Precision portable microscope wins prestigious European Design Award

A month of celebration for ioLight as the world’s first portable high resolution digital microscope wins the European Product Design Award and over achieves with second investment campaign.


The ioLight high resolution portable microscope has won the European Product Design Award 2017 in the Industrial And Life Science Design category. The European Product Design Award chronicles the most eminent trends in product design worldwide and attracted over 500 entries from 43 countries. Each submitted design was evaluated by the highly qualified EPDA Jury on its own merit based on form, function and innovation.


In 2014 ioLight co-founders, Oxford physicists Andrew Monk and Richard Williams, filed a patent application for a pocket- sized digital microscope with a performance that compares with expensive laboratory microscopes. They asked Cambridge Industrial Design to realise the product and the end result has become a major success.


The design brief was challenging as the device had to deliver its images with one micron resolution (required to view human or animal cells) onto a smartphone or tablet, whilst remaining portable and easy to use.


Until now, this level of optical resolution has only been possible on large laboratory microscopes mounted on benches, which are impractical in field applications. The ioLight brief was for the microscope to fit into a pocket, which in turn meant that it had to be folded. However, this could result in a loss of rigidity which is so important to achieve high resolution images. This major design challenge has been overcome with the use of a single hinge and the end result is a revolutionary device with high resolution that is both portable and robust. The last challenge was for the finished product to be cool and stylish and to be economical to build in both medium and high volumes.


The product’s designers at Cambridge Industrial Design worked closely with the ioLight team to create an attractive and robust design that excels in every aspect of the brief. Alex Jones, managing director of Cambridge Industrial Design says: “We recognised immediately this was a great idea but the design brief was certainly a challenge. Fortunately, challenges can sometimes bring out the best in designers. The final design is a real success both aesthetically and ergonomically, and this award is a fantastic acknowledgement for the design process and the final product that we have created together with ioLight.’


ioLight’s sales reflect that this view is shared by customers, as the UK start-up has already sold the portable microscope to prestigious customers such as The Eden Project, Cambridge University, Bayer plc and the Medical Research Council.


Richard Williams, co-founder of ioLight says: “It is vital that ground-breaking new products are easy to use and look great or nobody will try them. Our images speak for themselves, but the microscope has to be much easier to use than a bench microscope. Alex Jones, Tim Evans and the team at Cambridge Industrial Design have done a fantastic job on the design and they deserve this award.”


To add to the excitement of the award, ioLight has also achieved major success with fundraising.


Following on from a very successful equity funding campaign in 2015, ioLight has recently closed a second round of equity funding and raised £320k on the Crowdcube platform (128 per cent of the initial target). This was supported by 335 investors.


The new funding opens up a whole new vista of opportunities and allows the company to promote the microscope into a wide range of target markets including vets, education, laboratory and field research, museums and public engagement as well as to international markets. The simplicity of the product makes it ideal for use in the field, even far from an internet connection. This also makes it perfect for people who are new to microscopy.


Andrew Monk, ioLight’s other co-founder says: “The product is so simple to use that it is the ideal communication tool for explaining science to the public, students and customers. The microscope lets everyone see the same image so the discussion is about the picture not the tools. It’s a perfect fit for government public engagement campaigns, which are well funded at the moment. We are absolutely delighted that this funding provides us with the opportunity for both product development and to reach out and make microscopy available to so many more people.’


This endorsement from investors is the end result of an innovative idea for a practical product with the final design incorporating ease of use with stylish looks and the rock solid platform you need to see cells, all in a pocket sized package. A winning design indeed!

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