Spin-out company launched to deliver wrist device to control Tourette’s

A revolutionary new stimulation treatment for Tourette’s, proven to reduce tics, has moved closer to being available to people as a wearable wrist device with the launch of a new spin-out company.

Neurotherapeutics Solutions  Ltd is a new University of Nottingham spin-out that’s been launched to bring to market a wearable neuromodulation device (rhythmic peripheral nerve stimulation), worn like a wristwatch, for use in Tourette syndrome and associated co-occurring brain health conditions.

The spin-out company will use research from scientists from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology and School of Medicine published last year that used repetitive trains of stimulation to the median nerve (MNS) at the wrist to entrain rhythmic electrical brain activity – known as brain-oscillations – that are associated with the suppression of movements. They found that rhythmic MNS is sufficient to substantially reduce tic frequency and tic intensity, and the urge-to-tic, in individuals with TS.

Funding for Neurotherapeutics Solutions Ltd has been coordinated by Nottingham Technology Ventures with investment by the University of Nottingham along side a number of external investors. This will enable the design and build of 85 programmable wrist-worn peripheral nerve stimulation devices.  These devices will be used in a placebo-controlled trial planned for autumn 2021.

TS is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is usually diagnosed between the ages of eight and 12. It causes involuntary sounds and movements called tics. Tics are involuntary, repetitive, stereotyped movements and vocalisations that occur in bouts, typically many times in a single day, and are often preceded by a strong urge-to-tic, referred to as a premonitory urge (PU).

Nineteen people with TS took part in the initial study, which was funded by the charity Tourettes Action and the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre. Participants were observed for random periods, during which they were given MNS delivered to their right wrist, and periods during which they received no stimulation. In all cases the stimulation reduced the frequency of tics, and also the urge-to-tic, and had the most significant effect on those individuals with the most severe tics.  Prototype development funding was obtained from the Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator, Tourettes Action, and the MRC Confidence in Concept scheme.

Professor Stephen Jackson has led this research and said: “Since the research was published last year we have seen a huge amount of interest in our results from people with Tourette syndrome across the world, who are often desperate to find a way to control their tics, which is why we are delighted to be taking the research to the next stage via the formation of the spin-out and the clinical trial. With the additional funding and expertise of the team we hope to have a finished product available within 2 years.”

The new Director of Operations of Neurotherapeutics Solutions Ltd is Paul Cable who brings over 30 years’ experience developing and launching medical devices. Paul said: “This is an exciting time for the new company, over the next 2 years the company will develop 2 products: an app to allow individuals with tics to track their symptoms and a wearable wrist device that will on request suppress an individual’s urge to tic. The wearable wrist device will help individuals gain control of their tics and in turn will help them fulfill their ambitions and dreams in life. This is an exciting opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

More information is available from Professor Stephen Jackson on [email protected] or Jane Icke, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5751 or [email protected]

Terra Motion raises investment funding to scale environmental land motion surveys globally

Satellite image of Lake Sarez

Terra Motion, the UK’s leading environmental land motion survey provider, announced today a growth equity investment led by venture capital firm Unknown Group, the University of Nottingham, and Mr Alexey Maslov.

The financing will be used to fund Terra Motion’s global expansion, including further investment in its market-leading technology and new land motion and climate products.

This is the first investment received by Terra Motion, who were founded in 2015 by researchers at the University of Nottingham to commercialise a novel space-based solution for the measurement of land motion.

Using innovative technology developed by the business, Terra Motion processes satellite radar imagery land surface movements with millimetric precision, and does so, uniquely, over urban, vegetated and natural land surfaces alike.

This capability not only places Terra Motion at the cutting edge of a range of established market sectors including planning, insurance and engineering surveys but is also opening up significant new markets in support of efforts to stem climate change, to detect signs of modern slavery and in the assessment of dangerous earthworks.

From their offices at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park, Terra Motion have been remotely surveying sites around the world on almost every continent, from the tropics to the far north, working with international clients including commercial engineering consultancies, government departments and the United Nations.

Rafael Aldon, Director at Unknown, will join Terra Motion’s board of directors.

He said today: “Terra Motion are able to monitor some of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing intelligence for decision-makers at a critical time for addressing climate change risks. They can also prevent future loss of life by identifying the early warning signs of impending failure of infrastructure, such as tailings dams, which often have catastrophic consequences. In this way, Terra Motion’s pioneering work provides organisations and governments the critical data they need in order to act to prevent disasters, rather than reactively footing the response and recovery bills.”

Professor Sam Kingman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham said “A key strategic focus for the Faculty of Engineering is to address global societal challenges and deliver sustained advantage to our stakeholders through research excellence. I am very proud that research from the Faculty has contributed to the success of Terra Motion and we very much look forward to seeing the impact the work of the company will have in the future.”

Alexey Maslov, tech investor and previously executive for asset management, engineering and IT in various companies, will join Terra Motion’s board of directors. He said: “I believe that the Terra Motion’s set of technologies will make a huge difference for asset management in the industrial and utility sectors. They have multiple advantages compared to conventional methods, allowing to extend the reach and coverage of assets geographically, accessing them faster, with less personnel involved, with higher precision and cost effectiveness. It perfectly matches the trend of industries to evolve into “smart and agile” version of themselves: highly monitorable and manageable, transparent for stakeholders, robust to impact of environmental changes, and responsive to new economic requirements”.  

Dr Andy Sowter, CTO and founder of Terra Motion said: “This funding is a huge milestone for us.  Nine years ago, the University of Nottingham produced a remarkable result that challenged what most experts said could be achieved with satellite radar data.  Terra Motion have since taken that result, proven it, developed it and turned it into a business that can help solve major problems around the world, including providing critical data for the global climate emergency.  This investment provides an opportunity for us to expand our sales and business development activities and to expand the market for our solution across the world.”

University of Nottingham investments spur growth in spin-out companies

THE UNIVERSITY of Nottingham has helped its spin-out companies to secure millions of pounds in funding to develop technologies in fields which range from manufacturing to mental health.

It has invested nearly £900,000 during the past year in nine businesses which began life as university research projects.

The investments have helped the University’s spin-out portfolio secure further funding packages totalling around £14 million – money which will help them to either commercialise their ideas and bring them to market as viable products, or build on an existing market presence.

The financial backing also forms a key part of the University’s wider long-term strategy of supporting the development of technologies that have the capacity to improve the world around us.

They include support for businesses active in fields such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose mental health conditions, and the manufacture of nanoparticles – which change the way surfaces behave.

The investments have been led by Nottingham Technology Ventures, which manages the University’s portfolio of 20 spin-out companies, working in partnership with specialist investment funds such as Mercia Technologies and Foresight Group. They include:

  • Promethean Particles, which has received £250,000 from the University as part of a £1.24m funding round led by Foresight Group, which manages the government-backed Midlands Engine Investment Fund. Promethean has set up the world’s largest nanoparticle manufacturing plant in Nottingham, able to produce materials at a microscopic scale which can then be used to improve the performance of products which range from printed electronic circuits to medical implants. Its success stems from specialist expertise in nanoparticle manufacturing, where it has developed a patented reactor which enables continuous production of particles.
  • Blueskeye AI, which is developing technology that uses cameras with embedded AI software to spot the changes in physical behaviour caused by conditions ranging from stress to depression. It receives £100,000 from the University as it continues work on a process which could speed up the diagnosis, treatment and management of a range of mental health conditions affecting a quarter of the UK population.
  • TextureJet, which receives £60,00 from the University alongside £250,000 from Innovate UK, to develop a new manufacturing technology which leads to more efficient and environmentally-friendly surface treatments.

Early-stage technology companies can find it difficult to secure funding, but the University uses its long-established expertise in research commercialisation to identify strong teams whose inventions have clear market potential based on broad societal benefit.

Dr Andy Naylor, CEO of NTV, says that the University’s support for spin-out businesses also helps give other funders the confidence to come on board.

He explained: “Technology companies can find it extremely difficult to access the funding needed to develop their products when they are at an early stage in their life. Their technology can be seen as unproven and it may take time for them to develop it to the point where it’s commercially viable.

“The University’s investment not only comes with the support of an experienced team to help companies achieve their goals, it can also reassure other potential investors that the ideas are have serious commercial potential.

“Supporting technologies that can have an impact at scale is central to the University’s core mission and doing so in partnership with other funding organisations demonstrates real strength in the numbers of opportunities for investment in innovation across the Midlands.”

NTV has channelled the University’s financial support through two specific funds – the Pathfinder Fund, which helps spin-outs with their initial set-up costs, and the Invention Fund, which provides more substantial backing as these spin-outs seek to develop and grow.

Between them, the two funds invested a total of £881,000 during the year. Besides these current investments, the University has a pipeline of new spin-out businesses which it is also likely to support.

Dr Naylor added: “The last year has been extremely successful, with a series of new investments in spin-outs which are developing some incredibly exciting new technologies.

“This builds on the University of Nottingham’s long track record of research commercialisation and it’s one of the key reasons why we have such a strong pipeline of new opportunities for investment.”

University of Nottingham ranked among UK’s best for using knowledge to benefit the wider world


A NATIONAL survey of the ways in which universities use their knowledge to benefit the world around them has ranked the University of Nottingham among the best in the UK.

The Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCI) is an in-depth study carried out by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, which helps drive the development of knowledge and ideas across universities, businesses, charities and government.

HE-BCI examines the commercial activities of universities, ranging from the use of knowledge to help companies solve problems and investment in promising research projects to supporting the formation of spin-out businesses.

In the latest HE-BCI survey, the University of Nottingham is ranked second in the UK for the amount of money it raised from the sale of shares in its spin-outs, with more than £11.5m returned to the University in 2017-18 for further investment.

Spin-out successes included early-stage cancer detection company Oncimmune plc, where £5m was raised through the sale of shares, and drug screening services provider CrownBioInc., where the sale of the University’s stake raised £3.6m.

Both companies follow in the footsteps of University spin-out Monica Healthcare, which developed a lifesaving foetal heart monitor that was acquired by industry giant GE Healthcare.

The University was also ranked seventh in the country for the amount of external investment received by its spin-out businesses, with £34m of funding secured to support their growth.

Making a difference

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University, said: “The HE-BCI survey is an important measure of the way that universities contribute to the world around them and we’re thrilled to have been ranked so highly.

“For us, this activity is about supporting and investing in businesses that can make a difference to people’s lives and, in doing so, secure a return that can provide continuing support for our core missions of teaching, learning and research.

“That is reflected in the nature of our portfolio of spin-out businesses, whose ideas and technologies address some of the key challenges we face both as healthy individuals and a healthy society.”

The success in the HE-BCI survey came during a year in which the University further bolstered its credentials as a key centre for research commercialisation in the Midlands through Nottingham Technology Ventures Ltd – set up by the University to further professionalise the management of its spin-out portfolio.

It also set up its own £5m Invention Fund to provide targeted backing to spin-outs as they develop. Its support also helps them as they seek co-investment.

The University’s spin-out portfolio includes businesses developing new technologies and solutions for agriculture and the environment, energy sustainability, healthcare, manufacturing and materials.

Culture of enterprise

Dr Susan Huxtable, Director of Intellectual Property Commercialisation, added: “As a University, we strongly encourage a culture of enterprise and innovation across our academic community.

“This underpins all successful knowledge exchange and reflects the University’s long-term commitment to developing research potential into outcomes which benefit society and the economy.”

The University provides a wide-ranging portfolio of services aimed at supporting businesses. It includes student placements, collaboration projects with businesses, research institutes dedicated to developing new technologies, and working with key sectors of the regional and national economy.

Spin-out success celebrated at University of Nottingham Enterprise Dinner

SPIN-OUT success, new ventures and the key role universities play in nurturing enterprise came under the spotlight at the University of Nottingham Enterprise Dinner 2019.

More than 80 guests attended the celebration of the University’s commitment to the commercialisation of ground-breaking ideas, with millions of pounds invested in the growth of businesses developing products and services which benefit the world at large whilst delivering a financial return which can be reinvested in the core mission of learning, research and impact.

The dinner saw the latest additions to the University’s 18-strong spin-out portfolio introduced by Dr Susan Huxtable, Director of Intellectual Property Management and Commercialisation. They are Blueskeye AI, which uses Artificial Intelligence to help diagnose mental health problems; Texture Jet, which is developing innovative surfacing solutions for manufacturing; and Taraz Metrology, a specialist in optical metrology for additive manufacturing.

Keynote speaker Dr Mark Payton, CEO of the leading technology investor Mercia Technologies, used his speech to call for a significant change in the geographical distribution of investment funding, which is currently dominated by London.

He told the dinner: “There is a two-and-a-half-times over supply of capital in London, which I find truly remarkable. We always say that we are in the regions, from the regions and to the regions because we believe there are great investment opportunities across the Midlands and the North and we regard it as our job to get out there and support high growth firms at an early stage.”

Outlining his key criteria for investment success, Dr Payton said he looked for “leaders and feeders” – key people in and around a business, and investors and institutions with the capacity to provide support, including universities.

He explained: “Leaders are entrepreneurs, and we see two generations – the first has a business background, the second are graduates coming through universities and willing to take a risk in business.

“Leaders are also senior managers in coachable teams willing to listen, with a strong chair and a driven CEO. A strong dynamic between them is a common feature of success in our portfolio.

“The number one feeder is the provider of capital. You need full alignment with whoever is providing it because if that breaks down you will fail. A second feeder is universities and Mercia’s offices are in university cities like Nottingham because these are places where we can build, where we see SMEs come through, often in university science parks.

“The final feeder is mentoring networks and support. It is critical for businesses to be able to talk to people who are not in their teams about issues that matter, whether that is through mentors or meet-ups.”

Earlier, the dinner heard from Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University, and Dr Andy Naylor, CEO of Nottingham Technology Ventures, which manages the University’s spin-out activity.

Dame Jessica has recently examined the Silicon Valley ecosystem connected to UC Berkley and Stanford University. She said: “We can’t replicate that here in Nottinghamshire but we can certainly do more. What struck me during the visit is that people are becoming leaders earlier during their lives and careers, and how we can make that more usual than exceptional is something we need to consider.”

Dr Naylor used the dinner to formally announce the launch of the University of Nottingham Invention Fund, a £5m support fund that has already made its first five investments.

He said: “We’re aiming to deliver a step-change in the University’s spin-out portfolio, and we’re doing this through three primary activities – creating new companies, managing the University’s investment funds, and supporting our companies as they develop and grow, including helping them to exit.

“This has resulted in £15m cash returns to the university since our last Enterprise dinner. The financial returns from these exits are used to support the University’s core mission of being an inspiring place to learn and conduct world-class research.

“But beyond this, our spin-out companies are changing the world to become a better place and help improve people’s lives – from NuVision and Exonate, which are helping people to see, to Surepulse, which is saving babies’ lives, and Promethean Particles, which is delivering new ways of manufacturing materials.”