Dr Kieren Egan is an experienced Research Fellow within the Digital Health and Wellness team at the University of Strathclyde. He leads a team of researchers who are developing a mobile app, “CareFit”, that is designed to support informal caregivers to undertake regular physical activity from home during and beyond COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr Egan was motivated to start the development of ‘CareFit’ after working in the field of caregiver research and dementia for a number of years. Through this work experience, Dr Egan learned more about the large volume of informal, unpaid carers across the world. In Scotland alone, he noted there are 700,000 informal carers and he is interested to develop long last efforts that could support mental and physical wellbeing.
As Dr Egan explains, all caregivers face different situations, with varying levels of hours caring per week and situations (e.g. condition cared for, their own health and available support). What is common amongst informal carers, however, is that many experience poor mental or physical health, or indeed both. National survey data in the UK suggests that a staggering 72% of carers report mental ill health, whilst 61% report physical ill health.
Upon identifying a gap in the physical activity space for caregivers, Kieren and his collaborative team (including Prof Roma Maguire, Dr Mark Dunlop, Dr Alison Kirk, William Hodgson and Dr Gennaro Imperatore) began in earnest the development of ‘CareFit’, a mobile app that is designed to educate and support carers in the undertaking of regular physical activity from home during and beyond COVID-19 restrictions
Working within a digital health environment at the University of Strathclyde, Dr Egan was able to develop an app prototype and from there ideas flourished, particularly he explains as a result of working with the University of Strathclyde Carers Group and colleagues across Computer Science and Physical Activity for Health. Key collaborators have also included Patricia Clark from Carers Scotland, alongside colleagues from Strathclyde Sport. Dr Egan also acknowledges the extensive support he received from the University of Strathclyde, in particular from Strathclyde Inspire and the expertise of their IP & Commercialisation team:
As a researcher, I’m really motivated by the concept of undertaking evidence-based science and maximising the chances of implementation, so citizens can use it. I feel the Strathclyde environment supports this vision through its vibrant co-design culture, complementary academic disciplines, and the unique Strathclyde Inspire environment that allows entrepreneurs and innovators to upskill, learn and speak with confidence to new partners about your ideas and aspirations.
Dr Egan further highlights importance for potential entrepreneurs to find something which really motivates them. He urges future entrepreneurs and innovators to believe in themselves and their ideas, and to keep building on evidence to support these ideas. He recalls hearing pitches for concepts and investments from his time at the University of Strathclyde. He was particularly struck by the energy and enthusiasm. In his words: “you can just feel it when someone loves what they are doing”.
Dr Egan offered advice for those who would like to get involved in entrepreneurship:
There is no set course for entrepreneurial experience - progress is unlikely to be linear. It’s common that you’ll have setbacks and feedback you don’t expect. For me, an important approach has been to take these opportunities for growth, not just for the company, but also for me professionally. Taking everything together, the opportunity to bridge the gap between research knowledge and practice is an exciting space. It has been one of the most rewarding journeys of my career to date and it’s something I’d certainly recommend to others.