Imperial College London

IGHI Student Challenges Competition: Enter the Dragon's Den


The winners

Winners (left to right), 2nd Prize winner Nicolas Kylilis, winner Christopher Payne and Audience Choice Award winner Jacob Levi.

Six Imperial finalists competed to win funding towards their global health research project

The Institute of Global Health Innovation’s (IGHI) annual Student Challenges Competition was brought to a close last Monday during our Dragon’s Den event to find the winner.  The competition, which is now in its third year, provides a platform for Imperial students to showcase their global health research idea and to win prize money to help develop it further.

PhD students Christopher Payne and Hani Marcus impressed the Dragons the most and scooped the top prize money of £5,000.  Their inspiring and inventive idea was for a smart handheld instrument for microsurgery that alerts neurosurgeons if they are at risk of damaging tissue they are handling. We all make mistakes, whether it’s a typo, a miscommunication or a glitch, but for neurosurgeons, the impact of a mistake can lead to a life or death situation.  Christopher and Hani’s device works by indicating to surgeons, via vibrotactile feedback, when a force threshold has been exceeded, allowing the surgeon to adjust the amount of pressure they are exerting to avoid damaging the tissue.  Many existing haptic-feedback systems, particularly master-slave robotic platforms, are large, extremely complex, and costly. However, their approach is small, simple, and inexpensive, so it can be scaled up quite easily. 

“We are absolutely delighted to have won the IGHI Student Challenges Competition” said Christopher and Hani. “We are both very grateful to have had the opportunity to showcase our work; the prize money will be a huge help in enabling us to take the project forwards”.   

Nicolas KylilisLife Sciences PhD student Nicolas Kylilis was awarded 2nd place and funding of £2,500 for his idea for a new platform technology called DaPHNI for developing point-of-care medical diagnostic devices. The DaPHNI platform has the potential to have a large, multifaceted positive impact on global health both in developed countries, at healthcare centres, or as home diagnostic kits, as well as in developing countries.

Jacob Levi, Hiba Saleem-Danish and Amanda StenbaekOur Audience Choice Award of £1,000 went to 4th year medicine students Jacob Levi, Hiba Saleem-Danish and Amanda Stenbaek for their idea for a modernised Photovoice mobile app.  Their idea stemmed from the already existing platform Photovoice, which provides visual data for positive sociobehavioural, physical and environmental change.  Their new app works in the same notion as Photovoice, but provides a more cost effective tool, improving usability and widening access and aims to act as a platform for marginalised, disadvantaged communities lacking the power to express themselves.

Other entries covered a range of topics, including sixth year Medicine student Jing Ouyang’s idea for an online magazine for grassroots discussion in global health, Innovation Design Engineering student Vidhi Mehta, who presented her idea for an International Laboratory for the identification of antibacterial drugs and Ethan Tan, a Finance and Accounting student who told us about how we can use biotechnology to transform slum areas into self-sustaining eco-cities.

The judges and winnerThe finalists pitched their ideas to four high-level judges – Dr Richard Smith (IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, Director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group), Dr Paul Thompson (Rector of the Royal College of Art, Co-Director of IGHI’s HELIX Centre for Design in Healthcare and IGHI Adjunct Professor) and Imperial Innovations Healthcare Ventures Associates Drs Inga Deakin and Kathryn Owen. 

Professor YangProfessor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the competition and Deputy Director of IGHI said “The competition provided an excellent platform for Imperial students to showcase their research of international relevance. It was a difficult decision to choose a winner, as all the projects offered innovative approaches to tackling important global health issues. We look forward to next year’s competition and hope many more aspiring young innovators will participate”. 

Watch the full video recording of the event below:


YouTube placeholder



More photos of the event can be found on our Flickr pages here


Jo Seed

Jo Seed
Institute of Global Health Innovation

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Show all stories by this author