Five years ago, Mike Brown broke his back, leaving him with severe spinal injuries and bladder problems.
Now he and the rest of the Uri-Go team have developed award-winning technology to help those suffering from similar difficulties.
Uri-Go won Callaghan Innovation’s 2017 C-Prize technology competition, earning the team support worth $100,000 to develop and market their product.
Uri-Go has created a wearable bladder sensor for people who have difficulties telling if they need to go to the bathroom.
This can include those with a spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease or numerous other conditions.
“In my case, it can lead to embarrassment, but it also puts me at risk of contracting dangerous infections,” Brown says.
“I just dreamed up this idea of a device I could wear that would tell me when my bladder was full. Essentially something that would notify my smartphone.”
Callaghan Innovation, the government’s business innovation agency, set up C-Prize to encourage people to push the boundaries of what’s possible through technology, and solve real-world challenges.
This year’s competition focused on wearable technology to improve human performance and wellbeing.
When he found out about C-Prize, Brown brought together a friend with technical expertise and a urologist, formed Uri-Go and started building prototypes.
“The user testing we've done has been phenomenal. We've proven beyond a doubt that there is a strong need. It’s comforting to know that the market really wants this innovation.”
Brown says he’s “learned tremendously” from C-Prize and the connections he has made.
“This competition is fantastic in its collaborative nature.”
Judging convenor Blythe Rees-Jones, an award-winning industrial designer, says Uri-Go’s product deserves to be an international success.
“It is a really great idea and a highly innovative hardware-software solution. The team has shown the talent to pull this off and generated impressive momentum in their program.”
Vic Crone, Callaghan Innovation CEO, says the C-Prize helps the teams take a technology idea through to a prototype, then gives them international exposure.
“C-Prize has already led to business success, with the top two teams in the 2015 competition, Vortec and Dotterel, forming companies that have earned acclaim on the world stage.”
The 2015 C-Prize focused on drone technology for the film industry.
The C-Prize experience was “fantastic”, says Ryan Kurte, Vortec engineer. “In the workshops on business development we learned things we apply all the time.”
Dotterel won ‘most innovative product’ at a major US tradeshow and recently completed one of the world’s largest business accelerator programmes, Techstars.
The company recently announced it had closed a funding round of AUD$500,000.
“Helping that success is what Callaghan Innovation’s all about,” says Crone.
Blythe Rees-Jones says all the teams can take credit for tackling very difficult problems and giving powerful presentations to the judges.
“The lengths the teams have gone to in creating innovative next-generation wearables is a testament to them and the C-Prize as a whole.”