“The Only Way to Predict your Future is to Know Your Past”
The above quote is a familiar, but important one. Today’s blog post is devoted to the ‘Father of MIME’, David Godden, a retired clinician and Professor from the University of Aberdeen. He is an inventor of the MIME technology. We’d like to share with you the early story of MIME Technologies’ journey and how our rural health roots have influenced our company mission:
- Take us back to when MIME started. 2010. How did it come about, and what made it an interesting project to be involved in?
Technology in healthcare was a key research theme of the Centre for Rural Health (CRH). When the University of Aberdeen was seeking a major UK Research Council grant related to the Digital Economy, we were the obvious candidates to lead the healthcare theme. MIME was the first project to be developed in the Digital Economy Hub. Together with computing science colleagues, we explored support for decision making and management of medical incidents and came up with the acronym “Managing Information in Medical Emergencies”. Alasdair Mort had completed his PhD with me on mountain rescue and emergency care in remote areas and continued developing the MIME technology after I retired. Interesting from the outset, the project addressed a real need for support in a scenario where highly skilled medical help is not always available.
- What makes the Highlands somewhere unique to conduct research and innovation?
There has been a close working research relationship between the Centre for Rural Health (CRH), the NHS and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE). In addition to being Director of CRH, I was also the NHS R&D Director for several years, during which activity in both sectors grew rapidly. The link with HIE was much closer than anything I had experienced in other NHS and academic research centres.
- How did you become Director of the Centre for Rural Health, what did you enjoy about the post?
I had a varied clinical and research career, having worked in human physiology, clinical trials, laboratory research and epidemiology in the UK, Canada and USA, combined with clinical training in anaesthetics, respiratory medicine and diving medicine. When a new research centre was proposed in Inverness in 2000, I moved from Aberdeen to become the first director. The post was hugely enjoyable, I worked with colleagues in many countries, including the USA, Australia and Scandinavia. I had the pleasure of working with MIME Technologies’ future founders Alasdair and Anne Roberts during that time. I stepped down before MIME commercialised only because I had developed multiple sclerosis and I could no longer give the Centre and the NHS the commitment that it required.
- Is it true you have your own ceilidh band and are writing your own album for charity?
Yes! I did have a ceilidh band for about 15 years and had great fun playing in venues across the Highlands. My current project is to write and record an album for an MS charity. The songs and tunes are now written, arrangements and recording still to be completed then watch this space…
- You also write novels. Can you tell us a bit about those?
After I retired in 2011, I published a novel, The Cure, which concerns a new treatment for MS and a corrupt researcher involved in a clinical trial. Bizarrely, I wrote the basic outline of the novel in 1999, six years before I was diagnosed, a case of life imitating art, though not in a good way. Of course, I had a whole new set of insights as a sufferer, rather than a doctor. I have since completed a second novel called The Privacy Thieves, about theft of medical data, although that one is not yet published.
- Did you ever think that a PhD project would end up being a spin-out company? Do you think that being a researcher is a good foundation for going into business?
I was delighted when MIME was commercialised. Alasdair came to the Centre from industry, I think that was an important factor in the success of MIME Technologies to date. Academic researchers can make great entrepreneurs. One of their frustrations is that their ideas often don’t get applied once the academic papers are published. The move into business can be particularly important.
- How does it feel to think your innovation will be used to support first aid on commercial airlines?
That is a wonderful development, the founders have identified a scale-able market, although not one I had seen coming at the beginning. Having said that, I have on numerous separate occasions on long and short haul flights had to respond to the “Is there a doctor onboard?” call. I know from first-hand experience what a challenging environment that is to look after a passenger, even for someone with full clinical training. I am sure MIME is going to be a huge benefit in commercial aviation.
- If there is one bit of feedback you would give to MIME's founders what would it be?
Keep your research, design and development thoroughly grounded in real life situations and speak to lots of end users! Developing systems that make the life of clinicians or first responders easier and enhances the service they deliver is the Holy Grail.