Scots firm signs digital dentistry agreement

Glasgow-based Novosound has capped off a string of recent contract wins with a seven-figure agreement that will put its remote sensors into medical use for the first time.

The initial research and development component of the contract with dSound, a venture capital-backed company based in Israel, will be worth “in excess” of £1 million. However, Novosound chief executive Dave Hughes said the value will likely go “up and up” with further R&D projects as the product makes its way to market, followed by licensing fees once it is commercially available.

Novosound claims to have revolutionised ultrasound technology by replacing conventional sensor materials with a flexible film. Its thin-film manufacturing process will be used by dSound to deliver 3D technology that allows dentists to look safely and painlessly at the tooth and bone under the gumline.

Mr Hughes, who has a background in dental ultrasound imaging from his time as a PhD candidate, said getting into the healthcare market “comes round full circle” for Novosound.

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“One of my academic projects that inspired the founding of Novosound was a collaboration with Current Health’s Chris McCann,” he said. “This was back in 2016 at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), when we secured early-stage R&D grant funding to develop an ultrasound sensor for a medical device to monitor patient hydration levels.”

He added: “Dentistry is currently undergoing digitisation with the emergence of new advanced imaging techniques, and we see scope for our high-resolution ultrasonic technology to make a big impression, first in dental but then across other segments of the global 3D medical imaging market.”

Founded in 2018, Novosound was the first company to spin out from the University of the West of Scotland. It currently employs 31 people and plans to hire at least five more staff in the coming 12 months, focusing on software engineers specialising in 3D imaging to help deliver its ultrasonic platform.

The company has secured several contract wins this past year with clients in sectors such as the aerospace, energy, and oil and gas sectors. This included five-figure agreements with major aerospace firms BAE and GE Aviation, to whom it supplies specialist inspection sensors to improve passenger safety.

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Novosound’s non-destructive testing products include the Kelpie, Belenus and Nebula. The Kelpie sensor flexes, twists and bends to inspect different shapes and surfaces; the Belenus continually monitors corrosion at high temperatures; and the Nebula is a cloud-based platform that securely stores and reports client asset data.

Like its newest client dSound, Novosound is backed by a number of private equity firms. It received an initial £1.5m of seed investment in April 2018, followed by a £1m scale-up grant from Scottish Enterprise in July 2019.

Foresight Group came on board in December 2019 with a £2m cash injection, the majority via the Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund, a joint investment venture between Foresight and the group behind the Williams Formula 1 racing car operation. Existing investors Par Equity, Kelvin Capital, Gabriel Investments and UWS contributed a further £1.3m, taking the total funding round to £3.3m.

Last month, Novosound co-founder and executive product development manager Dan Irving was awarded a place on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Schott Scale-Up Accelerator programme. The accelerator supports individuals in executive roles to develop their leadership skills in small high-growth engineering and technology firms that display excellence in their field.

Derek Mathieson, former chief marketing and technology officer at Baker Hughes, was last year appointed as chairman of Novosound. Also in 2020, former Business Growth Fund investment director Duncan Macrae was hired as the company’s chief financial officer.

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