on June 24, 2022
Published on September 12, 2022 Updated on September 12, 2022

Students of Ljubljana design solutions for patients with multiple sclerosis as part of the Open Innovation Challenge

Original article in Slovene on the UL Website https://bit.ly/3DkGxoc

As part of the Open Innovation Challenge, students from the University of Ljubljana worked on a project called "Designing solutions for patients with multiple sclerosis", for which they developed practical devices to make life easier for the patients. Easier preparationof meals, carrying of loads, intimate care and personalized jewellery are just a few of the ideas developed by students of industrial design, medicine, mechanical engineering, cognitive science, sociology and architecture, through interdisciplinary cooperation.

The project was coordinated by the Vice-Dean of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana (UL ALUO), Assoc. Prof. Barbara Predan, and supervised by Assoc. Prof. Lidija Pritržnik and Prof. Jure Miklavc (both also from UL ALUO). The project also involved the 'Get to Know Multiple Sclerosis' association and the pharmaceutical company Roche.

Students presented their ideas at an exhibition in front of the UL Rector’s Office. The exhibition of models, prototypes and sketches was opened by University of Ljubljana rector Prof. Gregor Majdič and Vice-Dean of UL ALUO Assoc. Prof. Barbara Predan, who coordinated the project. While the presented products and services are still at the concept stage and not yet ready for sale on the market, all the participants hope that the project will continue and that these solutions will one day contribute to inclusive designs that can benefit everyone, not only people affected by multiple sclerosis.

The exhibition opening was followed by a press conference presenting the project in more detail. Renata Žohar, President of the 'Get to Know Multiple Sclerosis' association, said that she would like to see the solutions developed by the students become available on the market. What is particularly important and pleased her is that these solutions have been developed by young people. Ms Žohar is also aware that it takes considerable patience and perseverance to achieve better products and services that can benefit everyone, not only multiple sclerosis patients.

Assoc. Prof. Lidija Pritržnik (UL ALUO) briefly explained the different stages of the work process, from desktop research to in-depth patient interviews and observations, from rapid prototyping to the online survey that was completed by 129 patients and resulted in a broad range of solutions. She also pointed out that without the help of the 'Get to Know Multiple Sclerosis' association and its members who participated in the interdisciplinary team, such successful ideas would not have been possible.

Prof. Jure Miklavc (UL ALUO) said that the students of industrial design demonstrated a great deal of empathy in solving complex problems through creativity, proving that they are able to tackle difficult challenges, realise their ideas as products or services, and provide many different answers to a single question. In design, the suitability of a solution is always assessed in the context of its use.

Daša Šešerko, a UL ALUO industrial design student, attended the press conference as a student representative. She said that the work process was a new experience and that the in-depth interviews helped the students understand emotionally charged problems for the patients, so they drew on these challenges in developing their solutions. Another new experience was working in multidisciplinary teams, which Ms Šešerko found positive, as students from other faculties added their own insights to their ideas.

Badreddine Azzaoui, a sixth-year student at the Faculty of Medicine of the UL, briefly presented epidemiological data on multiple sclerosis, the course of the disease, the body systems it can affect and the consequences for patients. He said that the solutions being developed were excellent, that working in a multidisciplinary team was inspiring and, most importantly, that the applicability of the project goes far beyond the specific field of multiple sclerosis.