Cancer surgeons benefit from University of Northampton expertise

Date 21.01.2020

Cancer surgeons and patients are set to benefit from a University of Northampton (UON) Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Lightpoint Medical.

Lightpoint, a surgical device company, teamed up with the University to enhance its product design capabilities, ensuring that its technologies were highly responsive to the complex demands of modern cancer surgery.

The company’s first product, SENSEI®, is a laparoscopic probe designed for real-time detection of cancer during minimally-invasive and robot-assisted surgery. The second, LightPath®, provides rapid molecular imaging of surgical tissue specimens in the operating room.

Both products are highly innovative and a step change in imaging and sensing capabilities for cancer surgery.

Lightpoint approached the University to benefit from its academic expertise in user-centred design with the aim of ultimately embedding this capability within the company and its design processes.

The two-year partnership saw three University academics from the disciplines of Product Design and Medical Physics share their expertise and knowledge with Lightpoint.

A UON-employed Creative Product Designer and KTP Associate, Francesca Oldfield, also worked full-time on the project, helping develop the technologies as well as conducting design research and usability studies with cancer surgeons.

As a result of the partnership, the SENSEI® probe, which is due for regulatory approval in the spring, has been designed closely alongside surgeons with novel easy-to-handle grip features and user-friendly feedback displays.

Stewart Forbes, engineering manager at Lightpoint, was impressed with the results of the KTP.

He said: “I am really impressed with the programme and the collaboration with the University of Northampton.

“The University team was able to provide us with invaluable insight and expertise in user-centred design.

“This has resulted in us refining our product development process to ensure we fully capture the needs of surgeons to make sure our products are as user friendly as possible, which not only makes the surgeon’s job easier, but also means patients benefit too.”

Joining Francesca in the UON KTP team were UON Product Design Senior Lecturers, Friedemann Schaber and Steve McGonigal, and Emeritus Professor of Medical Physics, Tony Denman.

Product Design undergraduates at the University also benefited from the KTP, as the UON team shared their knowledge about the process and the project content with them.

Friedemann said: “The KTP’s impact on learning and design product delivery to our students is significant, as we aim to embed real life practice into the curriculum.

The project has aided UON students and designers of the future. The students were exposed to a great role model in Francesca and given aspiration, competencies and options for a future working on KTPs.

He added: “The access to industry the KTP provides, and the way it allows us to build long-term relationships is exceptionally useful for academics. It allows us to embed our knowledge within a real-life project, while also developing our understanding and expertise at the same time.”

Pictured from left: Steve McGonigal, Stewart Forbes from Lightpoint, and UON’s Francesca Oldfield, Tony Denman, Friedemann Schaber.



Knowledge Transfer Partnership schemes link businesses with a university and a graduate to work on a specific project, which will enable businesses to grow and be innovative. The goal is to transfer expert know-how and skills into the company and provide new challenges and ideas to the University.

You can find out more about University of Northampton Knowledge Transfer Partnerships on the website.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.