World IP Day 2022: how a school project became StairSteady mobility aid
Today marks World IP Day and with the 2022 event adopting the theme “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future”, we highlight some clients who have been innovating from a young age. One such young innovator is Ruth Amos, inventor of the StairSteady, who turned a school project into a successful business.
Tell us about the StairSteady
The StairSteady is a mobility aid that consists of a fixed handrail and a sliding handle, which acts as a support for either climbing or going down stairs. I designed the StairSteady as part of a GCSE resistant materials project when I was at Eckington School in Sheffield.
Our teacher challenged us to design an aid for people with limited mobility so they could use their stairs. The StairSteady was so successful that my school wanted to enter it into a competition. It was launched in April 2008 at Naidex, a national healthcare show, and then StairSteady Ltd started trading later that year.
What made you think about protecting your invention?
My first business partner advised me to look at patents and I was grateful for his recommendation. I was 16-years-old when I applied for my first patent. I always say to people that when they have a good idea they need to look at how they can protect it. As the StairSteady developed we contacted Forresters and they gave us the guidance we needed to be able to manufacture the product in the UK and abroad.
Was it daunting to be an inventor at such a young age?
It helped having confident adults around me – teachers, my parents and a local man called Reg who was able help guide me through the various steps. It has made me keen to encourage other young inventors, and so in 2017 I co-founded the YouTube channel Kids Invent Stuff. Young people have some fantastic ideas and it is great to give them a platform where they can see their ideas become a reality.
For example, we gave them a challenge to come up with inventions to help during the pandemic and we saw social distancing wings being created, which kept everyone two meters away. There was also a sweet rollercoaster so you could send treats to someone who was isolating in another room in your house.
What does the future hold?
I have a few projects in the pipeline and we still continue to sell the StairSteady across the UK and abroad. It is a really great time to be an inventor, as people can now build prototypes at home thanks to 3D printers. Also, tools and components are more accessible to help them put their creations together. There are some big problems in our society and it could be the next generation that provides us with the ideas and inventions we need to solve them.
Read our interview with Daniel Yuen, co-founder of sportswear brand Montirex, who co-founded the business aged 21 from his business partner’s home and now employs 13 people.