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  • We are catalysts for innovation, commercialising next-generation technologies developed by The University of Manchester’s world-class research base

    • £300m+ invested by venture funders since 2004

    • 40+ spin-out companies created

    • 4,800+

      licences and IP partnerships concluded

    • 3,700+ invention disclosures received

    • 1,300+ jobs generated across various industry sectors

    • £105m+ IP and R&D revenue generated for the University

Archive for August, 2016

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

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

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