Advice from Innovate UK EDGE has helped a Cheshire-based company to apply successfully for Innovate UK funding, allowing it to produce an innovative medical device for distribution around the world.
Sometimes people with serious health issues – such as those who have had a stroke, suffer from gastric or intestinal problems, or have difficulty swallowing – need help with feeding. In hospitals this is often done through a nasogastric feeding tube, which goes in through the nose, down the oesophagus and into the stomach – or at least that’s what’s supposed to happen. Sometimes the tube can end up in the wrong place, such as in a lung: the results can be catastrophic.
Existing methods of testing the positioning of feeding tubes are very hit-and-miss, and even senior clinicians can misinterpret the results. But a Cheshire-based medical device manufacturer has developed an innovative device that helps clinicians know for sure whether a nasogastric feeding tube is in the right place.
New medical device increases safety
The NGPod medical device combines a chemical reagent with a fibre optic sensor: the reagent shows by its colour whether it is picking up the acidity that is found in the stomach, and the optic device is able to ‘see’ that colour with the tube still in place. The device then gives the clinician an easy-to-understand signal, showing whether the device is correctly positioned or not.
NGPod Global knew that it had a great product: in 2018 Innovate UK provided £247k in matched funding to pay for clinical trials, and these trials added greatly to the device’s credibility in the medical community, showing not just that it is clinically effective, and therefore safer for patients, but more cost-effective than the repeated x-rays that sometimes have to be taken to show that a tube is in the right place.
But when it came to scaling-up to manufacturing and selling the device, the company needed funding. It was at this stage that Innovate UK EDGE innovation and growth specialist Mike Skinner got involved.
Manufacturing at scale with an innovation loan
Realising that funding through an Innovate UK loan might be the best option, Mike and his team were able to provide valuable advice as NGPod Global put together its funding application. In 2020 this paid off: the bid was successful, and the company was awarded £927,000 to scale up production of the NGPod device.
As NGPod’s Communications Manager Cameron Thorpe describes it: “Mike gave us very straight advice, helping us to put the bid together. And the loan has been amazing for the business in terms of productivity, enabling us to perfect our manufacturing process and build a semi-automated manufacturing facility here in the UK.”
New jobs and international expansion
The five-year loan has already supported the development of a new manufacturing facility in Runcorn, with the creation of five new jobs. The increased production capacity that this has created, in turn, has enabled the company to sign deals with distributors in France: By the end of 2021 it will have distributors also lined up in Australia, New Zealand and Croatia, and in 2022 it will look to expand into the US and Asia.
In the UK, meanwhile, over 25 NHS Trusts in England, Wales and Scotland are currently considering introducing the device, and looking at the business case for using it. NGPod is now CE certified for use in the UK and the EU, and it is listed in the NHS Supply Chain Catalogue in England.
As Cameron Thorpe puts it: “It was investment that was much needed, and it came at the right time. Working with Mike and his team gave us the confidence to aim high.”