Spotlight Series: Interview with Lucy Jung, CEO and co-founder of Charco Neurotech

07 Jun 2022

Spotlight Lucy Jung

Hub Member Lucy Jung has a background in industrial design, having studied it at university in her native South Korea. In 2019, she graduated from Imperial College London and Royal College of Art’s Innovation Design Engineering course, honing her passion for designing for people with long term conditions. Projects she has been involved in, include a BBC featured  project called the Arc pen, a pen for patients with micrographia. She also made a name for herself with UK Paralympian athletes by developing the Bruise range of clothing designed to detect high impacts and potential injuries.

In your own words what is Charco Neurotech? 

Charco Neurotech is a multidisciplinary team brought together by one common purpose: to bring back smiles for people with Parkinson’s. We achieve this through CUE1, a non-invasive, wearable device to alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms.

The CUE1 delivers two therapies: focused stimulation and cueing. Cueing is a visual, tactile or auditory rhythmic signal, which has been clinically validated through numerous studies and research, to help with repetitive movements in Parkinson’s patients. CUE1 is delivered in vibrotactile form via wearable technology on the skin.

Charco has also developed a CUE APP to be used in tandem with the CUE1 device to maximise patient-centred control during treatment. Among other features, users can control the settings of their device through the app, play games through which the user’s symptoms may be tracked, and complete a quality-of-life questionnaire (encompassing symptoms related to both physical and mental wellbeing). The intention is for this app to be of equal use to both clinicians and people with Parkinson’s.

How did you realise that this was a problem that needed solving?

During my research for an unrelated university project, I met with a gentleman who told me, ‘Parkinson’s has taken away my smile. Even when I’m happy, I look angry.’ The reduced facial movement caused by his condition had significantly impacted how he could express himself.

Another gentleman with Parkinson's shared that sitting on a massage chair helped with his symptoms and from then on, we started looking into using stimulation to reduce motor symptoms of Parkinson's. This research would eventually inform the development of the CUE1.

What was the moment that made you think “I can turn this into a commercial opportunity”?

When people with Parkinson’s saw the potential that the CUE1 could have for their own lives, we realised that our ultimate goal should be to bring the CUE1 to everyone who could benefit from it. Commercialisation was important to achieve this goal, as was research and development.

Wading into unknown territory can be unsettling – what were you most excited by and what was most challenging for you when starting out? 

The biggest challenges for me have always been equal parts daunting and exciting. Taking a medical device from the lab and into the real world is a challenging process - and may have looked insurmountable at times - but we’ve always managed to stay grounded when issues arise. Soon after starting Charco, COVID-19 lockdown happened. As a hardware startup, our work required a lot of user engagement, prototyping, and product testing. This resulted in some big challenges for the team but we were able to find ways to work together - using virtual meetings, or sending files that could be 3D printed whilst keeping to social distancing rules.

What made you decide to have a career in engineering?

For me, engineering has been a way to transform cobbled-together prototypes into a fully functioning device; to make ideas into a reality. To be able to make that leap never ceases to amaze me. Identifying problems and solving an issue using technology has always been my passion and interest. 

International Women in Engineering Day is celebrated annually on 23 June. This year’s theme is Inventors & Innovators. As of June 2021, only 16.5% of the engineering workforce are women. How do you think we can encourage more women to join the profession?

There is more and more talent entering into the space, particularly as more focus is placed on encouraging young women and girls into STEM careers. Making sure that women are given opportunities and exposure to STEM-based education and career paths is important. Women who are working in the sector sharing their experience and knowledge to mentor is also helpful. 

Can you share a time when failure mattered in your business journey? 

As the old adage goes, it’s not the failure but how you react to it that matters. I value every challenge we’ve faced - each one has made us question and reaffirm what we are doing, why we are doing it, and who we are doing it for.  

What has been the most surprising aspect about your entrepreneurial journey?

That it is a constant learning curve and because of that, it has been such an exciting journey. There are new challenges everyday coming from a different area, such as manufacturing, user testing, finance, or operations. I have learnt from other founders that this is very normal. It’s not about whether there was an issue (as there always will be), but about how you dealt with it and what you learnt from it. 

The biggest learning is that there are incredible people out there who are willing to help you. We were able to get lots of support from experts in building Charco. 

What impact has the Shott Scale Up Accelerator had on your business so far? What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt?

The programme gave me a great opportunity to reflect upon myself. Unlike most lectures where we learn about technical skills, the Shott Scale Up Accelerator introduces various methods as to what kind of leadership style suits me the best and what the purpose of my role is.

For the leadership course, I went for an authentic leadership development course at Harvard. Although it was a short five days, the course introduced me to self-awareness and self-reflection which played an essential part in developing myself. In addition, I was able to meet some incredible people who shared their invaluable advice. I have been recommending the programme to everyone since I joined!

Have you got any tips for potential applicants?

I believe that finding the right time to apply for the accelerator is important. If your business is too early, I recommend waiting until the team and the business grows, so that the programme can deliver the best value. A key question to ask yourself is which skills you really need to develop  to lead the company and what challenges the company is facing, so the accelerator can help. 

Quick fire questions

Who is your role model?  My parents 

Tell us a random fact not many people know about you. I don’t like chocolate

What’s your guilty pleasure?  I love eating at midnight when the world is quiet

When I was a child, I wanted to be… President

I am currently bingeing [tv show] on Netflix/Prime… Hotel Deluna

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received? If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t doing enough. (doesn’t mean that you should be making lots of mistakes!) 

Conversely, what has been the worst piece of advice?  Job title doesn’t matter (It so does matter)

I don’t understand why… people complain about UK weather 

To follow Charco Neurotech's progress, you can check out their website and follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also learn more about the support we provide through our Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme.

The Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub supports the UK’s brightest technology and engineering entrepreneurs to realise their potential.

We run three programmes for entrepreneurial engineers at different career stages. Each one offers equity-free funding, an extended programme of mentorship and coaching, and a lifetime of support through connection to an exceptional community of engineers and innovators.

The Enterprise Hub focuses on supporting individuals and fostering their potential in the long term, taking nothing in return. This sets us apart from the usual ‘accelerator’ model. The Enterprise Hub’s programmes last between 6 and 12 months, and all programmes give entrepreneurs lifelong access to an unrivalled community of mentors and alumni.

Our goal is to encourage creativity and innovation in engineering for the benefit of all. By fostering lasting, exceptional connections between talent and expertise, we aim to create a virtuous cycle of innovation that can deliver on this ambition.

The Enterprise Hub was formally launched in April 2013. Since then, we have supported over 270 researchers, recent graduates and SME leaders to start up and scale up businesses that can give practical application to their inventions. We’ve awarded over £9.5 million in grant funding, and our Hub Members have gone on to raise over £575 million in additional funding.


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