Innovation showcase: Tinkleguard

Innovation showcase: Tinkleguard

Angela Davidson’s product idea evolved from a very anxious and frustrating experience, collecting a urine sample from her baby grandson. Tinkleguard is the result of that experience, and Angela – ‘the grandmother of invention’ - tells BQ why she’s proud to be in the Innovation Showcase at next week’s VentureFest.

Tell us about your business

Tinkleguard Ltd is a pre-trade SME with a patented product idea for use in the medical sector.

The business has grown from an idea which evolved from my personal experience of needing to collect a urine sample when my baby grandson was ill. Unfortunately, the urine sample became contaminated (when using the standard issue product) because the baby had an upset tummy. 

This resulted in an anxious wait to repeat the test and a delay in getting it back to the GP for testing for a suspected urinary tract infection. Academic and market research confirmed a longstanding problem existed in this area.

What prompted you to enter the innovation showcase?

As a member of Netpark, in Sedgefield, I was signposted to the Innovation showcase by the Innovation Development team from Business Durham.  When they sent me information about the showcase it seemed like a great opportunity to raise the profile of my product and the problems it is addressing, and to share what we have achieved so far with a wider audience.

Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with.

A European patent has been granted and Registered designs are in place for this invention: a urine collection system for use with infants or disabled patients. The product, supplied in a sterile pack, is used to collect urine whenever a urinary tract infection is suspected (or indeed a wide range of other illnesses) and laboratory testing is needed to be carried out on the sample.

The product is innovative in it's size, shape and secure positioning to the skin. This product is ergonomically shaped and sits comfortably over just the genital area and therefore reduces the likelihood of contamination of the sample. It is made with medical grade materials which harness the latest advances in super-absorbency technology.

This urine collection pack provides a more user friendly  method, with more accurate samples being collected for analysis. Reducing the incidence of ‘false positives’ - which in turn avoids the associated financial costs, emotional costs and the patient safety implications associated with antibiotic use.

How would you describe that innovation to your grandparents?

It’s a disposable absorbent product, which comes in a sterilised pack. It is used in hospitals, clinics or at home.  It offers an improved way of collecting a urine sample from a baby or incapacitated person – when we need to test for an infection or other illness.

What are the best and worst parts of trying to be innovative in your business?

The best part of being innovative is the knowledge that we are creating a product that will genuinely help people by improving the accuracy in diagnosis and treatment of certain medical conditions.

It has been very rewarding to have had the opportunity to present this innovation to a range of professionals within a local NHS Trust - who have welcomed the product and agreed to carry out trials on it, once all of the product development and safety issues have been addressed.

Prior to the trialling going ahead, there needs to be significant development work including: materials testing, design  issues, market feedback, packaging, sterilistion, product information leaflets and CE marking - and hopefully NICE recommendation. The worst part of being innovative in this area is that things take a long time…

What are the biggest challenges you face?

  • As an SME one of the biggest challenges is meeting the financial costs of maintaining the IP; in particular, the commitments associated with validating a patent in several countries.
  • We face the challenge of being a small company in a huge market and the associated difficulties in accessing the decision makers who would purchase our products.
  • A big challenge exists in coordinating the product development and establishing the manufacturing processes needed for creating the prototypes and eventually the finished product.

Where do you get support and advice to help you run your business?

I have been very fortunate as a member of Netpark to have had the opportunity to link up with a company called ‘QHS’. This collaboration has facilitated direct access to a forward thinking NHS trust.  Also, Netpark’s breakfast networking opportunities have proven very useful for advice in a wide variety of areas.

Where do you see your company in five years’ time?

The supporting evidence regarding the savings against the existing methodologies and products that are currently purchased by NHS organisations will be well established. 

The product will have become widely established  both in the public and private sectors and it will be improving the lives of nursing staff,  parents and carers (ranging from babies, disabled patients to mentally infirm patient groups - who cannot provide a sample in the conventional manner - i.e. peeing directly into a pot).

In the longer term it wil be commercialised with targetted marketing for use both in the UK and other countries.

What would you tell businesses who are hoping to be more innovative?

Plato called necessity the mother of invention. As the ‘grandmother’ of invention I’d say - hold on to the self-belief to know you are right – you are solving a problem and don’t give up. Determination has to be your middle name!