Currently in his third year of the BEng Product Design Engineering course at DMEM Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management at University of Strathclyde, Robbie MacIsaac has bagpiped since the age of 15, allowing him to travel around the world to do so. This experience enabled Robbie to come up with a solution to a potentially deadly health issue that affects pipers on a global scale; piper’s lung disease. Also known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, piper’s lung is caused by exposure to fungus from moisture within the instrument.
Combining his knowledge of bagpipes and the skills he acquired from his university course, Robbie came up with the idea for The FLUX Blowpipe, an innovative device that controls moisture levels within the pipe by trapping it within an absorption chamber before it can start circulating in the bag. The FLUX Blowpipe drastically prolongs the lifespan of the instrument before moisture takes effect, thereby reducing the risk of piper’s lung disease.
Robbie received support from Strathclyde Inspire soon after beginning his course: “For me, it was important to expand my network whilst in University, and the team helped me tremendously in the foundation building of my company.” Following this, Robbie was invited to join the university’s Accelerator Programme, which helped him to grow his company and network. He received a variety of support from the Strathclyde Inspire Supporters, who still work with MacIsaac Ltd today. They helped guide and mentor Robbie on things, such as legal issues and insurance.
Through the Accelerator programme, Robbie won a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitching competition funded by Santander Universities. Securing a grant of £7,300, Robbie was able to begin building a team and ensure business contracts were in order, ultimately allowing him to get the business to market. MacIsaac Ltd was registered as a company in January 2019 in order to manufacture and bring to market the FLUX Blowpipe, an important innovation for the Bagpipe Industry.
Robbie has received a variety of awards and accolades for his business idea to date, including the ‘UK’s Most Innovative Young Engineer 2017’ by the Manufacturing Technologies Association; Scottish Wild Card Edge Winner 2019; Scottish Young Edge Winner 2020; SIE Fresh Ideas Winner 2020 and Converge Creative Runner Up 2020. These competition wins helped Robbie secure five-figure funding which enabled the development of The FLUX Blowpipe. More recently in 2021, Robbie was a finalist in the Made in Scotland ‘Innovation of the Year’ Awards.
Robbie offered some advice to budding entrepreneurs:
As an engineer I focus on details and often spend too much time trying to make sure everything is perfect. However, in business and entrepreneurship, things can change quickly. It is important to be reactive and adaptable. Think sustainably; can you learn some new skills such as book-keeping or social media to save some cost in the beginning? You can always outsource these things down the line when you can afford to. When it comes to branding, leverage your success to get exposure and build credibility, so your customers understand why they should invest their money in your product.