The benefits of academia-industry collaboration: product design

The benefits of academia-industry collaboration: product design

A Cwmbran-based business, Auriella Ltd, was recognised, alongside Cardiff Met, for their collaborative work under the best new product category at the Business and Education Partnership Awards, run by Insider Media.

The Business and Education Partnership Awards celebrate collaborative work between universities, colleges and companies in Wales. Kelli Aspland and Laura Griffin, who run Auriella Ltd, worked closely with Cardiff Metropolitan University staff and students to design and prototype an innovative new child sun safety product – ‘Solar Buddies’.

cardiff met

Concerned about their children’s safety in the sun during play-time in school, the businesswomen approached Cardiff School of Art and Design (CSAD), for expert help in developing a solution. They wanted to create a product to promote sun safety in schools working within the confines of the increasingly common-place ‘no-touch’ policies.

The University’s Research & Enterprise Services helped organise a Santander Internship for the company whereby a Cardiff Met Product Design Masters student, Laura Smith, worked with the company to finalise the product. Laura worked extensively with Kelli and Laura, and the three collaboratively came up with the final solution - ‘Solar Buddies’.

Cardiff Met involved undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as offering world-class support from its Massachusetts Institute of Technology-accredited FabLab Cardiff. CSAD incorporated the project into its BA/BSc Product Design course, by asking third year students to develop designs as part of their academic studies. The undergraduates created various ideas with the final designs passed on to Masters students to develop further. 

“We are absolutely delighted to have been recognised at the Business and Education Partnership Awards. We are always looking for opportunities to expand Solar Buddies further across the UK, so having this recognition from a national award programme is a huge boost. Having the expert help from Cardiff Met has been invaluable for us. We knew what we wanted to create, but the School of Art and Design and FabLab really helped with the technical aspects that we weren’t so familiar with." 

Laura Griffin, Solar Buddies

Solar Buddies is a refillable touch-free sun-cream applicator. It features a chunky, easy-grip bottle, a roller ball to control the flow of the lotion and a sponge to help rub the lotion into the skin. The Solar Buddies prototypes were built in the University’s FabLab Cardiff - a technical workshop that specialises in research, enterprise and invention which is linked to a global FabLab network.

Gareth Barham, Principal Lecturer in Product Design at Cardiff Met, who worked extensively with the entrepreneurs said: “Laura and Kelli have come up with a fantastic solution to a real problem and I’m very pleased that their unique product has been recognised with an award.”

“This project demonstrates the benefits of academic collaboration with commercial industry and illustrates how product design as a profession can contribute to a better quality of life.”

Speaking about Solar Buddies project, Cardiff Met’s Director of Enterprise, Matthew Taylor, said: “FabLab Cardiff played an intrinsic role in developing Solar Buddies - the team was able to use our huge range of digital manufacturing equipment to create several prototypes in a short space of time within budget and deadline.”

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