Duo secure £1.4m to help transform the lives of diabetic patients
Sheffield-based engineers Joshua Shires and Thomas Bloomfield have secured an Innovate UK match-funded grant as part of their investment activity to bring their transformative medical footwear to market.
Fyous, founded in 2020, was originally intended to create bespoke footwear for avid runners using its proprietary technology, polymorphic moulding.
However, while undertaking intensive market research, Joshua and Thomas discovered the challenges around orthotic footwear for diabetics.
More than half of the UK’s diabetics develop neuropathy; a loss of sensation in their feet, which in turn can lead to foot damage, ulcers and – in 10,000 cases a year – amputation. Of those amputees, more than 70% will die within five years.
The Fyous founders found there was a need for medical footwear that could be manufactured quickly and accurately to provide well-fitting, functional yet stylish footwear that would help with the prevention and management of foot injury and ulceration.
Innovate UK is the UK’s national innovation agency. Fyous beat competition to secure Innovate UK’s match-funded award, meaning Fyous needed to secure £700,000 of private investment to access Innovate UK’s further £700,000 investment, bringing the total to £1.4m.
The basis of the grant will allow the founders to scale up their proprietary polymorphic moulding technology to be able to produce the footwear components more quickly.
And it will fund an intensive 18-month clinical trial in conjunction with the Universities of Salford, Sheffield and Leeds, two NHS Trusts and two National Institute for Health and Care Research organisations.
Bloomfield said: “Securing this funding means we’re able to continue with our development of our proprietary polymorphic moulding technology.
“Creating a shoe that is perfectly moulded to a patient’s feet has historically been elusive, with several alterations required which can take months, with the final shoe not always being the perfect fit.
“Our polymorphic moulding technology means that not only can we create the bespoke soles that fit each individual patient’s foot perfectly, but we can do it in a matter of hours in a standardised digital way.
“With the Innovate UK grant funding, we’re focusing on how we can reduce that manufacture time down to a matter of minutes with repeatability.”
Shires said: “We started out wanting to make shoes that fit runners perfectly.
“Over the past few years of intensive research and design reviews, we realised our proprietary polymorphic moulding technology, that we developed ourselves, has the potential to transform the lives of diabetic patients, as well as people who have other medical conditions that require bespoke footwear.”
Dr Dinesh Selvarajah, senior lecturer in diabetes at the University of Sheffield, will be overseeing the clinical trial.
He added: “Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of foot ulceration and amputations.
“Unfortunately, diabetes-related amputations have now reached an all-time high and urgent action is needed to reverse this trend.
“Innovations that reduce the risk of foot ulceration, will reduce the need for amputations.
“The potential for patients to receive bespoke, fitted footwear that could keep their feet healthy within a short time frame can have a considerable impact on their overall risk of foot ulceration and amputation.
“It’s a really exciting project which hopefully will lead to direct patient benefit and long-term cost savings for the NHS.”