Generation Kitchen

The 4 Generation Kitchen project is a collaboration between the UK's National Innovation Centre for Ageing, kitchen designer Johnny Grey and Professor Peter Gore.

NICA has supported the project by delivering a Voice workshop, attending the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle, and general project support.  The concept has garnered support from government in the context of its healthy ageing industrial strategy. 

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