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Emma's shock to the system

Emma Hartley at the Ingenuity17 awards

If someone around you right now stopped breathing and collapsed – would you know how to use a defibrillator? Would you even know where the nearest one was? 

The question bothered Emma Hartley (Product Design and Manufacture, 2015) so much that she made it the focus of her final year degree project. And then when a University friend died unexpectedly from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, the project became much more than an academic exercise. 

A defibrillator is a device that gives a high energy electric shock to the heart through the chest wall. For someone in cardiac arrest, it’s an essential life-saving step in the chain of survival. Although public access to defibrillators is becoming much more common, they’re expensive, often hard to recognise and perceived to be difficult to use.  
But Emma’s invention is set to revolutionise these crucial devices. She’s designed Pulse AED, a new device which is easy to use, lightweight and inexpensive – solving many of the problems associated with current products on the market. She now runs her own company, Pulse AED, and hopes to bring a brand new automated external defibrillator (AED) to the market within two years. 

Inspired by the death of a friend

“It started out as something I was doing for University but it soon became much more than that,” said Emma. “Jannik’s death highlighted a very specific social need and a gap in the market. Having to use a defibrillator is stressful, as people are often grey, sweating and gasping for breath. I wanted to make that experience as simple as possible.”

Jannik Lam was a promising mechanical engineering student at the University who died in 2015 after collapsing during a run in the city with his housemates. It was later discovered that he had an undiagnosed heart condition. 

“My parents live in rural Nottinghamshire, in West Leake,” said Emma. “A defibrillator was installed in the village and people kept asking why there was a first aid kit on the wall of a pub. I realised that we needed to get defibrillators more recognised. The one I’ve designed gives step-by-step instructions, is half the size of normal devices and is 70% lighter. It’s also a lot more affordable – under £100 – which is really important to me because I want as many people to have access to them as possible to save even more lives.”

The British Heart Foundation estimates there are around 30,000 cardiac arrests a year outside of hospitals. Working with academics at the University, Emma discovered that although AED are effective, time is critical. If used within the first five minutes, survival is boosted from 6% to 74%.    

Any untrained person will be able to use Pulse, with the device’s step-by-step instructions and intuitive interactions taking pressure off the user in an emergency. Guidance provided alongside the equipment means the patient is prepped correctly and reduces the risk of ineffective shock. 

Turning an idea into a real-world product

Emma’s product recently won the first prize of £5,000 at the Ingenuity17 entrepreneurship competition at the University.  

The annual competition, run by the Ingenuity Lab, aims to unite academic theory with entrepreneurial practice. Over 600 students and graduates from our UK, China and Malaysia campuses, took part this year, competing for more than £113,000 of prize fund money. Among the winners were Dan Simmons (Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 2012), whose company Quensus offers intelligent water management solutions using the internet to decrease bills and prevent leaks, and Jordana Chin (Nutrition, 2014), owner of healthy and nutritious food business Nutri2Go.   

“Ingenuity17 has been amazing,” said Emma. “Taking part and winning the competition means I can start developing the product and the electronics inside it, getting it market ready.”

Do you have an innovative business idea you want to get off the ground? Develop your entrepreneurial business ambitions by taking part in Ingenuity18 – register your interest ahead of next year’s competition. 

Or, if you think you can help and inspire our young entrepreneurs, find out how you can get involved as a mentor



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