How Leeds-based Surfaceskins is playing a leading role in battle against coronavirus

THE global battle against coronavirus has received a boost from an unnamed private investor who is backing a company behind a hospital hand sanitiser.

Surfaceskins are self-disinfecting, alcohol gel pushpads

Leeds-based Surfaceskins, which produces self-disinfecting, alcohol gel pushpads, plans to increase the scale of its manufacturing operations after securing the investment deal.

The product can kill germs and superbugs such as coronavirus, in hospitals, care homes and other public buildings.

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Two product designers, Adam Walker and Simon Scott-Harden, came up with the idea for Surfaceskins after observing how people avoided touching dirty doors because of the fear of infection.

They developed Surfaceskins, which is the name of the business and the product, after eight years’ research. They secured support from the Leeds-based technical textile consultancy, the Nonwovens Innovation and Research Institute Ltd (NIRI), which also funded initial development before securing investment from Brian Waligora, who joined Surfaceskins as chief executive in 2017.

The Leeds manufacturing base of Surfaceskins, which has four patents covering the UK, EU, US and Japan, is being expanded to meet its sales potential.

The move came after the Yorkshire accountants and business advisers, Garbutt + Elliott attracted significant but undisclosed private investment from a Yorkshire entrepreneur who has built up a £100m turnover manufacturing business.

NIRI managing director, Chris Fowler, who has 25 years’ experience commercialising new medical and hygiene products, said: “Surfaceskins’ has huge market potential having been developed with efficacy, ease of use and low cost at the forefront of our strategy. Our new investor joins when his experience will have the biggest impacts.

Mr Fowler added: “Surfaceskins was initially designed for healthcare premises to protect high-risk patients against healthcare associated infections (HAIs), which cause thousands of UK deaths annually, and to help people with depressed immune systems.

"The key areas were intensive care units; special care baby units, neonates, elderly wards and isolation units.

“However, as more sectors have become aware of Surfaceskins, we are receiving interest from restaurants, fast-food outlets, cruise ships, hotels, schools and offices. Virtually any commercial, or public, door with a contamination risk is a market opportunity.

“Garbutt +Elliott quickly realised the scale of the Surfaceskins’ potential, enabling them to recommend the most suitable investment partner who is a perfect fit in terms of experience, timing and Yorkshire roots.”

During product development, Surfaceskins underwent trials in NHS laboratories, which confirmed that the products kill many germs, bacteria, and viruses such as coronavirus in seconds.

As the pushpads self-sterilise in seconds they reduce the risk of users transmitting germs.

A spokesman said: “Trials at three local schools and a Leeds hospital showed that Surfaceskins increases users’ overall hand hygiene, though washing and soap dispenser use, by more than 75 per cent which will help with the control of pandemics such as the current global Coronavirus.

Garbutt + Elliott corporate finance partner, Tony Farmer, who introduced the investor and arranged investment terms, said: “The combination of a simple, but ingenious, idea, expert business development and major market interest means Surfaceskins has huge growth potential.”

Surfaceskins are antibacterial pushpads and pull handles for doors. They are designed to provide users with a safe touchable surface and reduce the spread and transmission of germs.

They are low cost, disposable, and quick and easy to install. Since the coronavirus outbreak began, Surfaceskins has seen a huge increase in demand for its products from around the world, including South East Asia and the Middle East.

It has scaled up manufacturing to allow it to produce more than 500 units per day. #

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