Business partner: RNID and Geemarc

The RNID has used its partnership with a telecoms firm for practical ends

The RNID's partnership with telecommunications firm Geemarc is unusual in that it does not involve employees staggering around marathon courses dressed as giant hippos, can make no claims about its effect on staff morale and does not inspire eulogies about the perfect synergy between kindred brands. Instead, the partnership has the more practical function of making something.

The product is ScreenPhone, a subtitling telephone that enables older people with hearing disabilities to read the other side of the conversation.

"Private sector companies and charities often work together on awareness and fundraising campaigns, but we believe a joint project aimed at developing a new consumer product is very rare," says Mark Downs, executive director, technology and enterprise at the RNID.

Rare, but becoming less so. This is the second time the RNID has noticed a gap in the market, developed the idea for a product that will make life easier for deaf people, then outsourced its manufacture to a private company.

A third product with this lineage will be launched in the spring. "We are close to users," says Downs. "We spot opportunities where there is a product need, put together a product specification and look at who in the marketplace would be best placed to build it."

With ScreenPhone, the RNID went as far as producing a working model of the technology before entrusting the construction of the device to Geemarc.

The charity buys the finished product from the company and has the exclusive right to sell it. Since its launch in October last year, 650 have been sold and ScreenPhone has won an innovation award.

More collaborations between the two organisations are likely. "They are very good people to work with," says Marcel Grossman, chairman of Geemarc.

"We are talking with them all the time."

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