21-year-old Irish James Dyson Award winner’s invention aims to prevent spread of hospital super-bugs

30 Aug 2012

Winner of the 2012 Irish leg of the James Dyson Awards Paddy Mulcahy

Am invention by Paddy Mulcahy, a 21 year old Limerick student, to prevent the spread of hospital infections has won the Irish leg of the 2012 James Dyson award. U-neat is an innovative sanitary hospital bed table and locker, designed to minimise the spread of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs).

Mulcahy has just completed the Bachelor Degree in Product Design and Technology at the University of Limerick. He was determined to make improvements to the Irish Health Care system by tackling this problem.

“The existing furniture is a breeding ground for bacteria,” Mulcahy explained. “Too often people admitted to hospitals contract further serious illnesses. Going to hospital shouldn’t mean putting your health at greater risk.”

Last year he began conducting on-site research into HCAI’s in hospitals, consulting with medical staff and interviewing patients. His research showed that over 70pc of the spread of infections in hospitals was due to surface-to-person transfer of bacteria.

Real hospital environment testing

Paddy built various functional prototypes of the design and then sourced a hospital bed in order to accurately test these prototypes with different users. A model ward was available at Limerick University campus for testing in the real environment.

U-neat has completely redesigned the hospital bed table and locker with easy-clean features. It has seam-free, filleted surfaces, which eliminate corners for bacteria to build, facilitating easy cleaning.

Every surface of U-neat is easily accessible for sanitising due to the table’s ability to rotate 360 degrees and the capacity for the drawers to be fully removed to access inside the unit. U-neat also provides seating for visitors, which helps to create a controlled environment for seat allocation.

In addition to winning the award, Mulcahy will also graduate with first class honours at a ceremony in the University of Limerick this afternoon.

U-neat will progress to compete against leading innovations from the 18 other participating countries. The international winner will be selected by James Dyson and announced on 8 November 2012. Paddy Mulcahy has already received an offer to develop his invention at the Innovation Centre at the University of Limerick over the next eight months.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years