Bristol based health tech start-up, Milbotix™, whose wearable SmartSocks™ helps identify early signs of distress in people living with dementia, has received a £125,000 investment from the British Design Fund.
The company is now aiming to crowdfund an additional £200,000 on CrowdCube to complete its current fundraise and unlock £1/2m in public funding, enabling it to grow its team, launch its first product, and undertake further research and development.
Milbotix’s pioneering ‘SmartSocks™’ are designed to aid caregivers to effectively support individuals when verbal communication might otherwise be a challenge, such as for those living with dementia. The socks utilise advanced sensors and wireless connectivity to provide real-time feedback on an individual’s physiological state, enabling caregivers to better understand their needs and address them proactively.
Co-founder Zeke Steer, who has a background in advanced engineering and machine learning, first came up with the idea for SmartSocks™ after seeing how communication difficulties faced by his great-grandmother, Kath, who had Alzheimer’s Disease, caused her to become agitated and aggressive. Zeke’s academic research also identified how people like Kath, who are living with dementia, often remove wearable devices.
Applying his knowledge of machine learning, Zeke saw an opportunity to discreetly monitor a patient’s physical state using socks. SmartSocks™ utilise artificial intelligence (AI) to recognise signs of distress, alerting carers so they can intervene earlier to prevent the distress from escalating.
Zeke met co-founder Jacqui Arnold, a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and former care home manager and Dementia Lead, whilst studying for his PhD. Jacqui brings a huge amount of insight and experience having worked in the care sector for more than 30 years. Milbotix has also been supported by Alzheimer’s Society through its Accelerator programme, and by Innovate UK through its Fast Start and Biomedical Catalyst competitions, which have helped fund SmartSocks’ development.
Zeke commented: “We are delighted to be partnering with the British Design Fund. With their support we will further advance our mission to revolutionise dementia care by providing carers with much-needed tools for managing distressed behaviours which are one of the most challenging aspects of dementia care. The investment will enable us to accelerate the deployment of SmartSocks™ into care settings, ultimately reducing distress and improving the lives of people with dementia and other conditions that affect communication, whilst also easing pressure on their carers.”
Damon Bonser, CEO at the British Design Fund, said: “We are excited to be working with Milbotix and their groundbreaking SmartSocks™ technology. The team’s innovative approach to addressing the challenges faced by those living with dementia aligns perfectly with our mission of supporting British companies that are making a positive difference.
“This investment also marks an important milestone for the Fund, not only being the first wearable tech solution to enter the portfolio, but also being a product that offers a solution to enhancing quality of life for patients and carers across the world.”
British Design Fund is a leading early-stage British manufacturing investor. The Fund works with ambitious product start-up enterprises who are ready to scale-up and build thriving stand-out businesses. Alongside capital investment, BDF provides expert mentoring to support such companies to accelerate their growth plans. The fifth British Design Fund closed in May 2023, with Milbotix being one of the first start-ups to be supported by the fund.
We recently caught up with Zeke to hear more about where the idea for his business came from and his ambitions for the future, you can watch it here.