Imperial College London

'Intelligent' mattress topper wins Imperial’s biggest startup competition


The end of an empty hospital bed

A team of Imperial students is developing an innovative mattress topper to predict and prevent pressure ulcers before they develop.

CalidiScope, founded by Imperial College London graduates Anna McGovern and Luthfun Nessa, won the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2021 for their mattress topper integrated with innovative sensors and machine learning to predict pressure ulcers before they develop, monitor patient movement and automate documentation. 

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) is the College’s largest entrepreneurial competition for students and alumni, enabling them to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation. The team took home the £30,000 top prize after battling it out against four other startups during the competition’s digital final.  

After seven intensive weeks of masterclasses, coaching, and meetings with experts, 25 teams, divided into 5 themed tracks, pitched to expert panels at the competition’s heats in March. The winner of each track was awarded £10,000 and then competed to win the £20,000 Grand Prize. 

A screenshot of two women speaking at an event
Co-founder of CalidiScope Anna McGovern (right) after their win, with host of the competition's final Reya El-Salahi (left). 

Avoiding ‘never events’ 

Pressure ulcers are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue, primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. They are defined as an NHS ‘never event’, a preventable condition which increases patient mortality. CalidiScope hope to make it easier and cheaper to prevent these ulcers before they develop.  

Luthfun Nessa and Anna McGovern photographed on campus
CalidiScope founders Luthfun Nessa and Anna McGovern

Their mattress topper integrates sensors to measure markers of inflammation, allowing pressure ulcers to be detected at an early stage. Their solution would use machine learning to send insights to workstations and phones, automating documentation and helping nurses to determine when to turn patients.  

By alerting nurses when a patient needs moving, CalidiScope say their mattress topper could save patients from unnecessary pain, save nurses time and prevent pressure ulcers developing in the first place. Going forward, the team say their device also has the potential to predict the onset of a variety of conditions, in addition to pressure ulcers.  

The team hope to spend their winnings from the VCC competition on developing a full-sized device to undertake out-of-clinic testing. 

Entrepreneurial ecosystem 

CalidiScope have benefited from the College’s world-leading entrepreneurial ecosystem, spearheaded by Imperial’s Enterprise Lab. In 2020, the team were finalists in the WE Innovate programme, the College's flagship entrepreneurship education programme designed to support the next generation of women entrepreneurs. More recently, the team took home the top prize of £10,000 in the Institute of Global Health Innovation’s Health Innovation Prize.  

Two men at computers
Behind the scenes of the 2021 VCC digital final

Track winners 

The competition was split into five themed tracks, with the winner of each track also claiming £10,000. CalidiScope won the Health & Wellbeing track, sponsored by Santander Universities. 

Other winners were: 

Creative & Consumer – Sponsored by Huawei 

Hectar want the knowledge and tools to grow fresh food to be accessible to everyone, so food can be grown locally. To do this, they have designed a modular hydroponic system, where plants are grown without soil, in a nutrient-rich solution. They will provide kits to community gardens, cafes and schools, and will also make the system plans available open source online. 

Digital & Fintech - Sponsored by Citi and Imperial College Business School’s Centre for Financial Technology 

Savium is building a financial engine to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access full real-time visibility of their finances and optimise their business costs. They use open banking application programming interfaces (APIs), classification algorithms and powerful statistics to help business owners streamline data entry and make smarter data-driven decisions. 

Energy & Environment – Sponsored by Grosvenor 

Deep.Meta are tackling the issue of identifying problems in metals production. Currently defect investigations are manual, so take a long time to identify and are not always precise. Deep.Meta are using machine learning algorithms to predict when defects will occur, such as on the production line of a steelworks, before they do.   

AI & Robotics – Sponsored by Huawei 

MattaLabs aim to make 3D printers intelligent. According to the team, 3D printers will spearhead the next industrial revolution, but are currently unreliable, frustrating to use and need constant human interaction from skilled technicians. This wastes material, energy and time. Their solution is to develop the first self-learning global 3D printer network using advanced computer vision and machine learning.   

Pushing innovation to the limit 

The Moonshot Prize of £10,000 was awarded jointly to UroSense and Algreen for challenging the norm and pushing innovation to the limit. Urosense are hoping to redesign the urinary catheter to improve patient experience by increasing comfort, avoiding injuries and stop bacterial buildup. Algreen are developing a 100% biodegradable label made from sustainable algae. The team won the College’s WE Innovate competition in 2020 for developing an algae-based alternative to harmful microplastics.  

The Social Impact Prize of £10,000 was awarded to Deploy Tech Ltd, as their work is inspired by a desire to have a positive impact on society. 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services. Deploy’s solution is an air-deployed, ready-to-use concrete water tank, able to hold 40,000 litres of water. 


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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