Imperial startup developing hygiene-verification technology raises £625,000

14 Sep 2021
Aerial view Imperial White City Campus
by Gavin Reed

FreshCheck, a startup developing colour-change tools for hygiene verification, has raised £625,000 seed investment from investors including the ICIF.

Founded by Imperial PhD alumni Dr John Simpson and Dr Alex Bond, FreshCheck creates intuitive tools for confirming hygiene in a range of markets such as food, hospitality and healthcare. On application to a surface, the technology, which uses iron-dye interaction, appears purple. If it changes colour, then the surface is contaminated with either bacteria or food residue and must be cleaned again.The Imperial College Innovation Fund (ICIF) has invested £250,000 as part of a £625,000 seed round, alongside investment from Peter Norris and Peter Trill. Peter Norris, an existing investor and Chair of the Virgin Group, will join FreshCheck’s board as Chairman.The ICIF invests in startup companies with a strong connection to Imperial College London, such as those founded by students, members of staff or alumni, or companies which have engaged extensively with Imperial’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This seed round will support the development and marketing of new products, including a swab test and a handwipe, with application in the food and beverage, healthcare, facilities management, and consumer industries.

Dr Alex Bond, Chief Executive Officer of FreshCheck, said: “We know that hygiene testing is essential for many businesses, and that public concern with hygiene and insistence on high standards has grown enormously during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re excited about taking our patented colour-change technology to the market and delivering products that will help businesses verify hygiene rapidly and accurately. This funding round will help us do that at the right time.”

Dr Brijesh Roy, Seed Investment Manager at Imperial College London, said: “FreshCheck’s founding team has worked extensively with experts and mentors at Imperial and industry advisers to develop their underlying technology. Building on existing customer demand, they have a plan in place to extend their product range and reach new markets. We’re delighted to have made this investment at a key point in FreshCheck’s journey.”

FreshCheck’s colour-change technology

FreshCheck is a disruptive offering aimed at increasing the prevalence and use of hygiene testing in hospitality, restaurants and catering and extending its use to other markets. Though hygiene testing in the food industry is already commonplace, the market standard technology is expensive and onerous to use.

Using versatile and adaptable chemistry, FreshCheck’s technology is a test that produces a colour change on contact with bacteria or food residues. It can be packaged in a variety of ways depending on use case. Where ATP swab testing (the market standard) requires a costly reader device and professional training to operate and calibrate, FreshCheck’s technology is simple and instantly readable.

The company is also developing a companion app that will enable auditable hygiene record keeping, supporting businesses in ensuring safety and compliance with health standards.

“Our proprietary technology is simple for users – it creates a colour change on contact with bacteria or food debris. It is also flexible, and we believe that in any market where contamination is an issue, or where there is a need to confirm cleanliness, we can build a product to help,” said Chief Technology Officer, Dr John Simpson.

FreshCheck and Imperial College London

Beginning with participation in Imperial’s Venture Catalyst Challenge in 2015, FreshCheck has sampled extensively the competitions, programmes and services available through Imperial’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This included participation in Climate-KIC and the 2017 CDT Den. FreshCheck also undertook early-stage development work at the Imperial College Advanced Hackspace. Funding and mentorship from these programmes helped the company take key steps, including filing a patent on its core technology. Since 2018, the company has been resident in the I-HUB at Imperial’s White City Campus.

About Imperial College Innovation Fund 1

The Imperial College Innovation Fund I (ICIF I) invests in startup companies with a strong connection to Imperial College London, such as those founded by students, members of staff or alumni, or companies which have engaged extensively with Imperial’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. ICIF I is managed by Parkwalk,  the largest EIS fund manager, backing world-changing technologies emerging from the UK’s leading universities and research institutions.

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