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Spark-ing up a win for Workey

For the last three years, we’ve teamed up with the Design Council on the Spark programme to support the development of assistive products that help people living with arthritis to live well and for those products to offer additional therapeutic benefit.  

The winners of 2016’s Spark award – Handy Fasteners have developed an online retro-fitting service, so you can post items of clothing to their team who will replace fiddly buttons with a handy magnetic alternative before returning to you. They used the funding awarded for their win to take their idea from initial concept to production in just twelve months. 

On the 12 September 2017 at the Spark Showcase event, the winner of the most recent Spark programme was revealed… 

Workey, the invention of architect, Geoff Rolandsen, was awarded funding of £50k plus continued business support.  


"the concept...grew from a sketch on the back of an envelope into a range of tried and tested prototypes". Geoff Rolandsen, Workey designer The Workey key turner is a product that helps ease the use and management of keys, with particular benefit to those with reduced hand dexterity. Geoff is a design manager with a degree in Architecture, based in London. He came up with the idea following the experience of his father, who suffers from reduced hand dexterity. 

Geoff explains; "We first discussed a concept for a sleek pocket-able tool which could overcome the shortfalls of existing products. Since that conversation the concept has stuck in my head and over time grew from a sketch on the back of an envelope into a range of tried and tested prototypes". 

People with arthritis have said that using keys to open doors is a big problem when your hands and wrists are in pain (or have limited strength). Workey is an extension that gives leverage so that less strength is required to turn the key. A workshop with people with arthritis took place in May 2017, where Geoff brought along a wooden box with makeshift doors on each side – representing different types of locks, keys and positioning. He received valuable insight from people who attended the workshop and made changes to the materials and design of Workey based on the feedback.

As the project moves forward, the plan is to develop a range of products based on the Workey design. You can keep up-to-date with the Workey brand through their website ( or on Twitter @The_Workey

The next round

As the Design Council announced the winner of Spark 3 at the showcase event, they also launched the next Spark programme, which we’re collaborating with them on once again. In January 2018, four of our patient insight partners joined a panel of design and engineering experts to select a top three for the next stage of the programme. The three desigers will be pitching their final products to the panel, including patient insight partners, on 4 June 2018.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.