North East Venture Fund

New arm scanner could replace conventional drug and alcohol tests

A Durham company which has developed sensor technology that can detect alcohol and drugs in a person’s blood by scanning their skin has raised a £600,000 investment to enable it to commercialise its product.

The funding round for Applied Monitoring was co-led by the North East Venture Fund (NEVF), supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia, and the Finance Durham Fund, managed by Maven Capital Partners, established by Durham County Council and overseen by Business Durham.

The deal also includes a £100,000 investment from the Centre of Processing Innovation to support further research and development of its technology.

Applied Monitoring’s innovative sensor system identifies the presence and concentration of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis in a person’s bloodstream by scanning their skin. The device generates electromagnetic waves at a range of different frequencies that pass through the skin and interact with chemicals in the blood that are reflected back, analysed and recorded.

The technology is non-invasive, and quicker and cheaper than onsite workplace tests currently in use.  The business is in the process of developing desk-based arm scanning equipment, using readily available electronic components similar to those used in mobile phones.

As part of the investment, Mercia made two introductions from its non-executive director network to support the company’s growth. Carl Barratt, former CEO of Monica Healthcare, a wearable medical device diagnostics business, and Neil Hayward, a human resource development professional with around 30 years’ experience in businesses including the Post Office and HS2, both have a strong track record of business transformation.

Currently on-site drug testing requires bodily fluid samples to be collected and either sent to a lab for subsequent testing or the use of dipstick test strips that confirm if drugs are present but not the amount. Applied Monitoring’s sensor technology software can analyse chemicals in the blood in seconds, to confirm if a specific chemical is present and if so, at what levels.

The global alcohol and drug testing market is projected to be $10.0bn by 2025, the UK alcohol and drug testing market alone was estimated to be worth £250m in 2020 and the global on-site testing market is expected to grow from $485m in 2020 to $950m in 2025.

Thea Tebble, Investment Associate at Mercia, said: “Mercia are delighted to support Applied Monitoring in the continued development of their market disrupting technology, which will significantly increase the speed and ease of alcohol and drugs of abuse testing. We look forward to collaborating with Jon and Rob on the exciting growth journey that lies ahead.”

Jon Dixon, CEO of Applied Monitoring, said: “We are confident that Applied Monitoring has truly innovative and transformational technology offering the business strong competitive advantage versus the current market offerings. As a validation of our technology and business plan it is wonderful to have Maven and Mercia on-board and it has been a pleasure working with Michael Dickens and Thea Tebble of Mercia over the past few months. The financial support provided by Maven and Mercia, alongside the guidance of our highly experienced advisory Executive team of Dr Carl Barratt and Neil Hayward, ensures the business is best placed for an exciting future.”

Michael Dickens, Investment Manager at Maven, said: “Applied Monitoring has developed remarkable technology to enable qualitative and quantitative onsite workplace test results in seconds. Jon and his team all have significant experience developing and launching new software products and operating large sales teams as well as diagnostic sector knowledge. We’re delighted the Fund can support the business as it embarks on its exciting next phase of development.”

Cllr James Rowlandson, portfolio holder for resources, investment and assets at Durham County Council, said: “Applied Monitoring are an excellent example of the innovative companies at NETPark, it’s fantastic to be able to provide finance through Finance Durham to enable the company to solve real world problems with novel applications of technology. Last year we announced plans to expand NETPark, we will be investing circa £50m to finance the expansion providing new laboratory, office, production and storage space to help companies, like Applied Monitoring, grow at NETPark, creating more and better jobs in County Durham.”

External Engagement Officer for the North East Fund, Andrew Gibson, said: “The North East Fund is proud to be involved with this innovation to streamline the process of onsite drug and alcohol testing. Applied Monitoring has developed an impressive new product and we look forward to the creation of more local jobs through its commercialisation, supported by investment via our North East Venture Fund. We’d like to talk to more North East businesses who would like to tap into available funding suitable for their growth needs.”