NCAD’s Partnership with Hollister

Since 2009, NCAD has run an innovative masters programme in Medical Device Design, aimed at providing students with the knowledge and expertise needed to work as designers of high-quality medical devices and to pioneer new approaches to solving medical problems.

Our design programme is run in collaboration with University College Dublin (UCD) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD).  Its success hinges on this collaboration: the skills and ethos of the three colleges – merging our design expertise with the track records of UCD and TCD in engineering and science – combine to provide a rigorous approach resulting in innovative products. 

A key feature of the MsC in Medical Device Design is that industry projects run alongside taught modules.  Each project is six to eight weeks in duration and may be individual or team-based. Projects always require considerable research and often involve visits to hospitals and other specialist sites.  There are regular tutorials from industry personnel and practising designers.  Projects conclude with formal presentations of high-quality visuals, drawings, models and research reports. 

One of the client research partners that has worked closely with NCAD on the delivery of these industry projects is Hollister Incorporated, an independently-owned global company that develops, manufactures and markets healthcare products for ostomy care, wound care and continence care in over 90 countries worldwide.  In Ireland, the company has its headquarters at Citywest in Dublin, as well as a manufacturing facility in Ballina, Co. Mayo. 

NCAD Medical Device Design has worked on projects with Hollister’s design and product development team in Ballina for the past five years, mainly in the areas of incontinence care and intermittent catheters. 

Intermittent catheterisation is a medical technique used when patients need short-term catheter-based management of the urinary bladder.  Intermittent catheters are disposable devices used to drain the bladder several times a day.  Many patients who need to use intermittent catheters are wheelchair- bound and may have other dexterity issues due to their disability. 

Catheterisation can be intimidating, particularly for first-time patients, and this can lead to difficulties in the usage of catheter products.  Carrying and using catheters also causes feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment amongst some people, leading to users limiting their interaction with the outside world.  And so what looks like a very simple product to drain the bladder has many complex and emotive issues associated with it. 

Human-centred research and product development is a vital part of Hollister’s work.  Gaining insights into intermittent catheterisation use – and the social and emotional difficulties that go along with it – allows Hollister to generate new, improved human-centred designs.  The company works with our Medical Device Design students on an ongoing basis to enhance its product offering.  The students’ empathetic design process and capacity to continuously re-imagine existing products result in a pipeline of fresh ideas for Hollister.  Some of these ideas are now emerging as new products on the market, while many others are in the product development process. 

The innovative partnership between NCAD, Hollister and other industry partners means that, by the end of our Medical Device Design programme, each student has a significant portfolio of completed design work and a comprehensive knowledge of the medical device arena.