A cutting-edge Coventry company has created a new, world-first form of plastic that could revolutionise the way limb conditions and injuries are treated.
torc2 Ltd, based at the Bilton Industrial Estate, has protected the Intellectual Property (IP) on the material as well as a new process method using their flexible, durable compound that can be re-shaped at temperatures safe for patients.
Gary Blundell and Ron Taylor, who are part of the team that runs the firm, have a background in engineering and plastics and originally developed the new material as a potential replacement for Plaster of Paris casts.
But after seeking opinion from the medical profession including surgeons at University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire, the pair turned their attention to devices such as splints and supports for the treatment of Cerebral Palsy, Talipes (club foot), Hip Dysplasia, Idiopathic Toe Walking and liners that can be reshaped for lower limb prosthetics.
The company has also sought help from the CWLEP Growth Hub to assist in raising finance for its product development as well as the manufacturing process behind it.
That has led to a grant from Coventry City Council under the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme – part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund – which is supporting SMEs in the region to develop innovative products or services involving emerging technology.
torc2 is the first SME to be awarded a grant through the programme.
Gary said: “The key property of our torc material is the fact it can be softened at low temperatures. It can be reshaped directly on the patient at around 55 degrees and, therefore, the types of products we are looking at can be altered to exactly fit the patient very quickly, easily and without waste.
“When we talked to orthopaedic experts in the field, they liked the concept around Plaster of Paris but said it wasn’t an area of particular concern. Instead they recommended that we look into other applications that could provide both cost-savings for the NHS and a far better patient experience.
“There is a whole range of supports and splints required for a number of conditions, many of which have to be changed and altered regularly – the properties within torc material allows that to happen very quickly and easily.
“In some cases, Spica casts being a typical example, it can cut out the need for extra trips to the operating theatre – which is a huge cost saving to the NHS and much better for the patient.”
He added: “We are incredibly grateful for the support from the Growth Hub and from Coventry City Council – it’s great that organisations in the city want to get behind innovative, local companies.
“We’ve also been supported by Warwick Manufacturing Group with trial production and have had significant help from our friends at RDM Group.
“The next phase is to upscale the current lab micro 3D printing process to enable production of full size devices for clinical trials. We are seeking additional funding to help us to do that and the feedback we are getting is that this is a very exciting new material that has the potential to revolutionise the way in which this area of treatment is delivered.”
Jeremy Moore, of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “From my first conversations with Gary and Ron, I could see the passion they have for this exciting new material.
“They are doing exactly the right thing too by listening to the advice of experts from the medical profession.
“I am pleased that we’ve been able to help them reach this stage and it would be great to see this innovation used the world over, knowing it started right here in our area.”
Coventry City Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “Coventry has always innovated and this is yet another example of a local business being at the cutting edge of new developments.
“I’m pleased that we could secure grant cash to support the development of this new concept and I hope it leads to the on-going growth of the company and opportunities for local people.”
Pictured (left to right): Greg Gibbons (WMG), Jeremy Moore (Growth Hub), Ron Taylor (torc2), Richard Middleton (Coventry City Council), Kathryn Whatton (torc2), Cllr Jim O’Boyle.