For the series “a chat with the team”: Robin Taylor, CTO and Co-Founder
Updated: May 7
Dr Robin Taylor, our CTO and Co-Founder, has worked in the field of medical device development for over 15 years, 10 of which spent developing advanced optical measurement techniques. He has extensive expertise across all the key engineering disciplines including software, electronics, mechanical and optical engineering. He has developed devices for use in numerous applications across the medical, industrial and research sectors. He has led multidisciplinary teams on complex projects from which he has gained significant risk and project management experience.
He completed his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Aston University in 2008 in the field of surgical robotics. He designed and successfully deployed the first ever fully autonomous surgical robot in the operating theatre. Shortly after completing his PhD, Robin accepted a position at Lein Applied Diagnostics where he took the lead in the development of their optical measurement technology. Throughout his time at Lein, he developed significant expertise in the field of optical metrology and developed numerous devices for a wide variety of applications.
In 2009, he was nominated for Design Engineer of the Year in the British Engineering Excellence Awards and was awarded a commendation for his work at Lein which saw the development of their first fully embedded hand-held prototype.
In 2019 he co-founded Occuity with the aim of applying his expertise in novel optical measurement techniques to the medical diagnostics market.
We asked Robin for a coffee and had an interesting chat with him. Read below all we talked about!
Why did you decide to develop a MedTech device? Had you always wanted to work in this field?
I have always had a passion for engineering since I was very young. I had a deep fascination of how things worked, why they were built the way they were, and how they could be improved. This fascination is really what has been the driving force behind the multidisciplinary nature of my career starting with my degree in Electro-mechanical Engineering.
It was while studying my degree that my interest in medical engineering began. I was always interested in robotics, or more specifically animatronics. I had a family member that made prosthetic limbs and had visions of designing fully articulated robotic limbs. Electro-mechanical engineering seemed like a natural choice and my interest in medical engineering grew from there.
Why did you decide to focus on Diabetes?
Purely by chance one of the projects I was offered for my final year dissertation was based on the development of a system for determining blood glucose levels in-vitro using absorption photometry.
The project sounded really interesting and the more I looked into it the more I was drawn to it. It was through this project that I discovered the scale of the diabetes problem and how much technologies like this could improve the lives of so many people. This realisation drove me to push the project as far as I could and, as a result, I received an IMECH award for best project and my supervisor convinced me to pursue a PhD as part of a grant application to continue my work. Although the application did not progress the interest in the field remained and I was lucky to be given the opportunity to pursue it once more.
How does it feel now to see your start-up grow so much?
It feels fantastic to see what started with Dan and Myself in my garage grow into what Occuity has now become.
The level of interest our vision has generated has been amazing and we are very excited to be launching our crowdfunding campaign in order to allow the community we have built up to share in what we hope to build at Occuity.
We have very ambitious plans which at times seem daunting, but I look back at what the team have achieved over the last 12 months and we have come so far in such a short span of time. We have an excellent team in place and this fills me with confidence for the future.
Where did the name "Occuity" come from?
I wish I could say I came up with it! Full credit goes to Mark Jenkins, our COO, for this one.
Mark have been hugely supportive from the very start. We were knocking around ideas for the company name, and I believe it came from a combination of Ocular and Acuity. Ocular meaning ‘of or connected to with the eyes or vision’ and Acuity meaning ‘sharpness or keenness of thought or vision’, these attributes are very apt.
We have a very clear vision for Occuity and that is to use our technology to create a range of non-contact, handheld devices that we hope will revolutionise the way chronic diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s are diagnosed and monitored.
I feel that Occuity is a great name and we have developed a very strong brand.
What are the ideas for the future of Occuity?
I would love to see Occuity at the forefront of innovation and design of medical devices. Our technology is safe, compact and cost effective and has numerous applications. I would like to develop a range of devices that will offer a broad range of screening, diagnostic and monitoring capabilities. We have a strong focus on ease of use and, by their very nature, these devices will facilitate access to these capabilities ordinarily only found in hospitals. It is my hope that this will lead to a step change in the treatment of chronic diseases by using screening to identify those at risk before these conditions progress to the point that more extensive treatment is required.
What is important to you when recruiting new people?
One of the most important things we look for is people who buy into the vision we have for Occuity. These are people who want to use their skills to improve the lives of others, people who love what they do and are driven to succeed. At Occuity we set ourselves ambitious goals. We feel strongly that if you do not challenge yourselves, it stifles innovation and limits creativity.
We value team players with a can-do attitude who are not afraid to contribute or challenge the norm. Doing something the way it has always been done does not mean there is not a better way.
What are Occuity’s values? Why are they important and how are you helping the creation of such a culture in the business?
Innovation: We value innovation above all else. It drives our technology forward, it overcomes some of our biggest challenges and broadens our capabilities. It is through innovation that we will achieve our goals. We actively encourage this in every aspect of the business, we challenge ourselves, encourage why and how we do things and constantly look for ways to improve.
Humanity: This is perhaps one of the more challenging values to qualify, but it is core to what we are trying to achieve. It is by understanding the needs of patients, understanding the challenges they face and how it affects them that is key to designing products that will truly make a difference to their lives. We aim to achieve this by engaging with the community early in the process and drawing on that wealth of experience to feed into the design of our products.
Accessibility: Accessibility is about ensuring our products are able to reach as wide a population as possible and have the greatest impact on quality of life. This can be addressed in many ways, for example making devices portable, affordable, easy to use and widely available. However, it goes beyond this: accessibility also includes barriers to use such as making the use of a device discrete, considerate design so patients and clinicians wish to use it. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, encouraging and supporting the use of these devices to make it normal, to remove the stigma associated with self-testing so people feel comfortable performing measurements and empowered by the information they provide.