Newcastle-based startup Sensmart has developed the UK’s first multisensory food menu that can help combat malnutrition and dehydration for people in hospitals or care homes.

Founded by mum-of-one Aisha Purvis, Sensmart is working with regional partners across the HealthTech sector to fine tune her innovative interactive menu – Numenyu.

Using first-hand experience from working in care homes, and for caring for her daughter who has Rett syndrome, Purvis,  came up with the idea to create a menu for use in hospitals or care homes that empowers individuals to actively engage and have choice in their daily dietary needs.

Individuals who are unable to verbally communicate their needs rely heavily on staff interpretation and care planning. Numenyu combines visual, tactile, auditory and olfactory (or smell) stimulation to ensure the product is accessible to a broad span of people.

Sensmart is now working with a range of specialised partners who are supporting her to take her idea into practice.

CPI, the Internet of Caring Things (IoCT) – which is led from the National Centre for Ageing in partnership with CPI and the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) – are collaborating to help the entrepreneur develop and share her innovation.

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Aisha Purvis, Sensmart founder, said: “I have first-hand experience of working with people experiencing communication challenges, and I wanted to create a more modernised approach to care planning.

“I included braille and aroma options on the menu which can help people with visual impairments or dementia. This helps give them a positive experience, stimulates their senses and can help them make better food choices, ultimately enhancing the both the patient carer experience.”

CPI specialise in working with innovative companies to develop new or improved products and processes, and help bring those products closer to commercialisation.

Through the ERDF PROSPECT programme, CPI helped  Purvis develop a number of scents so they accurately represented the aroma of cooked food such as ‘chip shop’ fish and chips, or a chicken roast dinner.

CPI is also supporting Purvis on the next phase of her product development through the ERDF Sonnet Programme.

Gillian Kears-Fricker, business development manager at CPI, said: “It has been a pleasure working with Aisha whose enthusiasm, and knowledge of her product and target market is infectious. We will continue to support Aisha as her business grows.”

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The IoCT, which is partly funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, helped Purvis gain valuable insights and feedback on the development and marketing of her product. They will continue to support Sensmart by raising awareness, helping to find sources of finance and other opportunities.

Claire Robinson, Cluster Manager for the IoCT, said: “The whole team have enjoyed working with Aisha and we are really looking forward to seeing how the product continues to develop and launches to market.

“We’re really excited to see this product that promotes healthy ageing and explores the future development of a connected app to support the use of the sensory menu in a care setting.”

The AHSN NENC works with innovators looking to work in health which not only improve the health of our population, but also support the local economy.

The AHSN NENC also receives funding from the North of Tyne Combined Authority, but helps innovators based anywhere in the region.

Jody Nichols, Associate Director of Health at the AHSN NENC, said: “We have been working closely with Aisha for the last 12 months to test and develop her idea. She is a fantastic example of the home grown, innovative talent we have in our region. We are looking forward seeing the opportunities that lie ahead for her and no doubt watching her business flourish in the future.”