Simon Bland in Tech & Digital

15/01/2016

Interview: Creative England Live 2016 Showcasing Company Citrus Suite on Creating Effective Healthcare Apps

To celebrate the breadth of creativity in the UK, we'll be inviting a selection of companies from various backgrounds to showcase at 'Creative England Live 2016: Catalyse'. 

One such company is Citrus Suite, a Liverpool based SME that's revolutionising the ways in which consumers engage with digital technology. Working with top clients such as Penguin Books US, Random House Digital and the BBC, this innovative team are currently in the process of finessing a selection of mobile health and well-being products for wide release in early 2016.

To find out more, we talked to company CEO Chris Morland about the history of his company,his advice to others working in the field of healthcare tech and his upcoming appearance at 'Creative England Live 2016: Catalyse'.

Hi Chris, can you give us a brief history of Citrus Suite?

I founded Citrus Suite in 2008 to provide creative software services. By 2010 we were focused on the development of smartphone apps for clients, working on a lot of projects for media companies and book publishers. Citrus’ tangible impact includes numerous hit apps (App Store #1s) and successes including an App of the Year accolade and Digital Book Award 2014. 

Citrus work with some of the world’s top companies & visionary organisations and were voted Creative England’s Future Leader in 2015; “Our ten Future Leaders were chosen by a panel of judges for their strong growth promise and their potential to disrupt the sector with true innovation.” 

What gap in the market did you hope to fill?   

Initially, it was coming up with service solutions for commercial clients, using the experience we had from the games industry and interactive software development and applying them to new business areas like book publishing and broadcasting. Later on it became apparent that there was a demand for our skills in the healthcare sector.   

We had a lot of approaches from hospitals, organisations assisting patients and pharmaceutical companies and it became a really key area for us, as we looked at how we could apply innovation, creativity and gamification in the healthcare sector. 

How does Citrus Suite use tech to engage with customers?   

We try and think about the end user and ways to engage them, making the apps fun using our experience of game design and product design to come up with the right solutions for each demographic.   

How did support from Creative England help Citrus Suite?

Creative England had funding available in just the area we were looking to grow our business. We were looking to build our own technology to support production of healthcare apps, health tracking apps, apps that allow patients to empower themselves to track their health. The particular funding that we applied for was really closely aligned to this. We felt Creative England were really switched on about the digital and creative sector in the UK and would be the right partner for us. 

What has the support allowed you to achieve?

The funding and support has enabled us to build core ‘mHealth’ technology that we can then leverage and use for projects in the healthcare sector. It means that we’ve got a framework that can be utilized and rebuilt for various clients with different requirements. In just a short space of time we doubled our head-count from the core team of 4 developers to 8 and have been able to focus on the right type of projects to help the company grow. 

What advice would you offer other companies developing healthcare tech?

To make an effective healthcare app you need the right knowledge partners – patients, healthcare professionals or academics. We’re app developers - we’re techies and design people - we don't necessarily know how to solve a problem from a clinical point of view, so I think it’s always important to get the right advice and get the right stakeholders involved. On apps we’ve made the project team has been made up of app developers, clinicians, service users, and researchers, and together we’ve identified the need and features of the apps.

You’re now working with Disney on a new healthcare project. How instrumental were Creative England in facilitating this connection?

Creative England were instrumental in facilitating the connection with Disney. Creative England invited Disney to the Future Leader event in 2015 and shortly after we found out about the Healthy Living Digital Project. We pitched a great idea and thankfully Disney picked us to develop a prototype. Without Creative England that connection just wouldn't have happened at all. 

What can you tell us about your Disney healthy living app - Fe Fi Fo Fit?

Fee Fi Fo Fit is an idea Citrus Suite had about eighteen months ago. The concept is to get children active and giving parents a tool to facilitate this. It felt like the right idea for the Healthy Living Digital Project.

Essentially Fee Fi Fo Fit gamifies walking and exercise. It tracks how far families have walked but then it rewards them with characters and story elements. So that is the initial Fe Fi Fo Fit idea but we’re doing lots of specific and original design and development with the Disney version. This prototype of the Disney app is in production at the moment (January 2016) and things are progressing really well.

'Creative England Live 2016' aims to bring small start-ups together with big brands and investors. How important do you feel these opportunities are for SMEs?

Opportunities like Creative England Live are really vital for new companies. It can be hard to make the right connections with potential investors or new customers. There are other events, but the real quality ones like Creative England Live are few and far between so it’s up to small companies to maximize these opportunities when they do come along.

What are your thoughts on the UK's creative economy?

The UK is a global leader in the creative industries. The sector brings billions into the UK economy and provides one in 11 jobs. Companies like Citrus Suite are providing one in six of all UK graduate jobs. That’s why it’s important that organisations like Creative England exist and continue to support, fund and grow the UK’s creative economy. 

Close to our home, Liverpool’s creative industries are growing and expanding fast and the Baltic Triangle where Citrus are based showcases many of these companies. Across the city-region there is an eclectic creative and digital community filled with 6800 businesses. This includes SMEs, freelancers, large corporate firms and sole traders, employing more than 48,000 people. There seems to be a real optimism around at the moment. 

What does the future hold for Citrus Suite?

Citrus have big plans for the next few years. We want to continue delivering great apps and software for clients while producing products that deliver significantly greater turnover for the company.

Our success as an app development agency is based on delivering rewarding user experience and insuring customer satisfaction with innovative products for emerging markets. We want this to continue with our new IP; we have a portfolio of creative mobile health products that we’ll be developing and launching in the near future. These original ideas are already attracting the attention of globally known organisations. With the help of Creative England we’re finding the right partners to take these ideas forward.


Head here to hear fellow 'Creative England Live 2016' showcasing companies Braci and MakerClub discuss the work they're doing and their role in our upcoming event. 

Find out more about 'Creative England Live 2016: Catalyse' by visiting our hub page and using the hashtag #CELive2016 to join the conversation on Twitter.

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