Super Human Advances in Innovation and Design

Sarah M: Hi, my name is Sarah Morgan and I am excited because this my first blog for Bridge8!  I have worked within the nanotechnology space over the last four years through my roles at NanoVic and NVA, and I have a keen interest in innovation and education.  Most recently, I teamed up with Leah Heiss (Lecturer at RMIT) to write a paper which was presented at the Super Human Revolution of the Species Symposium, and was held in Melbourne on the 23rd and 24th of November 2009.  The paper investigated the role of innovation through design, particularly focused around the development of novel medical technologies, and asked the question “How early should design factor into the technology development process?”.  Two design models were highlighted, and two NanoVic case studies were presented.

Firstly, the “design partnership model” was explored, in which an external team is employed to work with the existing technology.  The case study was based around the development of a portable pulmonary delivery device for the inhalation of insulin.  The research was being undertaken by Monash University (Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory) in collaboration with NanoVic, the design work was funded by Design Victoria, and  Charlwood Design was contracted to design and manufacture the prototype.  The final inhaler prototype encompassed all aspects of the product, including sterility issues, ergonomic limitations, technological constraints and user requirements.  The overall look and feel of the product was a playful feel, rather than that of a medical device, making it more user friendly for both children and adults alike.

Secondly, “the residency model” was investigated, in which an artist/designer is embedded within a scientific organisation.  This case study was based on Leah’s personal experience as an artist in residence for 12 months at NanoVic (program funded by Arts Victoria and the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), for the design of jewellery as personal medical devices for drug delivery.  The outcome was the manufacture of a beautiful neckpiece and rings which administer drugs (such as insulin) through the skin via a transdermal patch, to replace the use of needles. (Bridge8 has blogged about Leah’s work before – see here and here).

Both case studies were successful and satisfying for the scientists and the designers, and although each design approach was different,  there was also conformity in both cases, leading to the following conclusions: 1. that early interaction between the designers and the technology is extremely beneficial to the overall development of the product; 2. trust and open communication is required between the researchers and the designers, and this is the key to a successful outcome.

As a scientist, I thoroughly enjoy working with designers as they bring a fresh and exciting perspective to the project, and in the process, develop visually attractive devices for the purpose of the end-user.  When developing a new technology, the science is crucial, particularly when you are developing a medical device that people like you and I may use everyday.  However, once the science has been established and validated, it is also important to produce a commercially viable product.  By working closely with a designer, it brings along a fresh pair of eyes, a fresh perspective, and an amazing amount of imagination that ultimately leads to a novel technology that also has the “wow factor” that everyone is looking for.


  1. This is EXACTLY where we should be heading in the future; taking the best of both worlds, in this case design and science and applying them to daily problems. There are so many ‘needs’ out there as opposed to things we just want and it’s refreshing to see great minds applied to stuff we can actually use. Great Article Sarah!

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