Spotlight on Novosound

EIE is an Investor Readiness Programme that offers the most advanced start-ups and scale-ups the opportunity to undergo an intensive programme to make them investor ready. This programme culminates at our technology investor showcase, where we bring together our cohort of incredible companies with international investors. Please purchase your tickets here for this year’s showcase taking place virtually on 6th October 2022.

As we lead up to the showcase, we are pleased to offer you an in-depth look at an alumni of the programme: Novosound.

A unique technique that allows for printable ultrasound sensors to be produced en masse has given the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Novosound the opportunity to help push through the limitations of traditional ultrasound.

Dave Hughes was an academic in every sense of the word when he pivoted into business—with a degree in physics from the University of Glasgow, a Doctorate in Engineering from the University of Strathclyde, and years of extensive post-doctoral experience researching ultrasound for medical, dental, and industrial applications, Hughes formed Novosound, the first spinout from the University of the West of Scotland, in April 2018.

A sensors business at its core, Novosound has a global customer base, including high-profile technology companies, medical device developers, and clients in the aviation and energy sector.

CEO of Novosound David Hughes at the Bayes Centre, September 2022.

They started with six employees—including members of Hughes’ lab group at the University. Calling himself a “recovering academic,” Hughes outlines the struggles he experienced as a researcher coming into business at the early stages of forming Novosound, which has accelerated in growth over the past four-and-a-half years: now, there are over 30 employees in total.

Diagnostic ultrasound was first pioneered in Scotland in 1954. Prior to that, the ultrasound probes were only used by an industrial company to monitor metals. However, a gynaecologist from the University of Glasgow picked up the idea to be used for abdominal testing in the hospital. Thus, ultrasound for medical purposes began.

The crux of Novosound’s IP is the manufacturing of the ultrasound probes. Before, when Hughes would make high resolution probes and sensors as a PhD Student, he realized it takes a long and arduous process to create these products. However, with Novosound’s creative and innovative new technology, the products can be printed in the thousands.

“It’s cheaper, more effective, and scalable,” says Hughes. “The high-resolution probes have now the potential to be a commodity rather than a high-value component.”

When they first started the business, they focussed on serving the industrial sector, looking at aviation and oil and gas, and would turn to the medical sector later. They look at cracks and defects in pipelines, for example, due to erosion and then monitor how thin the wall is getting before it bursts.

The biggest cause of damage to the environment and industrial sector is leakage, and oil pipelines need to be monitored to prevent that from happening. In the aviation industry, the probes are used to inspect jet engines for defects and thinning of materials. GE Aviation, one of Novosound’s clients, says the custom probes that Novosound provides them are actively improving customer safety.

“If we can get it from industry to the hospitals and then into the homes, we can break away from the viewpoint that ultrasound is merely a hospital tool,” says Hughes.

The journey of Novosound has only been about four years long, but Hughes likes to say the company is four years old minus two, due to the pandemic.

In December 2019, they raised £3 million. When, in March 2020, the pandemic began and everything came to a pause, the Novosound team quickly pivoted to working from home.

They started with a lot more product design and digital marketing. They bought 3D printers to communicate with each other and email products to each other. Beyond that, they continued building on-site while following COVID-19 guidelines.

EIE was first introduced to Hughes when he started thinking about creating a company, as a way of amplifying the company to the right people.

In 2017, when he and his co-founder were getting ready for investment, Hughes realized it was an opportunity to have investors in one room together and jumped at the chance to be part of the EIE programme. They raised £1.5 million and founded Novosound the following April.  Most recently, in March 2022, Hughes presented at EIE London as the CEO of Novosound.

“EIE Is the place to be even if you’re not ready to fundraise because you’ll meet people who can help you in the future, and it’s never too early to engage. You can also meet other founders, entrepreneurs, as well as support agencies like HR, tax, lawyers, and PR people.” says Hughes. “As a jumping off point, it’s a great gathering.”

Please purchase your tickets here for this year’s showcase taking place virtually on 6th October 2022.

EIE is delivered by The Bayes Centre, the University of Edinburgh’s innovation hub for data science and artificial intelligence.

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