Handy Fasteners win £25000 award for innovation which helps arthritis sufferers


Three University of Sheffield graduates are helping people with limited dexterity who find fastening buttons a challenge.

Matt Barrett,  Natalie English and Tom Fantham, the team behind Handy Fasteners, have been awarded £25,000 by Arthritis Research UK to further develop their magnetic buttoned shirts for people with arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions. Handy-Fasteners is a set of magnetic buttons that can be retrofitted to any garment to replace fiddly buttons or fasteners.

The award was announced following the team’s progression through the prestigious Design Council Spark programme, a unique innovation fund and support programme designed to fast-track products to market.

Handy Fasteners beat over 300 entrants to participate in the rigorous 20-week programme. They were then encouraged to pitch for up to £50,000 from Arthritis Research UK as their product makes a real difference to people.

Matt, who graduated from Aerospace, is enjoying the unexpected direction his engineering pathway has taken:

“It’s been a weird but hugely exciting journey,” he says.  “The product development process has been really interesting and the look on people’s faces when they try out the shirts is amazing.”

It all started with the popular ‘Make a Change’ module which gives engineering students the opportunity to apply their theoretical engineering knowledge to solve real problems.

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, who tasks the students with designing commercially feasible products and solutions to a real problem, said:

“Once again our students evidence that with engineering skills they can and do make a change to people’s lives. I am incredibly proud to have taught these students and see their idea emerge and progress into a winning product.”

Liam O’Toole, Chief Executive of the charity Arthritis Research UK, said:

“Arthritis can stop you doing the little things that have a huge impact on your independence and confidence. If you have arthritis in your hands, using buttons and zips can make getting dressed independently really difficult. That’s why we are delighted to have been part of the Spark Awards and support the winning entry.”