Innovative intern programme targets advances in medical products

01 August 2014

Five student entrepreneurs are aiming to make a breakthrough in medical technology after winning places on an innovative internship programme.

The new interns, l-r, Adam Wilson, Phil Mulvey, Aqsa Ahmed, Callum Mulligan and Syed Hammad, pictured at the Medical AMRC

They beat more than 400 students from around the country, vying to spend their year in industry employed at the University of Sheffield's newly established Medical Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

The Medical AMRC combines cutting-edge manufacturing technologies with world-class research and development and access to clinical expertise to help companies develop new medical devices and manufacturing processes.

It has also launched a medical products organisation, dubbed Next Generation Medical, which the interns will run for one year.

"We want to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among students, so we have created Next Generation Medical with backing from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)," says Derek Boaler, who heads the Medical AMRC and Design and Prototyping Groups at the University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

The interns are studying a mix of engineering and business subjects and one - 20 year old forensic accounting student Aqsa Ahmed, from Rotherham - already runs her own business.

They will act as Next Generation Medical's directors, developing ideas for innovative products aimed at areas of need in the healthcare market, such as promoting cleanliness, improving accessibility, tackling rising costs, improving life for ageing populations and tackling healthcare issues in the developing world.

Interns are also being encouraged to identify other areas of need and potential products before deciding which area and product to focus on.

By the end of their year, they will have created a prototype that could be turned into a product that is ready for market by future Next Generation interns.

Staff from the Medical AMRC will act as non-executive directors and advisers and a team of local entrepreneurs will give the interns the benefit of their experience.

"We want them to use their own ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to come up with something that is saleable," adds Derek Boaler.

"Hopefully, having spent a year running their own company will make them more employable when they leave university at the end of their courses."

The successful interns faced a tough selection process, including a day of activities, presentations and interviews at the AMRC's Knowledge Transfer Centre. All are delighted to have secured a year's paid employment as an intern.

"Once I saw the AMRC and how amazing it is, I really wanted to come here," said Adam Wilson, 28, from Scunthorpe, who is studying electrical engineering.

Adam worked for McDonalds until an evaluation by the fast food chain to see if he was suitable for promotion showed he would be perfect in a technical role.

"I had been thinking about going to university as a mature student and that spurred me on," he explained.

Fellow interns include former Army aircraft technician Callum Mulligan, 24, from Chesterfield, now studying aerospace engineering and Phil Mulvey, 20, and Syed Hammad, 21, both from Birmingham and studying business studies and aerospace engineering respectively.

Recruitment was limited this year by the short amount of time available after securing funding, but numbers of applicants were encouragingly high.

All the current interns come from Sheffield Hallam University, but it is expected that, with recruitment for what will be two new teams of interns due to start earlier, next year's recruits will come from a wider spread of universities.

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