iiCON supports Merseyside SMEs to turbo-charge regional innovation

iiCON: Infection Innovation Consortium is providing a shot in the arm for regional innovation - supporting Merseyside SMEs to develop 13 new products since launching in September 2020.

Through the consortium’s Merseyside SME Support Programme, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, iiCON provides eligible SMEs with no-cost access to world-leading research expertise and outstanding R&D facilities at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine & The University of Liverpool. This helps small companies to fast-track innovation and overcome barriers to market.

Since launching 18 months ago, the consortium’s SME programme has now completed projects for over 20 Merseyside based companies and is working with many more – providing them with access to expertise and resources to accelerate product discovery and development.

iiCON’s SME platform works with companies from a huge variety of sectors and provides support across three specialist platforms: Diagnostic Evaluation, Surface Analysis, and Antimicrobial Testing – helping companies to assess their products and evaluate their antibacterial performance.

Dr Lisa Baldwin leads iiCON’s Merseyside SME Support programme, she said: “It’s been fantastic to see the innovation coming through companies within Merseyside and to be working closely with them to really super-charge this potential and support them in progressing their products and overcoming product development barriers.

“We’ve worked with some brilliant businesses over the last 18 months – and it’s not just healthcare, we work with companies from a really wide range of sectors including manufacturers, salons, gyms, all the way through to food manufacturers and engineering companies to provide expert analysis and evaluate their products’ antibacterial performance.

“Our programme bridges the gap between smaller, nimble businesses working on important innovations, and the world-leading research expertise and facilities within our leading Liverpool institutions – LSTM and University of Liverpool. This provides companies with unparalleled access to state-of-the-art R&D equipment and facilities, coupled with insight and expertise from world-leading research leaders in antimicrobial testing, which is a truly powerful combination when it comes to developing pioneering innovations.”

Companies that have been supported through the consortium’s SME programme include Merseyside SME design group 4D Products, SafeClimb, a company that designs, manufactures and maintains height safety equipment. Specialist materials company Shimyatech was supported to evaluate its proprietary metal coatings, while Liverpool SME MAST Group worked with iiCON to access specialist testing and analysis of its COVID-19 diagnostics products by LSTM.

iiCON has also supported the development of break-through novel technology developed by Nano Biosols, an SME based at Liverpool Science Park, to enhance the sensitivity of lateral flow tests. After working with iiCON and LSTM to assess its test, the company has filed a patent for the product and is progressing its development.

Another Merseyside start-up Bio Data Networks Limited (BDN) was supported in bringing forward a set of promising new surveillance devices to detect outbreaks of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases across communities. The company’s innovative sewage monitoring system can provide an early warning of outbreaks of infectious diseases and was tested and assessed by iiCON lead-partner, LSTM.

While a trio of products developed by Real Sphere Eco World, a Wirral-based manufacturer of eco-friendly cleaning products, underwent specialist product testing by the expert team at LSTM through iiCON. The consortium has also worked with Merseyside SME DBFA Ltd to support the company in testing and assessing its innovative ultra violet COVID air sterilising device.

iiCON’s broader programme is designed to support the discovery, development, and deployment of new products and treatments for infectious diseases. The consortium works with companies of all sizes to support new product development by providing access to world-leading research expertise, market intelligence, and cutting-edge facilities.

iiCON supports companies at all stages of the innovation journey, from early-stage conceptual work, through to clinical trials, manufacturing, market positioning and product placement – helping fast-track new products and treatments to patients and communities.

Alongside its Merseyside SME support programme, iiCON has supported several innovative products being brought to market over the last 18 months and has worked with over 50 industry partners including CN Bio, Unilever, Mologic, Sanofi, Pfizer, Newcells Biotech and Sentinel.

iiCON Director, Professor Janet Hemingway, said: “Through our partners, we have a fantastic array of expertise and world-class research facilities available to support companies working on pioneering products and treatments for infectious diseases. iiCON’s impact in our first 18 months speaks to the power of the programme and is testament to the combined capability of our consortium partners in supporting innovation.

“It’s incredibly encouraging to see the number of products that have already made it through to market – saving millions of lives and ensuring that industry innovation is cutting through and having an impact on the patients and communities most in need.”

Led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, iiCON’s consortium partners are Unilever, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, Evotec, and Infex Therapeutics.

To find out more about iiCON’s Merseyside SME Support Programme, click here.

The Northern Powerhouse is a key aspect of this Government’s approach to addressing the productivity gap in the North and ensuring a stronger, more sustainable economy for all parts of the UK. Alongside over €1.5 billion of European Regional Development Fund support for businesses and communities across the North, the government has awarded £3.4 billion in three rounds of Growth Deals across the Northern Powerhouse.