A small South Devon company supported by Enterprise Europe Network has begun production of the world’s first portable, real-time airborne asbestos warning device.
After a decade of academic and commercial development Alert Technology unveiled its ALERT PRO 1000 last September at the Contamination Expo event in Birmingham. It won the Asbestos Award for its disruptive potential in detecting the deadly fibres when disturbed and released into the air.
The patented, ultra-sensitive laser-beam technology saves on costly project delays for contractors engaged in asbestos removal and remediation but the biggest selling point is safety, protecting staff on site as well as the general public.
The ALERT also represents an extra value-added service for environmental consulting and monitoring firms to offer their clients.
EEN advisers, providing support within the Innovate UK family of services, helped the company to refine its innovation strategy and to adopt a more systematic approach to bringing its unique technology to market.
Licensing deals for global growth
Alert Technology, based in Paignton, has 30 ‘early adopter’ customers who will help to refine the product ahead of a wider market launch later this year. The company expects to sell 300 devices during 2020 but further manufacturing scale-up will be achieved through an existing sub-assembly partnership in the UK along with licensing deals for overseas expansion.
The firm has a number of distributors covering the UK, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands (Benelux), Sweden and Japan, with Australia a firm target too.
A financing round launched in the New Year has already attracted more than £700,000 towards the target of £1.5 million-£2 million. The company had raised £1 million from private investors in 2017.
The latest fund-raising effort has benefited from pitch training provided by EEN in the South West during 2019, initially for Pitchfest events.
Loretta King, marketing director, said: “It started with some brainstorming, on where we thought our strength and weaknesses were. Through Ed Tellwright, our EEN adviser, we then did some pitch preparation, presenting to Pitchfest and getting ready for the current investment round.
Potential in 30 or more industry sectors
“We also received EEN funding to work with an innovation management consultant, Jake Ronay, on our business planning, strategising, financials etc. It’s been a very beneficial relationship.”
She added: “With his insight and feedback, including what we’ve had back from investors, we most definitely clarified and honed in on our initial target market. The product is relevant to 30 or more industry sectors so it has been very much about focusing attention on where we go first.
“The next stage for us, with the ALERT PRO 2000 is to add wireless connectivity, GPS tracking and a cloud-based data platform, that will be offered as a Saas (software as a service) platform creating a recurring revenue channel for the business.
Alert Technology negotiated exclusive rights from the University of Hertfordshire to exploit its research and now has an EU-wide patent which will protect the technology in the asbestos detection market for 20 years. It employs complex algorithms that recognise asbestos fibres from the way they respond when exposed to a magnetic field.
Carried in a robust yellow case and with a list price of £10,000, the ALERT PRO 1000 is the only real-time warning device that can test for all the most common forms of asbestos. It captures data at around 600 particles per second and is the only device capable of distinguishing asbestos from other fibres in the air.
The monitor first displays a ‘suspected’ warning with an amber light, followed by an ‘ALERT’ message, with red light and audible alarm when enough asbestos fibres have been detected to be 99% sure of their presence. The operator carrying the 5kg, 33cm device can receive a result in a matter of minutes with as few as 10 to 30 fibres detected.
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Having an experienced, unbiased person review our business plan has been hugely beneficial – it’s possible at times to lose sight of the wood for the trees when you are so close to a plan.”
Loretta King, marketing director, Alert Technology Ltd