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How SIGHT has been supporting businesses to develop future healthcare technologies since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • 20 May 2020
  • 6 min read

SIGHT (Supporting Innovation and Growth in Healthcare Technologies) is an ERDF-funded business support project led by the University of Portsmouth in conjunction with the Wessex CRN and Portsmouth Hospitals Trust, designed to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the healthcare sector.

The programme provides SMEs with the insight and specific evidence required to ensure their products meet real, identified market needs along with the necessary guidance and support to enter and expand in new healthcare markets.

Following the programme’s launch in November 2019, the SIGHT team has been proactively engaging with a wide range of SMEs across England. Through a range of activities including face to face meetings, conference calls, open workshop sessions and referrals, the team has directly engaged with 149 SMEs, 66 of which have already completed the documentation in order to become full members of the programme.

Since the country went into lockdown in late March, the SIGHT programme has been well-placed to provide guidance and support to SMEs, helping them to navigate the demands and pressures of the ever-evolving climate that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced.

COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge to UK business, so it has been heartening to see the rapid technology developments, undertaken by many of our members, in an effort to provide new products and services in the fight against the pandemic. The pandemic has also led to a number of new collaborative engagements emerging through SIGHT, positive outcomes which the programme will seek to support and facilitate post-COVID-19.

Dr Phil Jewell, SIGHT Business Development and Programme Manager

These engagements include signposting SIGHT members to numerous COVID-19-related funding calls from UKRI, Innovate UK, the Solent LEP and others. The team has also engaged with numerous SMEs and SIGHT members, providing knowledge and support for a wide variety of activities, such as:

  • Discussing local 3D printing support with medical device design companies such as XK Design Ltd, Innovative Group Organisation Ltd, NTL Biologica Ltd and GTR Composites (with a manufacturing taskforce set up to explore 3D printing and laser cutting manufacturing support for PPE creation).
  • Engaging with Midnight Consulting Ltd in order to support a new company they are co-forming with colleagues in the north of England in order to directly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic via technology development and parallel support services.
  • Supporting Exhalation Technologies Ltd in identifying CL4 lab space for rapid trial deployment opportunities of new COVID-19 related technologies.
  • Supporting Victor Higgs from Applied Nanodetectors Ltd with regards to the design of a COVID-19 related technology trial at PHT.
  • Working with Molli Baby Ltd to explore the pivoting of existing products to create a new oxygen delivery soother device for infants.
  • Exploring trial activity with Microlink PC Ltd with regards to a mental health headband and digital app which could support challenges around COVID-19 isolation.
  • Working with CareRooms Ltd to explore a SIGHT grant application for supporting home care for COVID-19 patients.
  • Discussing a grant application with Helicon Health Ltd for the support of their breath analysis technology which could be applied to COVID-19 testing.
  • Engaging with several companies (e.g. Piota Apps Ltd, Exhalation Health Ltd) to explore the accelerated trial of technologies at PTTU to help fight the pandemic.

SIGHT Grant scheme awards related to COVID-19

The SIGHT grant scheme has attracted a lot of interest from SME members of the programme, and the project selection panel has reviewed six full applications so far, with four awards being made, two of which have been COVID-19 related.

Airway Medical Ltd

An award of £1,587 has been made to Airway Medical Ltd for IP protection costs for a new respiratory device which has been rapidly designed and developed for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has invented a 3D printable airway suction device in response the Government’s Covid-19 Call. This new technology is 95% cheaper, 95% smaller and 99% lighter than the current technology. It can be rapidly scaled and manufactured at a rate of 2000 units to 1 of the current technology. It is just as effective and meets ISO 10079, the international standard for Laryngeal Suction.

NTL Biologica Ltd

NTL Biologica Ltd have been awarded £3,291.67 from the SIGHT programme grant scheme to support marketing costs for their new COVID-19 testing capability.
Due to their expertise in manufacturing kits, they have designed a process which allows them run antibody tests for between 500 & 1,000 people per day. The test is completed with a result obtained within 20 minutes.

The plan will be to target specific groups of people who require testing and drive the unit to the area required and test accordingly. The mobile element of the testing allows maximum flexibility and quick response to the needs as required.


If this has inspired you to find out more about the programme, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email at SIGHT@port.ac.uk and please do follow us on twitter @SIGHT_programme and visit our YouTube Channel for further information on the SIGHT programme and other initiatives.

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