For the fifth in our series catching up with Formation Zone clients, we sat down with Tom from CAZMAT to find out what it’s like to develop a new product for the health sector.
For the fifth in our series catching up with Formation Zone clients, we sat down with Tom from CAZMAT to find out what it’s like to develop a new product for the health sector. Tom was the 2016 winner of the Formation Zone Business Challenge and has developed CAZMAT while studying medicine at Plymouth University.
CAZMAT is a three sided, collapsible foam mat that is placed around patients (patent pending). It is for use by medical staff to provide a comfortable kneeling surface, a safe place to organise equipment, whilst creating a treatment zone around the patient.
What did you study and how did you find out about Formation Zone?
“I studied Medicine from 2010 until 2016. I found out about the Formation Zone through researching support that I could get from the University when I was starting up CAZMAT. I came in and spoke to Eleanor and it has really advanced since then!”
What stage were you at before joining Formation Zone?
“I had spent about 5 months working on my design and making some crude prototypes prior to getting in touch with the FZ. I had been working with David Mozley, Plymouth University’s Medical Equipment IP specialist, who was very keen on CAZMAT. I worked with him and an IP attorney to file a patient application for CAZMAT, at which point I was working on my Business Challenge application.”
“I was also through to a final round of a competition with a foam manufacturer, which I subsequently won. The prize was the financial and logistical backing to take the product to market. This was a massive opportunity for me, as it then meant I didn’t have to seek funding elsewhere.”
“I came to the FZ with great endorsement and feeling very excited about the future of CAZMAT! It came at a perfect time really, because I was at the edge of a great period of change and growth, and needed the business expertise in FZ to give me extra perspective.”
What made you choose Formation Zone?
“I got involved with the Formation Zone through the Business Challenge. What that helped me with was formulating a business plan and really thinking about the way ahead. That alone would have been good enough for my needs!”
“I was really encouraged by the fact that FZ facilitates your own growth and learning. They are not there to do it all for you, but at such an early stage you are pointed in the right directions and given great advice. I am by no means a business expert, and FZ helped me by letting me recognise my weaknesses and gather the right people around me, so that I could make CAZMAT go where I wanted it to.”
What difference has being in Formation Zone made to you?
“A world of difference! I was privileged that I had the support of a manufacturer from the start, but through the 1:1 meetings with the business advisers I have been able to sound my ideas off the real experts and get the appropriate guidance.”
“Winning the FZ business challenge gave credibility to my product as well, and I think that being able to say that you operate out of a business incubator gives a good impression of collaborative innovation. When I had time off, being able to work in an environment separate to home meant that I was more productive and put me in a better mind-set to work.”
What progress have you made since joining Formation Zone?
“The last 5 months have seen CAZMAT go from concept, through to nearing full production. We have come to the end of the design period and are testing with multiple clinical partners. I even got asked on Twitter to send samples to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance this week!”
“We aim to be approaching distributors in the next month or so. This is the sort of time-frame that I anticipated, and being able to access the support and focus from FZ gave me the space and the drive to encourage production forward.”
“It has been a bit tougher than expected these last few months, as I have just started my job as a Junior Doctor, but knowing that the Formation Zone are still there if I need them is a really reassuring back stop. It keeps me accountable, particularly as I am working on my own a lot.”
What has been your greatest milestone since joining Formation Zone?
“My milestone was I suppose at the beginning in having won both the Health Category and the Overall Prize for the Business Challenge. I’d never written a business plan before, and knew that I was up against business students and many other excellent business ideas. The preparation and guidance from the FZ staff helped me to achieve what I didn’t think I was capable of.”
“My most memorable moment at FZ was getting a massive box of prototypes posted through and placed on my desk, it was awesome to have some that I hadn’t had to make!”
How do you feel about your experience in Formation Zone?
“I feel that being in the Formation Zone is making a choice to surround yourself with innovators, and people of a similar mind-set. That means you are in a room full of people who are all doing amazing things, and are keen to hear what you are up to. Combined with this is the business expertise, so that you have those people who can challenge your decisions and encourage you to solve problems laterally. I feel that it has been so far, a very beneficial experience, full of learning!”
Would you recommend Formation Zone?
“Yes! If you are a start-up and looking for space, support and community, then it is for you. If you are student with an idea, it doesn’t matter how daft you think it is, get in touch with FZ and get some support to do the Business Challenge. That’s what I did, and nearly a year later I’m on the cusp of having a product on the market! I couldn’t have done that without all the support, encouragement and guidance along the way, much of which has been from the FZ.”