Innovate UK funding and support vital for fever screening tech launch

Spookfish directors John Robinson and Jouni Ronkainen pictured in front of a screen displaying their fever detection technology

© Spookfish

A Bristol-based business has launched a novel fever screening kiosk, revamped its marketing strategy, overcome an IP challenge and secured a £75,000 Innovate UK grant, all with help from Innovate UK EDGE.

Harlequin, developed by Spookfish Innovations, takes just 50 milliseconds to detect the main symptom of Covid-19 – a high temperature or fever – and is precise to within 0.25°C.

Unlike forehead scanners, the kiosk-based technology can be used while maintaining social distancing. It is also highly effective when testing larger numbers of people that have congregated together, as in shopping centres or airports. 

Dr Jouni Ronkainen, sales director, said: “We founded Spookfish as machine vision engineers and while we have knowledge of IP, marketing and sales forecasting, we’re not necessarily experts. That’s where Innovate UK EDGE’s specialists are so useful to us.”

IP infringement challenge resolved

Working with Innovate UK EDGE marketing specialist Maggie Robinson, Spookfish has overhauled its website, search engine optimisation and social media strategy. 

Jouni added: “Maggie has provided some great constructive feedback on our proposals and our social media feed is now far more professional.”

Innovate UK EDGE has also helped Spookfish resolve an IP infringement challenge through its IP specialist, Kate Butler.

Spookfish has been introduced to potential customers within the Innovate UK EDGE network in the South West too. One of them, a high-grade charcoal manufacturer has placed a valuable order for Spookfish’s machine vision cameras.

Access to funding and finance

When the pandemic struck, the UK Government called on industry to help provide novel solutions or pivot their existing technologies to help address the COVID challenge.

Spookfish responded, working closely with Innovate UK EDGE to pivot its thermal imaging R&D – initially focused on monitoring product defects in production lines – to create its fever screening kiosk.

Innovate UK EDGE’s Access to Funding and Finance manager, Dr Ben Masheder, identified Innovate UK’s COVID FastTrack funding competition and supported their application.

Jouni said: “We knew we had great tech and knew we could write well but knowing how to actually win a grant is a completely different ball game. Ben’s input was invaluable.

“Ultimately, the funding meant that we didn’t have to furlough anyone last year and we could get this technology off the ground quickly.” 

Harlequin has begun to see high sales in the Middle East and Asia. These regions that have not only experienced Covid-19 but have suffered previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS, and understand the importance of effective, safe and speedy fever screening.