Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Smart-fabric company sews up funding

Leading investor groups deliver boost to firm refining technology that enables material to act as sensor.

Brent Ogilvie says the firm plans to license its technology to other companies.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Brent Ogilvie says the firm plans to license its technology to other companies. Photo / Dean Purcell

A Kiwi start-up that's working to commercialise its "smart fabric" technology has received a capital injection from some of the country's leading investor groups.

Christchurch-based Footfalls & Heartbeats has developed a manufacturing process that uses nanotechnology within the textile structure that acts as a sensor.

The company says there's potential for the fabric to be used in a wide range of applications, including the monitoring of patients' vital signs in hospitals.

And as the material itself is the sensor, it eliminates the need for wires or miniature electronics.

In its latest funding round Footfalls & Heartbeats has secured investment from the Global From Day One programme, Wellington's Sparkbox Ventures, the Government-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and a group of private investors.

The firm has also become the first Kiwi start-up to secure funding from the China Angels, an angel investment group linked to local business incubator The Icehouse made up of Chinese investors who reside in this country.

Auckland investment firm Pacific Channel already held a cornerstone shareholding in Footfalls & Heartbeats and its head, Brent Ogilvie, has become the smart fabric company's managing director.

Ogilvie would not reveal how much capital the start-up had secured in its latest funding round but said the investment would be "terrifically powerful" for the business.

"The investment, together with the management and governance expertise provided through [the new investors'] involvement will help the company realise its goals for this world class technology," he said.

Ogilvie said the company's first commercial application was a smart compression bandage, which would be used for wound care.

"We've signed an agreement to advance that [bandage] with a company in the US and we're about three months from having a prototype."

Footfalls & Heartbeats said other areas its product could be used in included monitoring of infants, stroke patients, athletes and workers in high-risk environments. There was even potential for it to be used to measure mechanical stress in satellites, aircraft wings, wind turbine blades, yacht hulls and high-performance cars.

Ogilvie said the firm planned to license its technology to other companies. The compression bandage was not expected to face any regulatory hurdles and it shouldn't be "many more months" after the prototype is released before the product enters the market, he said.

Footfalls & Heartbeats was founded by Kiwi chemistry researcher Simon McMaster, who is now based in Britain.

AUT University and AgResearch have also been involved in the development of the fabric.

- NZ Herald

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