Rafi-tone app set to help millions of children with asthma

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Dr Aslam with son, Rafi

Dr Aslam with son, Rafi

Children with asthma will soon be able to breathe easier thanks to an interactive app created by a University of Manchester spin-out company.

Tariq Aslam, an eye doctor, invented Rafi-tone after his son Rafi suffered with breathing problems.

The Rafi-tone app, available on i-Phone and Android devices, helps children accept their mask and engage with taking medication by involving them in an onscreen fun animated game.

When a whistle sound is emitted by the mask – signaling that the child is breathing and inhaling medication with a spacer correctly – an onscreen ‘Rafi’ fights off attacking colourful cartoon-style baddies.



Prof Aslam, a Consultant Ophthalmologist at the University of Manchester and Central Manchester Foundation Trust (CMFT), said his son Rafi’s breathing struggles caused a lot of anxiety for both himself and his wife.

“His condition caused a lot of worry for us – we hated to see him suffer,” he said. “And to make things worse he hated spacers and would push them away and we were concerned he was not getting the medication. There were tears all round.

“After one particular occasion when Rafi struggled for breath I decided to get straight to work – which involved trying to design and align bits of software, hardware and electronics to his spacer.”

He added: “Soon, Rafi was using his spacer while looking at a phone screen which showed simple images when he breathed correctly into the spacer.

“Despite it being in the early hours of the morning, instead of the usual tears and screams he was distracted and engaged with the screen display and took the medication silently and properly. I was amazed to hear him say ‘that was really good daddy, can we do it again in the morning’, before he turned and fell asleep.”

 It was after that, that Rafi-Tone – which also stands for ‘Respiratory Aid For Inhalers’ – was born.

Prof Aslam, determined to learn new programming languages to develop and improve the app, produced algorithms to control cartoon characters that reacted when his son Rafi breathed in using his spacer.

He was supported and advised by Clare Murray, a Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician who helped to set up the initial trials for testing at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and ensure the program would give maximum benefit to patients.

Further testing and guidance was provided by paediatrician Shaila Sukthankar and by Margaret Cuffwright, a specialist health visitor in paediatric asthma.

He was also supported by Mark Sanders, Managing Director of Clement Clarke International – a leading respiratory device manufacturer who helped ensure the final arrangement would work with modern devices.

The system evolved through many versions during clinical testing by children at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, until the current optimal Rafi-tone app was created.

The Rafi-tone app is University of Manchester spin-out company Clin-E-Cal’s first product. It works in conjunction with the ‘Flo-Tone’ mask which attaches to the Able Spacer. These are made by Clement Clarke, a company with a long history of producing respiratory devices

Prof Aslam said: “These are exciting times as we expect the Rafi-tone system to be available in September to all children who are prescribed an Able Spacer with small mask.

“There’s nothing that would make me happier than to hear about patients using devices or technologies that I’ve developed and it having a positive impact on them.”

Prof Aslam described the crucial support he received from The University of Manchester’s technology transfer office, UMIP, and especially from IP development and partnering manager, Dr Lizzie Crawford, who helped with the development of the product to something that could be delivered to patients in a sustainable way.

Driven by her own experiences with her son and by the positive reactions of patients and carers she is now focused on delivering the potential of the Rafi-tone technology to other groups of respiratory patients.

Funding was provided by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT), Innovate UK, UMIP Pathfinder Funding which has helped develop the technology and determine the commercial plans and route to market.

For further information, please see Clin-E-Cal’s website


Innovation Optimiser – Empowering Innovators

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The Innovation Optimiser has successfully completed its first pilot year and has engaged with over 80 University of Manchester innovators. Developed by UMIP, to complement its IP Commercialisation activity, the Innovation Optimiser has been designed to support academics, staff and research students who may have an idea for a commercial start-up or social enterprise.

It encompasses a wide range of support including; Ignition speaker sessions, the Roadmap workshop programme, Momentum activity, the Spotlight series and our range of Partners and dedicated Enterprise Team.


 Roadmap graduates from the 1st cohort

Roadmap graduates from the 1st cohort

“To encourage and inspire more people to turn their ideas into reality we have introduced the Innovation Optimiser. Academic, staff and research student innovators can have a profound impact on society and we’re privileged to work with them to bring their ideas to fruition. Through support from the Innovation Optimiser, our colleagues have demonstrated that you do not necessarily need to sacrifice academic freedom or studies to bring your discoveries to market,” comments Tony Walker, (Director of the Innovation Optimiser).




As part of the Innovation Optimiser process, innovators sign up to the signature workshop programme Roadmap which lies at the core of our support. Delivered by Ian Brookes, (DNA People) it features a series of half day workshops over five months covering everything from balancing academia and entrepreneurship to launching an enterprise.

Roadmap graduates from the 2nd cohort

Roadmap graduates from the 2nd cohort

“The Roadmap workshops helped me to define a value proposition for my venture and develop a business plan. I also learnt how to pitch my research and look for funding. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone that requires guidance with regards to entrepreneurship.” – Roadmap graduate

Going forward we look forward to supporting our current projects through their next phase of development. As of August 2016 we will welcome new projects into the Innovation Optimiser. If you are an academic, a member of staff or research student from The University of Manchester, and have the basis of a viable business or social venture, then we want to hear from you.

To find out more, contact one of the Innovation Optimiser team:

Ellie Buckley, Enterprise Development Executive ellie.buckley@umip.com or 0161 606 7265

Laura Etchells, Enterprise Development Manager laura.etchells@umip.com or 0161 606 7264

Tony Walker, Director of Innovation Optimiser, tony.walker@umip.com or 0161 603 7780

UMIP Fellows Programme – Information Day

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UMIP Fellows Programme – Information Day

Thursday 28th July 3.00-4.30pm

Joule Suite, UMIC Innovation Centre, Core Technology Facility, Grafton Street, M13 9NT

Are you a full time postgraduate student registered at The University of Manchester and have; –

  • An interest in technology transfer and intellectual property commercialisation, and/or prior experience in business or commercial environments?
  • A commitment and availability for up to 4 hours per week to undertake paid project work?
  • Demonstrated professionalism and ability to adhere to deadlines?
  • Enthusiasm to gain valuable business-related experience to enhance your CV?

If you can answer yes then register now for the UMIP Fellows Information Day to understand more about the programme and how you can get involved

UMIP is a division of UMI3 which captures and manages intellectual property on behalf of The University of Manchester. We commercialise exciting new inventions and ideas from research via licensing to existing businesses or by setting up new “spin-out” companies. We are recruiting a number of high calibre student researchers to become UMIP Fellows to work in their spare time alongside UMIPs Commercialisation Executives to undertake a range of time critical short project assignments.

Our UMIP Fellows Programme is now in its fourth year and is modelled on the similar, highly successful Columbia Fellows Programme run at Columbia University in New York. Typical project assignments will include:

  • Conducting scientific, market or prior art and patent research and analysis in order to inform decisions relating to patenting of inventions
  • Assessing new inventions for commercial viability
  • Writing technology summaries for marketing
  • Identifying potential licensees or investors for new technologies

Successful Fellows will receive structured training from UMIP staff and in order to complete assignments, and the opportunity to participate in enterprise training from the Manchester Enterprise Centre. We expect that Fellows will be starting their 2nd year of PhD study in a STEM related discipline, and will be able to commit to the Programme for at least one year.

To find out more about the UMIP Fellows Programme, our aims and expectations, the entry criteria and the assessment process, register now: https://umipfellowsinfoday.eventbrite.co.uk

We look forward to seeing you on the 28th July.

Success for University of Manchester’s Social Enterprise teams at UnLtd SEEChange Recognition Awards 2016

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Certificate 2016The University, through its Social Enterprise Team at UMIP and Manchester Enterprise Centre (MEC) won the Higher Education Institute Recognition Award for Innovation in Delivery of Support to Social Entrepreneurs at the ceremony held in Oxford on 7th July.

The award recognises the outstanding achievements, impact and innovation in developing support mechanisms for social entrepreneurs.

In addition, our entrepreneurs were individually recognised for the following awards:


Outstanding Innovation: This award is to highlight the most innovative and potentially transformational solutions to social issues developed by staff, students or graduates

Farmlab CIC receives award

Winner, Erinma Ochu – Farmlab CIC, a local ‘pop up’ urban farming system designed to encourage a move towards zero carbon and zero waste by recycling of water and nutrients. By working locally with businesses and residents people are able to make healthier and environmentally sustainable food choices and gain the skills and knowledge to make their part of the city more resistance to climate change



Outstanding Achievement: Personal Growth and Development: This award is to recognise outstanding staff, students and graduate social entrepreneurs who have personally grown, developed and achieved through their award and development as a social entrepreneur.

Shortlisted finalists, Helen Power- Levenshulme Market CIC and Ruth Daniel-In Place of War CIC with UMIP’s Dr Laura Etchells a shortlisted finalist for Social Entrepreneurship Champion of the Year.

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at the University commented: “Making a difference to society is a core part of The University of Manchester’s mission. We are delighted to see our work to support and develop social enterprises receive this national recognition once again.”

Tony Walker of UMIP’s Social Enterprise Team commented: ‘This is our third year of success in the awards and it’s wonderful to see we are still able to be at the forefront of an incredibly strong set of nominations. What is most significant is that both awards recognise our increasing focus on developing innovation in our social enterprises, reflecting the maturity and growth of many of our early candidates who are now flourishing. Inspire, Invent and Innovate is our strapline and we will continue to pursue that goal by supporting our academics, staff and students in their social missions.’’

Calling all digital health innovators

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Telecare, mobile apps, connected self-management tools. These are all types of digital health technologies that can be used to improve the lives of patients with long-term conditions and NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS Salford CCG) has a fund of £450,000 to evaluate them in the local community.

The Digital Health Innovation Call will look to fund the testing and development of innovative digital products, services and clinical practices that aim to improve the experience and outcomes of patients in the Salford community. Applications are sought which align to the following NHS Salford CCG strategy group innovation priorities:

Long-Term Conditions

  • Prevention
  • Early Detection
  • Self-care/Self-management including supporting patients/patient groups

Children & Young People

  • Mental Wellbeing
  • SEND (Special Educational Needs & Disability)
  • Early Intervention and Prevention across issues for children and young people

Medicines Optimisation

  • Improving medicines safety
  • Improving patients getting better outcomes from their medicines
  • Reducing medicines waste
  • Improving medicines reconciliation at transfers of care

Mental Health

  • Improving & maintaining the physical health of people with serious mental illness
  • Care Navigators for patients newly diagnosed with a mental health condition
  • Digital solutions in mental health

Systems Resilience

  • Technological solutions to help patients self-manage/manage at home/avoid hospital attendance or admission
  • Support to ensure patients appropriately access the right urgent care services for the right care
  • Pathways or interventions that prevent A&E attendance or prevent ambulance conveyance or avoid admissions

Community Based Care

  • Increase collaborative working across all community-based partners
  • Safer discharge into the community

Engagement & Experience

  • Responding to Needs Assessments undertaken through the city’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment Programme
  • Using technology to obtain patient feedback on existing services and new plans
  • Motivating behavior change in our local population to live healthier lifestyles, self-care more and support others in local communities

The call is open to companies, NHS organisations, voluntary organisations, universities and independent innovators, who are invited to apply for awards of up to £125,000 by submitting their outline proposal online using the link below:


Delivered in partnership with TRUSTECH, the North West NHS Innovation Service, the Digital Health Innovation Call looks to identify solutions that demonstrate a potential return on investment as well as an impact on the Salford Locality Plan.

Successful projects, which will need to be delivered within a 12-month timescale starting in 2017, will help NHS Salford CCG to:

  • Enable Primary and Community Care to become part of the safest health economy;
  • Improve the interference between primary and secondary care; or
  • Align to strategy group innovation priorities.

Selected applicants will be invited to compete for the opportunity to work with NHS Salford CCG to implement their project. This will involve attending a marketplace where they will be required to demonstrate their innovations to NHS Salford CCG staff and patients, as well as the concluding step in the application process, which will see the final few applicants pitch to a panel of experts in a Dragons’ Den in October.

Subject to due diligence, those that are successful will be notified in November 2016 and will be matched with a suitable community healthcare service to begin mapping out the evaluation.

The Digital Health Innovation Call is open for applications now. Applications must be submitted by no later than 5pm on 23rd August 2016.



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