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ICURe was instrumental in helping me take my creative-tech business forward

ICURe was instrumental in helping me take my creative-tech business forward

Rachael Malthouse, Founder of Jam Up!, tells us about her experience on the broadcast media, digital and AI-focused ICURe Discover programme.

Traditionally, the Innovate UK-funded ICURe Programme has been targeted towards high technology research projects, focusing on areas like engineering, life sciences and biotechnologies. However, this pilot Discover programme shifted the focus towards the creative sector, open to innovators working on projects across the arts, design, broadcast media, digital media, arts & design-based AI.

Rachael, and her app, Jam Up! were part of this exciting first cohort.

Jam Up! was born eighteen months ago from a need for Rachael to find a way to encourage her autistic son to get up and dressed in the morning. More than one in one hundred people are on the autistic spectrum in the UK. Autistic children typically present with social deficits, communication difficulties and repetitive or restricted behaviours. This often impacts the ability for autistic children to complete essential everyday tasks, due to the challenges these children experience with planning, initiating and sequencing tasks. In addition, sensory needs compound this issue further, affecting not only the child but also those who care for them. This was the case for Rachael and her family.

“Any kind of everyday task, he finds either really overwhelming, pointless or boring, and every single thing rose into some form of friction. Getting out of the house in the mornings, or even just getting to school on time, was becoming a real challenge, and that was affecting everyone in our family.”

The app – a digital toolbox designed to empower autistic children to gain autonomy with getting dressed using gamification – encourages children to complete daily tasks with help from their animated pet. This solution can be tailored to each child and their individual needs, with a feedback loop implemented to encourage additional learning. Evidence-based educational videos and daily top tips developed and delivered by healthcare professionals provide timely support to parents and carers whilst the child establishes routine through the use of the app.


So, how did the Jam Up! solution start out?

I’ve been a physiotherapist for almost 20 years and am currently doing my PhD at the University of Plymouth, exploring how people in supported housing use technology in their everyday lives. This background combined with my lived experience of supporting my autistic son enabled me to recognise that if I could combine James’ love of gaming and computers with the everyday tasks that he struggles with, that might help him get things done in the morning.

We started the process by speaking to other parents with autistic children and it became clear that there really was a need for a product like Jam Up! – something that could not only engage but also encourage children to gain their independence.

We started working on a wireframe prototype with help from some grants from EPIC, but I knew ultimately that the app needed to be evidence-based and co-produced. This was when I started looking for additional support opportunities that could help us take our wireframe onto the next stage. During this time, we had also managed to gain a handful of additional grants, which helped us develop the product to the MVP stage that we eventually took into ICURe.


What were some of your main takeaways from ICURe Discover?

Making time for discussions with others in your space and potential partners is key to success. Through the ICURe programme, we had the opportunity to do that, and this marketing discovery process was incredibly beneficial for encouraging us to engage with others to improve our offering. ICURE supported us with networking and considering other connections  I wouldn’t necessarily have considered before taking part in the programme. That was one of the most important things I’ve taken from ICURe.

Also, just be bold and brave. It’s amazing how many people out there will want to help you—all you have to do is get out there and ask. I became much braver in reaching out to people and even bigger companies, who nearly all came back to me with help and advice. 


So, what’s been happening since the end of the programme?

A lot has been happening actually and it’s been really positive! We came runner-up in the Essex Care-Tech challenge in February 2024, a ten-week-long project aimed at developing and pilot testing the app, with help from seventy-plus autistic children, parents and carers from across Essex.

We’re also looking to raise another £40k in funding to contribute towards our launch in May and have been taken under the wing of STRIDE at the University of Plymouth. They’ve given us two interns who have just started working on Jam Up!’s marketing and enabled us to work with Film Studies students who are creating a short documentary about our journey so far.

It just feels like we’re on a really positive trajectory at the moment, and ICURe was definitely a huge part of that process.


What would you say to others considering ICURe for the next step of their journey?

As an innovator, you spend quite a lot of time working on your own. Having the time, space, and access to such a useful network of support with in a highly dynamic environment was really useful.

It’s an excellent investment of your time. For just one afternoon a week, you get so much out of it that it’s worth juggling other commitments to fit everything in. Everyone, from fellow participants to the mentors and trainers were so incredibly supportive.

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