Scottish Borders tech company soars following early-stage loan funding

Amanda Pickford, founder of ThermaFY

Kelso based Shock Innovations Ltd is helping hospitals to tackle coronavirus infections after receiving early-stage loan funding from DSL Business Finance Ltd.

TRADING under ThermaFY, Kelso-based Shock Innovations Ltd is helping hospitals to tackle coronavirus infections after receiving early-stage loan funding to support development of its thermal imaging technology.

An initial loan from the Scottish Microfinance Fund, which DSL Business Finance delivers on behalf of the Scottish Government, was provided to assist as part of an overall package to fund working capital as the business sought to establish itself in 2018.

A second sum was subsequently awarded using the Digital Development Loan Fund, a separate Scottish Government funded initiative delivered by DSL in partnership with Lanarkshire Enterprise Services Ltd to provide loans to SMEs working to improve their digital capabilities and capacity.

The loans have helped to fund the development of ThermaFY’s thermal imaging technology, now being used by the NHS in a number of UK hospitals in the fight against Covid-19.

Formerly a thermal camera hardware distributor, the firm identified a void in the use of its affordable thermal cameras. Shock Innovations’ founder Amanda Pickford found that users of the advanced technology required compatible and accessible software, so she turned to software and application (app) development to support users with gathering and evaluating thermal data, providing real-time thermal analysis solutions. By developing apps, she filled a gap in the market while providing the company with greater longer-term sustainability.

Initially, the impact of Covid-19 postponed ThermaFY’s business development plans, including a number of projects it was involved in which required international travel. However, utilising the time that lockdown provided and a new market for human temperature readings, Amanda Pickford dedicated resources to the research and software development of thermal scanning stations.

Amanda was approached by a large NHS Trust who were looking to install automated temperature scanning stations across their hospitals in Chelsea and Westminster and West Middlesex.

Amanda Pickford said: “During the first pilot our systems scanned over 150,000 people in just three months. Now the stations are a permanent feature, scanning over 7,000 patients and staff every day. Helping to give people confidence that the hospitals are a safe environment.”

ThermaFY Group operates through three main internal brands covering a range of sectors in energy, digital health and agriculture. 

In 2020, the tech company was approached by Microsoft to take on a project identifying Foot and Mouth disease in cattle in Columbia. ThermaFY Agri Tech has been working on a solution that uses ear tags to scan, record and send cows temperatures to farmers smartphones. The opportunity to work with Microsoft arose after Amanda Pickford was selected to join one of the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) programs of its kind run by Microsoft, aimed at unlocking solutions to society’s biggest global challenges.

Amanda Pickford said: “Though our work in the digital health sector has been a big focus in the past year, our partnership with Microsoft to identify foot and mouth disease in cattle is ongoing. We have also been working on similar projects studying mastitis with local dairy farmers and the Edinburgh Veterinary Hospital.”

ThermaFY Eco Solutions has been successful in being selected by NatWest Group to run a pilot on the energy inefficiencies of their staff working from home. Large organisations are increasingly concerned around the impact of their overall carbon footprint in the fundamental change to working patterns. ThermaFY’s pioneering heating efficiency software will deliver clear detailed reporting of domestic heating systems, identifying issues and ways to help reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Stuart Yuill, executive director at DSL, said: “One of the reasons Amanda was a worthy recipient of support via the two loans was her past success in operating businesses. It was clear that she had the necessary skills, expertise and innovative mindset to make Shock Innovations successful – as it proven to be the case even during a global pandemic.

“We were very impressed with Amanda’s extensive experience within the sector and her ability to forge strong and effective relationships and networks in this space. It’s evident from both her past and current business ventures that she is incredibly committed to her work.

“We were very keen to get behind such a unique product that has the potential to fill a gap in the market and are we are excited to see how the business continues to advance, particularly within the digital health sector.”

Amanda Pickford is an ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES). Her expertise and experience saw her named as one of the top 20 businesswomen to watch in 2019 and she was named innovator of the year at the 2019 (WES) Awards.

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