JC Dragon's Den winner: Michael Korn
At the finale of JC’s own Dragons’ Den-style event last week, one idea stood out a very long way. That was the retractable hospital screen, invented by Michael Korn
Medical inventor Michael Korn was the runaway winner of this year's Dragons' Den competition organised by the JC and the London Jewish Cultural Centre.
He wowed the judges with his KwickScreen, a versatile, retractable screen that creates temporary partitions between hospital beds.
The KwickScreen was launched three years ago and has already a proven a hit with the medical world.
Mr Korn, who studied at Cambridge University, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art, has sold 70 of the products, which have been endorsed by the NHS. He has ten hospitals waiting to trial them. According to Mr Korn, one KwickScreen could save the NHS around £7,500 a year through improved bed management.
The judging panel comprised Bernie Myers, the former managing director of N M Rothschild Sons Ltd; Patsy Bloom, founder of Pet Plan; Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief executive of Nesta, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts; Lisa Ronson, commercial director of Heron International; Michael Ziff, shoe salesman and chief executive of Barratts Priceless Ltd and JC business editor Candice Krieger.
Decision time: the Dragons put their heads together to see if they can agree on a winning entry
Mr Korn, who runs the company together with business partner Denis Anscombe, believes the product could be a worldwide success. It is already part of the NHS Innovation Centre programme to combat healthcare-associated infections. The duo are now keen to focus on marketing in order to get the KwickScreens into more hospitals.
Jonathan Kestenbaum, whose company Nesta invests in early stage start-ups, was particularly impressed with the concept.
He said: "I would be very happy to talk to you about potential opportunities for us to collaborate."
Patsy Bloom and Michael Ziff praised the presentation. Ms Bloom said: "It was definitely the most professional," while Mr Ziff added: "It was outstanding - incredibly well prepared." Lisa Ronson said: "This is great and what you do is fascinating but you don't seem to have anyone doing your marketing. How do we find out about you?"
Bernie Myers said the venture was "more than just a good idea", while Candice Krieger said: "It might not be the sexiest of ideas but there is real substance there and the roll-out potential is unlimited."
Mr Korn studied at Cambridge University before being awarded a scholarship to complete a master's in innovation design engineering at the Royal College of Art.
It was there that he developed KwickScreen, which uses the RolaTube technology, making the screens easy to store, install, transport and clean. He has since secured an exclusive worldwide licence for this technology.
He said: "It was great to hear all of the judges' comments, and hopefully Jonathan Kestenbaum has got some very senior contacts. Nesta is a fantastic organisation which is a very good, supportive early-stage investor, so it would be great to have a link with them. I'm absolutely delighted to have won."
Mr Korn, who lives in east Finchley, north London, was inspired to come up with KwickScreen after visiting hospitals and realising there was a "huge waste of space. I learnt that infected patients don't need to be put in a side room. They can be treated in wards if there is a see-through barrier between beds. A nurse said to me: 'Why don't you make a screen which you can pull out and push in?', and that's exactly what I did." The screens, which open out to 2m by 4m, retail at around £1,800 plus VAT.
Although designed for the healthcare environment, the screens - which can be transparent, translucent or opaque - have other applications. "They could be used in schools for dividing up classrooms, for exhibitions, as mechitzot in shuls and for segregated dancefloors at simchahs and in schools."
Korn has been in touch with Sinai and the North West London Jewish Day School, which have expressed interest. But his primary concern is selling to hospitals. "That is where there is the greatest need.
"Our next stage is to do more marketing. We now have the product in production ready for sales. We want more hospitals to know about this so they can get involved and realise the benefits of having patients isolated within a ward.
"It is a very powerful product which adds massively to the quality of care for patients, who may be in fear of infection spreading. It also gives patients more dignity. When people in a very vulnerable state thank us for having provided the screen, it makes all the hard work worthwhile."
LJCC cultural director Louise Jacobs said: "We are always amazed at the variety and ingenuity of our entrants and applaud their passionate enthusiasm. It is particularly pleasing when one of the Dragons is sufficiently impressed by a presentation to offer to discuss the business proposition further."
See his entry: www.kwickscreen.com