Designability, formerly known as Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, was established in 1968 as an independent charity by famous inventor and engineer, Bevan Horstmann, and local consultant surgeon, Kenneth Lloyd-Williams – they wanted to create medical equipment that would really make a difference to people’s lives.
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.
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.
Since 1968, we have completed well over 300 projects and supplied our products to over 250,000 people.
Some of our most famous historical moments include:
We created the world’s first spring assisted armchair.
We were one of the most successful Evaluation Centres funded by the Department of Health and instrumental in shaping the International Standard governing infusion pump safety.
We manufactured the stretcher suspension trolley.
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.
We established our charitable Wizzybug Loan Scheme – making it easier for U.K. families and young disabled children to benefit from powered mobility.
We launched the Day Clock to help people living with dementia.