Start-up company FreshCheck is developing low-cost products that verify surface hygiene quickly and easily. It has already produced a spray product, using its unique colour changing technology, and with Innovate UK EDGE support, is now working on a wipe version.
Its first product, FreshCheck Spray, is a very simple hygiene verification tool. All users need to do is to spray a surface and if it stays purple (the starting colour), then they know it’s clean. If the sprayed liquid changes colour, it means it’s not clean and there’s a risk of bacterial or chemical contamination.
The spray product was trialled and used by organisations operating in the food industry, including restaurants and abattoirs. The feedback from those organisations was that the idea was great, but they would prefer a swab version, in keeping with their current cleaning approach.
Innovate UK EDGE helps product reach market faster
Thanks to Innovate UK EDGE, which it approached in January 2021, it was able to address four key challenges to develop the swab idea into a product. These challenges were:
• support the development of the new product
• understand how to protect IP for the new product
• identify the product-market fit for the new product
• understand how to scale manufacturing of the product
During its intensive one-to-one support it benefitted from funded access to identify and protect its IP (via a £3,000 IP Audit Plus grant and a £5,000 IP Access grant) and a £15,000 Catapult grant to access cutting edge facilities.
With support from Innovate UK EDGE, it also was successful in attracting £625,000 in seed round funding: Innovate UK EDGE helped FreshCheck get investment ready through a variety of processes, including pitch deck refinement, identifying the product-market fit, creating a robust IP strategy tied to the overall business strategy, developing a product roadmap and identifying a suitable swab manufacturer.
All of these funds have helped FreshCheck meet those four challenges, hire three new members of staff and most importantly, make the swab concept a reality for its customers.
“The swab is a really easy product to use,” says Dr John Simpson, co-founder and CTO at FreshCheck. “It can be used anywhere, anytime and the colour change is very easy to interpret.”
Simpson says the support from Innovate UK EDGE has been invaluable. “It has been so helpful having them support us through our journey and streamlining our processes so that we can get to market faster. And this latest grant, the Catapult grant, has been fantastic as it has enabled us to get some 3D printed examples of our swab product, which are great to show and gain feedback from customers.”
The company now has a much-improved innovation strategy and management capability, as well as better innovation processes in areas such as IP and business development.
*The FreshCheck Swab is the first tool for hygiene verification since the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) swab was invented. Because of Covid-19, there is increased pressure on organisations to display hygiene verification, but traditional testing methods require a cumbersome machine, making it prohibitively expensive and challenging for small and medium sized organisations. Simpson says the swab and wipe will enable organisations of all sizes to check and verify hygiene standards. “Everyone can have better hygiene records as a result and everyone can share a gold standard for cleaning.”