A graphene startup that aims to use sensors to eradicate the problem of pressure ulcers has been awarded a £300,000 grant by Innovate UK.

Graphene Trace was founded in 2020 and has just been included in the ‘GM 125 Rising Stars of Business’ list, a joint initiative between BusinessCloud and GM Business Growth Hub.

The startup believes its proprietary sensor technology for wheelchair users and hospital inpatients could reduce pressure ulcer onset by up to 95 per cent – potentially saving the NHS billions of pounds.

CEO Scott Dean said the grant will fund the creation of a prototype for its pressure ulcer prevention technology and bring it a step closer to going to market.

He said: “The Innovate UK grant of £300k will be transformative for our startup, taking us from the proof of concept in lab we have now to a fully-fledged demonstrator prototype and begin trialling it with end users. We are in the process of fundraising for working capital to manage the grant project.”

Dean was one of a number of University of Manchester students on a Graphene NOWNANO programme at the National Graphene Institute when they developed the idea for their startup alongside their PhD.

He said: “We were all working in graphene so understood the potential applications, especially around sensor technology.

GM 125 Rising Stars of Business 2024

“The original idea was to use sensors to monitor a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnoea, in which a patient’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

“The idea was developed at a graphene hackathon in 2019 but when we started researching it there was a lot of pressure from clinicians to tackle ulcer prevention.”

Pressure ulcers account for 4 per cent of annual health spending in the UK despite the fact that 80-95 per cent are avoidable. It’s estimated that prevention of all avoidable pressure ulcers could save health providers in the UK up to £2.1bn per year.

Graphene Trace’s mission is to empower wheelchair users and hospitals to protect against pressure ulcers by developing a smart pressure sensing fabric that continuously monitors user pressure distribution and sends alerts when there is an increased risk of developing a pressure ulcer.

Dean said: “The Innovate UK grant is our biggest to date. I was very fortunate to take part in the Innovate UK Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme, which funded a global market research and customer validation journey. This ICURe programme was instrumental in us getting awarded the Innovate UK grant.

“I am a first-time co-founder and have been developing the idea alongside my PhD at the University of Manchester. Now having just completed my PhD the timing is perfect to really accelerate the growth of the idea.”

Dean said he was ‘thrilled’ that Graphene Trace had been included in the ‘GM 125 Rising Stars of Business’ list.

“It’s a validation of what we’re doing and we’re looking to see some of other companies on list at the launch event on May 17th,” he said.

GM 125 Rising Stars of Business 2024