The UK population is getting older. Recent figures suggest 18% of us are at least 65 years old, and 2.4% of us are aged 85 and over.
As we enter our twilight years, our ability to care for ourselves can diminish – particularly if we are living with age-related conditions.
Advances in technology can be harnessed to support our later years, helping us to live fulfilling, independent lives for longer.
Established by Loughborough engineering graduate, Alex Nash, LUSEP-based meditech company, Alcuris, is developing connected healthcare technologies to do just that.
Memo – the company’s first product range – launches soon and could change life for thousands of vulnerable adults, young and old, nationwide.
I recently met with Alex to talk about the company and his start-up experience. Here’s what he told me about his exciting journey so far.
What prompted you to launch Alcuris?
While I was studying, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, further complicated by type 2 diabetes.
When visiting him, I noticed how easily he could forget to do things – take his tablets, lock the front door, inject his insulin before eating…
I started to think about the ways connected technologies are used to make our lives easier, and realised that they could also support my grandad, my family and thousands of other people like us.
You launched Alcuris in November 2015 – how have the company and your product range developed since then?
I was in my final year when I launched the business, and entered my idea in the University’s Student and Graduate Business Ideas competition in 2016 and 2017, winning awards and some investment both times.
When I graduated, I decided to devote all of my time to the business, but took a four-month contract with Cresco Innovation to pay the bills. This experience was really useful – I became a lot more aware of the range of funding opportunities on offer and honed my bid writing skills.
In fact, my first funding application with Cresco was successful and allowed me to grow the Alcuris team. We’re now a staff of four with two full-time contractors, and I have a very strong Board of Directors.
We moved into our current ATIC location in September 2017, and product development has moved on apace from my early ideas.
We hope to launch Memo this summer, with more advanced features added as we move into spring 2019. The plan is that Alcuris will soon provide the most advanced telecare products on the market.
What is Memo – can you tell me more about it?
Memo is a digital assisted living platform, currently comprising a hub and app.
The hub has the potential to connect to virtually any wireless product, from speakers to door sensors, and thermostats to televisions. Smart plugs will also facilitate connections to household items like kettles and cookers.
Easy to install via the app, the hub can help families and carers to monitor an individual’s activity and respond to unusual behaviour like the front door opening in the early hours or the cooker not being used at mealtimes – or left on for hours.
This real-time data provides both assurance that things are well and immediate alerts that something is amiss.
Over time, the data will build up a picture of an individual’s routines so that, for example, falls and panic events can be mapped against activity, and chaotic behaviour – often an early symptom of dementia – spotted.
The Memo fob issued to carers provides a quick and effective way for them to sign in and out of visits. This means that family members can be confident that visits have taken place as scheduled – to administer medication or provide a meal.
In development are add-ins like audio-visual reminders to prompt timely medication doses and mealtimes.
In this way, Memo will prolong a vulnerable individual’s independence, provide reassurance to their family, and produce actionable data for local authorities.
What has the response to Alcuris been like so far?
In a word, incredible!
My submissions to funding bodies have been really successful, allowing me to progress whilst indicating a good level of confidence in my idea. I’ve also been able to secure the generous backing of angel investors including Marcus Learoyd (formerly, Carphone Warehouse) and Peter Roberts, the founder of Pure Gym.
Funding isn’t the only measure of success, and I’m thrilled that service providers – public and private – are happy to work with us.
Trials in partnership with two local authorities begin this summer. They will be trialling Memo in both domestic and assisted living settings. So, we’ll really be able to put the technology through its paces and refine its capabilities.
In separate projects, we’re working with a health analytics company and leading supplier of software for local authority social care management systems. Both are keen to see how Memo can be integrated into their services.
In addition, even though we’re still evolving, a handful of venture capitalists have shown an interest in Alcuris.
Weren’t you ready for a change when you graduated – why did you stay in Loughborough?
Having established the company during my final year, I’d already started to make valuable connections here. So, it seemed silly to relocate.
My fantastic Board are all based locally – as are my colleagues, the majority of whom are fellow Loughborough graduates.
When I worked with Cresco, I was based in ATIC and realised it was the ideal home for Alcuris. It’s a great place for start-ups. I enjoy meeting the other people here who are on a similar journey to me. Some are old friends from my student days – like Chris Ruddock, the founder of Incus Performance. Sharing the highs, lows and lessons learned is invaluable.
Being here provides other useful contacts. My connection with Cresco is ongoing, but now as a client. They manage my funding application activity, freeing me up to focus on other aspects of the business.
Last year, as an ATIC tenant, I was able to take advantage of the University’s partnership with Santander and take on two short-term interns who focused on specific design projects for us.
These kinds of benefits are invaluable to start-ups and can make a real difference to your day-to-day existence and longer term success.
To find out more about Memo or become an Alcuris partner, please visit the company website.