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Stix Mindfulness, Supporting children's wellbeing

Stix, a mindfulness tool, helps children cope with anxiety and anger, improving their wellbeing, as shown by research.

Research and development | Mentoring |

The need

According to NHS data from 2023, one in five children and young people in England aged eight to 16 years had a probable mental disorder. This can result in various forms of anxiety and depression, including restlessness, difficulty sleeping, and anger, among other things. Product Design graduate Liam Murphy was looking for a development project when he realized the answer lay close to home. He had grown up with a brother diagnosed with ADHD who disliked taking his medication but who received little well-being support through the NHS.

Liam began looking into alternative types of therapy and with the help of Brunel University has designed Stix mindfulness, the app controlled hand-held device to encourage a series of sensory activities suited to a child’s needs.

Liam says: “It’s surprising that exercises for mindfulness and relaxation are not part of the curriculum in primary and junior schools. The benefit of activities that calm and refocus the mind in children with ADHD and Special Educational Needs have been mapped in product research groups. We took this research into the development of the Stix remotes”. The research included working with a set of schools in Essex and Kent, engaging with parents through Facebook and enlisting the support of a small charity working in the field.

The solution

In 2020 Liam took part in the Central Research Laboratory Accelerator Programme which helped him develop the product and a business plan. To create the wellbeing content of the product, Liam engaged psychologists from Brunel University to observe the reactions to the hand-held devices in a small group of 9–10-year-olds. The four-week Stix mindfulness research training programme consisted of 12 activities, three completed daily. The children were interviewed each week and on completion. The outcome provided positive evidence of the mental health support Stix can offer.

Using a family start-up loan, together with grants from Innovate UK & Hillingdon Borough Council, the business got off the ground. Through trial and error, they continued to apply for grants, but it wasn’t until the RIEm workshops that Liam learned how to write a winning fundraising bid.

He was one of the first RIEm participants in the 2022 Edition, together with his co-founder and father, John. who, despite early retirement, has remained involved with the venture.

“Thanks to the expertise shared in the RIEm bid-writing workshop I know how to structure the application and fine-tune the key points. I now get the main points across more succinctly.” Liam enjoys presenting Stix in funding pitches whether online or in person because it’s his business, his ideas, and something he is passionate about. 

The outcome

In the first round of fundraising, Liam raised £300k in grants and £180k from investors. The second round for a further £250k has achieved £150k to date. He has taken part in business network competitions, and in panels which have led to personal introductions to private investors. As sales and credibility increase, Liam may consider venture capital as a means of scaling the business. His champion product – the one to emulate – is the kids screen-free audio player YOTO.

Stix Mindfulness remotes are manufactured in the UK and China. The early-stage business was based in the Central Research Laboratory co-working space, a partner of Brunel University, but for now operates remotely. The plans for 2024-25 are to increase sales to both schools as well as direct to parents. Attending trade shows, such as the TES SEN Show, is the ideal way to demonstrate the device and see the reactions from users. As well as increasing the budget for marketing, Liam expects to appoint a sales agent to cover schools that place multiple orders.

“I’m still in touch with the RIEm team and Dr Michael Joseph. Their expertise has been so valuable, and I would recommend the programme to anyone with an innovation that is looking for finance. We used trial and error in our quest for funds; now we know the correct formula to unlock investment.”

Liam Murphy, Founder, CEO Stix Mindfulness

“Liam has really made the most of what Brunel University London has to offer entrepreneurs. Working with experts at Brunel’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, taking part in the accelerator, and then joining the first RIEm programme is a great example of collaboration. This has also helped Liam to develop to sell the product of STIX to schools which came out of the unique partnership with Brunel.”

Dr Michael Joseph, Business Development Manager (Healthcare and MedTech) & RIEm Lead

Get in touch with the project team member(s) for this case study

Dr Michael Paratharayil Dr Michael Paratharayil
Email Dr Michael Paratharayil Business Development Manager
I have managed large partnerships for 15+ years in private sector, in over 25 countries including for a large Consultancy Group in senior management role. I have led capacity strengthening programmes in the UK and overseas on resource mobilisation and funding diversification. I have secured large funding and investment in health, education, research and innovation. I manage research and innovation and knowledge exchange partnerships with businesses and health sector actors in the field of Health and Med Tech innovation. I conceptualised and lead Brunel's award winning Research, Innovate and Emerge (RIEm) Programme to strengthen the capacity of businesses to optimise innovation and access funding to take the solution to the market. I am a member of Brunel’s Business Innovation Board and contribute to Early Career Academic Capacity Development Programmes and South Asia Regional Working Group in addition to innovation ecosystem management with businesses. I previously successfully led the delivery of Brunel’s Business Resilience Fund. I am a Vice Chair of UK Public Administration \Association (UKAPA). Reuters named me as one of the top 10 influential international programme managers in 2010. I speak at national and international conferences on innovation funding systems. I completed my PhD in Public Health and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). Connect with me on LinkedIn

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Case study last modified 07/06/2024

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