Mercia is now offering NPIF loans of £100,000 to £750,000 backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Mercia opened applications after being accredited as a CBILS lender by the British Business Bank recently and will deliver the loans through the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF). Mercia now manages more than £140milion on behalf of NPIF deploying both debt and equity across the region with a particular focus on Yorkshire and the Humber.

Paul Taberner, Managing Director of Mercia’s Debt Funds, said: “Given the rise in the number of businesses in the region, there is already significant demand for finance to support growing firms, and a pandemic such as COVID-19 has only heightened this need. With traditional banking solutions becoming increasingly hard to secure, we are delighted to be working with our partners at both the British Business Bank and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund to deliver the CBILS scheme. We want to encourage businesses to come forward and find out how they can access additional capital to support them through the pandemic and recovery plans as the economy unwinds from lockdown and prepares for 2021.”

Mercia’s NPIF CBILS loans are aimed at companies or LLPs with fewer than 250 staff and whose business has been adversely affected by Coronavirus.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

CBILS, delivered through British Business Bank accredited lenders, is designed to support the continued provision of finance to UK smaller businesses (SMEs) during the Covid-19 outbreak. The scheme enables lenders to provide facilities of up to £5m to smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

 

IBEX, the Mercia-backed company which is a pioneer in X-ray imaging technology, has developed a new system that can provide an early warning system for osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and can result in potentially fatal fractures.

The company has successfully demonstrated the system in a clinical trial with researchers from The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. It will lead to earlier and widespread screening for osteoporosis and more timely and targeted treatment

There is currently no method for routinely assessing bone health in the general population, and typically osteoporosis is only diagnosed following a serious fracture and assessment on specialist DEXA scanning equipment. Broken hip – one of the most common injuries – costs the NHS currently over £1bn a year and is the largest single cause of accident-related death in the UK.

Uniquely, IBEX Trueview® software will measure a patient’s bone health from a standard X- ray, meaning that the early signs of a problem can be identified from the first fracture, 10- 15 years before the onset of serious osteoporosis.

In preliminary analysis of data from a trial of 130 patients attending for a DEXA scan at James Cook , the IBEX software gave a better prediction of DEXA outcome than age or gender and demonstrated excellent agreement to the current gold standard CT and DEXA methods. This result confirms the huge potential Trueview has to have a major positive impact on bone health assessment. IBEX is now engaged in discussions with a number of major global healthcare companies to incorporate this novel feature in their standard X-ray equipment.

IBEX is backed by investors including the North East Venture Fund (NEVF), which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia, the IP Group and private investors. The company has received several rounds of funding totalling £5.5m so far to help it develop its technologies. It is also working on a system to improve detection of breast cancer.

Professor Amar Rangan, Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon, and Chief Investigator for the clinical study commented: “The data I have seen from the study so far is fascinating and exciting, as I think it has the potential to change the way we screen individuals to assess their bone health.”

Dr Stephen Tuck, Consultant Rheumatologist and co-investigator added: “I am now convinced that this technology could make a major contribution to the identification of people with osteoporosis and at risk of fractures.”

Neil Loxley, CEO of IBEX, concluded: “We are excited by the preliminary results of the trial, which we believe demonstrate the first major innovation in the osteoporosis diagnosis since the introduction of DEXA more than three decades ago. I am grateful for the support of clinical and research staff at The James Cook University Hospital and look forward to reporting progress in commercialising this new capability in the near future.”

Ian Wilson, who leads Mercia’s team in the North East, added: “IBEX is a pioneer in its field whose software could help save lives through early detection. Its success also demonstrates how investment from sources such as Mercia and the North East Venture Fund can help create jobs and build local economies by supporting innovative companies in the regions.”

 

A start-up which uses AI to detect fake news has raised £2.5m to further develop its product in time for the US election.

Logically has secured funding from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, and  XTX Ventures – the venture capital affiliate of XTX Markets, a leading global algorithmic trading firm.

Logically, which is based in Brighouse, Yorkshire uses a team of dedicated fact-checkers alongside artificial intelligence (AI) and digital forensics to analyse media stories and conspiracy theories to help the public separate facts from falsehoods.

It can also track sources of disinformation, as it did recently when it identified false information purporting to link COVID 19 to 5G phone masts.  Logically has a free app for consumers and also works with governments, news organisations and social media platforms to help prevent misinformation. It has already been used successfully in the Indian general and regional elections last year, in which it detected over 130,000 pieces of problematic content. It has secured contracts in the USA with public sector and social media platforms in the country to report on the forthcoming elections.

Logically was founded in 2017 by Lyric Jain, a graduate of both Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), after witnessing the public debate about Brexit and the 2016 US elections. The company now employs 15 staff in Yorkshire and a similar number in London.

Lyric Jain, CEO, said: With the rise of the internet and social media, falsehoods travel faster than the truth. Misinformation can polarise societies and has become a serious threat to democracy. Logically aims to stop the spread of disinformation, ensure people see both sides of the story and keep elections free and fair. Following on from our early successes in India and Europe, we are looking to establish Logically as a partner for governments, businesses and consumers around the world.”

Ashwin Kumaraswarmy, Investment Manager at Mercia, added: “Logically has developed an AI technology and an impressive client list. It is well placed to work alongside social media platforms like Facebook, as well as Government bodies and businesses, to tackle a growing issue of fake news.

Ekaterina Holt, Head of XTX Ventures, said: ‘’We were impressed with Logically’s technology and team from day one. We invest in emerging companies utilising AI/machine learning, and in Logically we are proud to support another company that will be a future leader in the world of information and data.’’

Grant Peggie, Director at British Business Bank, said: “We are pleased that NPIF has continued to support high-growth businesses in the North, providing vital funding to enable businesses to create new jobs and expand into new markets. This investment demonstrates how this funding can make a real and measurable difference to innovative  businesses across the Northern Powerhouse region, creating a more prosperous regional economy.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

 

A team of healthcare experts who developed a fast and low-cost way to protect carers working with Covid-19 patients has raised a £100,000 investment.

Mat Campbell-Hill and his colleagues who created the AerosolShield mini-isolation tent have secured the funding from the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network’s (WMAHSN) SME Health Innovation Fund, which is managed by Mercia, and MidTECH Innovations.

The team – who developed the AerosolShield, put it into production and took the first orders within just seven days – has already produced over 1,000 devices for the NHS with the help of £35,000 in donations from a crowdfunding campaign. The latest investment will allow them to put the business on a commercial footing and scale up production.

Mat, a Senior Fellow in Novel Medical Technologies at University of Birmingham, worked with a team including his university colleague Dr Richard Williams and Dr Egidio Da Silva, a consultant anaesthetist at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham. He also received ongoing clinical guidance from his wife Lydia, a GP and specialist in end-of-life care.

The AerosolShield – a transparent, pop-up tent that covers the patient’s head and shoulders – can be deployed in seconds and significantly reduces the chances of carers coming into contact with droplets from the patient’s lungs. The technology provides added protection for frontline staff wearing PPE and hospital porters or carers who do not have access to the highest levels of PPE. As it is produced by an established manufacturer for the NHS, the product meets all required standards for medical use and is highly durable. Staff who have used it say they feel safer and less anxious about going to work.

Mat said: “From the outset, this project has been about protecting our friends and family in the NHS. The end product had to be high quality so that it can be used for extended periods, as well as being lightweight, easy to use and store. We believe that in the future, the AerosolShield will become a key piece of kit for GPs, paramedics, hospital intensive care units and care homes, helping to protect key frontline workers through this and future health crises.”

Peter Dines, COO at Mercia, which manages the SME Health Innovation Fund, said: “The talented team at AerosolShield have done an incredible job to develop the product in such a short space of time and help protect our frontline professionals and carers.  We look forward to supporting Mat and his team as they develop a new Midlands-based medical technology business.”

Tammy Holmes, Head of Innovation Exchange at WMAHSN said: “The AerosolShield team is one of a growing list of SMEs from across the West Midlands that we have been able to support with the Fund to date. We’re so proud that we can provide the means to roll out fantastic innovations such as this to help keep our region safe and healthy. We can’t wait to see this new, pioneering technology make a difference to so many workers on the frontline and beyond.”

WMAHSN developed the SME Health Innovation Fund to support start-up businesses in the healthcare sector from across the West Midlands. As well as vital funding, the Fund ensures successful applicants would have access to future investment capital, mentoring workshops from industry experts and access to a network of contacts within the NHS and wider healthcare sector, to support the development of ideas.