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Twenty-two

Dr Alasdair Mort - MIME Technologies

Rural solution goes global…

Dr Alasdair Mort - MIME Technologies

Rural solution goes global

It started as a high-tech solution to improve first response in medical emergencies in remote areas of Scotland, but now MIME® is on the verge of taking flight in one of the world's biggest markets – civil aviation.

Early one morning, on a visit to Silicon Valley in November 2017, Dr Alasdair Mort and his co-founder Anne Roberts were out for a run, in a bid to recover from jet lag. And as they jogged along under the flight path near San Francisco Airport, they saw the future of their company take off in front of their eyes. As Roberts later described it, “This was the pivotal moment when we realised just how scalable the opportunity was for our product in the international aviation industry.”

Less than one year later, MIME Pro is now getting ready to launch, and MIME Technologies is focusing on aviation as its initial target market, recognising that success in this rapidly growing sector could be a launch-pad into other major sectors. With four billion passengers currently flying per annum, a figure expected to increase to over eight billion within the next two decades, any new technology that makes flying safer and more cost-efficient is welcome – and that includes first-response medical software like MIME Pro. Medical incidents can affect one in every 200 flights per month, and airlines do not only have a duty of care to everyone on board but also face significant costs and “an increase in the complexity of operations” when flights are diverted because of an emergency. So if you can improve in-flight medical care and reduce liability, you would not only help to save lives but also save money.

The team at MIME Technologies has spent years researching and developing its product, supported by specialists in natural language generation (NLG) who turn the physiological data from vital signs sensors into readable reports, specifically designed for handing over to emergency services. During this period, Mort also spent a lot of time up in the mountains of Scotland and in the back of ambulances on the road and in the air to understand first-hand the problems faced by medical response teams in remote environments. When MIME Pro is released, he will probably spend more time flying around the world, but when it comes to planning the company's future, his feet are firmly planted on the ground.

Building the team

Before the launch, a key part of the strategy is getting the right people on board, including Clinical Advisor Dr Tim Stevenson. Stevenson has over 30 years’ experience in medicine and was previously Head of Health Services for Virgin Atlantic, as well as being an approved medical examiner for aviation and diving, and an approved doctor with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Co-founder and CEO Mort has a PhD in public health from the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Rural Health (Inverness), a Masters degree in Human and Applied Physiology from King’s College London, and a BSc in Physiology and Sports Science from the University of Glasgow. He also has extensive industry experience, evaluating life-support technologies for air, land and sea, including aircrew protection, for QinetiQ (previously the MOD’s Defence Evaluation Research Agency).Co-founder Anne Roberts, the Director of Customer Development, is a specialist in the application of new technologies for pre-hospital care settings, including emergency response, voluntary first aid and remote care. She has a BA (hons) in Psychology & Sociology from the University of Strathclyde and has honorary research status at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Roberts has also held positions at the Centre for Rural Health, the University of Aberdeen’s Digital Economy Hub, and worked in a research capacity for NHS Information Services Division and the Scottish Government. When you add to them the recent appointment of Chairman Ian Stephens, the CEO of Biofilm, whose previous roles include senior positions with Optos, Touch Bionics and Mpathy Medical, the team has significant strength in the Med-Tech business – and great ambition.

Market opportunity

Mort is an inventive person who spotted a gap in the market and was curious why nobody else was developing a first-response solution. Working at the Centre for Rural Health, he could see the potential of the telehealth
market, but he set his sights on something much more technologically advanced – and also more down to earth. “Ironically, although MIME Pro is designed to connect to ground services via WiFi, the beauty of the core software is that it ultimately does not rely on connectivity and operates as a standalone system.”

Early on in his career, Mort developed an interest in monitoring physiological functions at extremes, including altitude and depth as well as temperature, and this has served him well in the development of MIME, along with his personal interest in outdoor sports such as mountain biking and hill walking. His PhD combined these interests, exploring the potential for novel types of medical sensors to monitor casualties during search and rescue, when conditions can be so bad that the first responders have to make very rapid decisions about whether to deal with the medical needs on the spot or get the person out of there as soon as they can – the so-called “stay and play” or “bag and drag” options.

Not for nothing

When Mort became an RSE Enterprise Fellow in October 2015, a short time after entering Converge Challenge (Scotland’s largest entrepreneurial training programme and competition with prize funds of £150,000 per year), he quickly learned a marketing lesson he will never forget. “Early on, I was told not to undersell what we were doing,” he reveals. “So, we decided not to give it away, even though it was tempting to do a free trial with a client who'd give us free feedback and maybe go on to place orders.”

For Mort, the Fellowship was also an experience which opened his mind to the world beyond academia. “I wasn’t interested in constantly publishing academic papers,” he says. “I enjoyed research but wanted to explore commercial impact and be at the front end – selling our vision.”

Mort says it took time to convert from academia to business, but he relished the challenge. He also says: “I don’t like the word entrepreneur – for me, it’s just business.” And for now, he is focused on building his company and starting to generate profits.

In addition to the RSE Enterprise Fellowship, MIME Technologies has benefited from the Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) Pathfinder Accelerator Programme (2015), at that time supported by BioCity Group, as well as winning a total of £90,000 of funding from Scottish EDGE. “Until now, we’ve been well funded every step of the way,” Mort explains. “We’ve also had the benefit of having steady jobs as researchers, before going full-time at MIME.” Roberts was the first to go full-time at MIME, quickly followed by Mort, and even though he is the CEO, they are both equally committed to the business.

First-round investment

As Mort and Roberts seek first-round investment, aiming to raise up to £500,000, the technical priority is to ensure that the software is completely market ready and meets all the regulatory requirements for aviation. The money raised will help to fund final product enhancements, including hiring new developers to supplement the technical team. Mort is keen to create new jobs in the Highlands, adding to the four employees already on board. “At first, we ran the operation lean but now we need a bigger team,” says Mort. “We also must be sure that we are capable of meeting growing customer demand.”

The groundwork has already been done, including the marketing strategy and new company branding, supported by Gregor McNeish of Tide Graphic Design Consultants, also based in Inverness. Chairman Ian Stevens quickly identified the market potential of MIME and knows it's important to deliver “a high-quality product in terms of both its functionality and its aesthetics,” drawing on his personal experience at Touch Bionics and Optos, and Mort is keen to learn from this experience.

Mort is full of new ideas, including future applications which would take advantage of the latest innovations in Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality. This would help address the major problem of reviewing or recording information at the same time as physically helping a patient – bridging the “large disconnect” between the medical equipment and the data. Another new project is a multi-patient version of the technology, which the
team are exploring with help from a SMART Scotland feasibility award.

Looking forward, Mort would also like to help humanitarian organisations and “make a positive social impact,” but for now the focus will remain on aviation. And if MIME Technologies comes close to matching the meteoric success of Touch Bionics and Optos in the medical market, the sky is the limit for Mort and his team.


MIME Pro

MIME Pro is innovative software which supports the provision of effective care in medical emergencies, in any location remote from professional medical assistance. It is designed to help the first responder at the scene with simple medical guidance, to ensure a consistent standard of care.

The technology integrates with Bluetooth® wireless sensors to monitor vital signs in real time, so cabin crew can not only manage the patient (e.g., react to early warning signs) but also capture, report and audit medical details during on-scene incidents – improving care and making patient handover easier and more efficient. The software also complies with Medical Device Directive (93/42/EEC) & EN62304.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Dr Alasdair Mort - MIME Technologies". Science Scotland (Issue Twenty-two)
Printed from http://www.sciencescotland.org/feature.php?id=344 on 24/09/18 03:17:35 PM

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