Insulin patch among ideas from Welsh 'digital dozen'

Cellnovo have developed a device and patch to manage insulin and diabetes
Image caption Cellnovo have developed a device and patch to manage insulin and diabetes

A wearable patch to manage insulin for diabetics is one of the ideas being developed by a "digital dozen" businesses looking to put Wales on the technological map.

It has taken Cellnovo more than a dozen years and tens of millions of pounds to bring its product to market.

The company employs 120 people in Bridgend and Swansea.

It is one of 12 firms being showcased by Innovation Point, set up to support technology start-ups.

Innovation Point was launched this week as a not-for-profit company and is a Welsh Government-supported venture with the private sector.

It will offer expert advice and help develop ideas and secure funding.

Cellnovo is a good example of how long the process can take.

It started as far back as 2002 and quickly identified type 1 diabetes as an area in which it could apply its technology.

The product is a wearable patch pump for insulin, which can be worn discreetly on the body.

It also comes with a touch-screen handheld device which controls the pump, but also enables people to record their activity and input blood/glucose readings.

This also connects to a medical database so patients or doctors can monitor how they are doing.

Dr Julian Shapley, founder and chief science officer, said: "The majority of patients take multiple daily injections - one in the morning of slow-acting insulin and then they have to inject themselves based on whatever they eat.

"Other than that there's the pump community - these are generally large belt-worn devices, with long tubes so you know you're wearing a medical device.

"We decided what we wanted to do was remove the visibility and add some consumer iPhone technology to it."

Getting the product to market had been a long journey but sales are now accelerating - the company also has an office in Paris - and have already increased to more than £330,000 for the last quarter.

"We started putting some designs together and building prototypes - back of an envelope details - and went out looking for investment and eventually got some venture capitalist funding in 2008," said Dr Shapley

As well as financial hurdles, the company had to go through the rigorous design and testing needed to pass the regulations required for medical devices.

Image copyright Thinkstock

The digital dozen

  • Amplyfi Ltd (Cardiff) has developed artificial intelligence technology to identify cyber or technology threats to business
  • Cellnovo (Swansea) has developed a connected all-in-one diabetes management system based on a micro-pump patch
  • Delio (Cardiff) provides investment platforms to connect financial institutions with private market investment opportunities
  • Devopsguys (Cardiff) already has a turnover of more than £3m a year. It helps companies streamline IT functions, freeing companies from the burden of "technical debt"
  • Doopoll (Cardiff) is an online platform to generate dynamic and visual polls for decision making
  • Echosec (Cardiff) has software that searches social media based on location to paint a picture of events in real-time as they unfold.
  • Elidir Health (Bangor) develops software and apps for smoother information flow in healthcare environments, including reducing patient waiting times and allowing hospitals, GPs and soon nurses to have clinical information at their fingertips.
  • Interceptor Solutions (Newport) has created LinguaSkin, a product that enables a multilingual interface to be created for websites and apps - intercepting web content after it is published
  • Learnium (Cardiff) is a social learning platform that enables students and teachers to connect, communicate and collaborate online
  • Noddlepod (Caerphilly) is a community-based learning tool for people to knowledge, support and learn from each other - building a knowledge database from community interactions
  • RWA (Blaenavon and Pembrokshire) e-learning solutions that focus on the learner and are now used around the world, including with 8,000 insurance brokers in the UK
  • Wealthify (Cardiff) is an online investment service aimed at making investing accessible and affordable - including the use of sliders for customers to tailor their plan.

The companies will be showcasing their technology at the Digital 2016 conference in Newport on 6-7 June.

A recent Tech Nation report found more than 43,000 are employed in the digital technology sector in Wales and it contributes £600m to the economy.

But 59% of businesses surveyed highlighted a limited talent supply as a problem while 48% identified accessing finance as another difficulty.

Dr Shapley welcomes the involvement of Innovation Point as providing expertise.

"We did quite well out of the Technium process when we were growing but there was always room for more advice, to get mentors to give knowledge and experience," he said.

"My advice is get yourself a mentor, speak to your friends and family - and ignore the nay-sayers."

The test for Innovation Point will be whether it can help companies like Cellnovo reach their potential, allowing the company to grow and create skilled jobs along the way.

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