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Fresh Check is October's Featured Business of the Month

Fri, 20 October 2017

Alex Bond won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in September 2016 for his business, Fresh Check.
A revolutionary business led by Alex and a team of PhD students, Fresh Check make products which identify potentially harmful and dangerous bacteria. They do this using a colour-changing chemical which turns from blue to orange in the presence of bacteria.
 
So far, the team have developed two products: an affordable bacterial spray and a smart use-by date label. By using their colour-changing chemical, the Fresh Check team hope their innovative products will help to combat household waste in the UK, which is currently estimated at about seven million tonnes each year.
 
As well as winning the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in September 2016, Alex was also a finalist for the 2016 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and has since been featured on Forbes’ 30-under-30 list.
 
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Fresh Check’s CEO Alex Bond to catch up with him and to see what’s next for the business.
 
What was the inspiration behind Fresh Check?
We were first inspired to develop Fresh Check when we saw some colleagues at Imperial College London win an award for best business idea. After spending a while coming up with a variety of different ideas, the idea that really stuck with us all was centred on identifying when food had spoiled. As students, all of us were frustrated that we had to throw out chicken which was even 1 day past its use-by date and we set about finding a way to actually monitor food spoilage. This idea has morphed into our current product - a blue to orange spray that can help users to identify unclean areas, such as chopping boards, baby bottles and sinks!
 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
All of us at Fresh Check have followed a standard academic career, undergraduate university degrees leading on the PhD’s with a view to becoming post-doctoral researchers and hopefully professors. When we embarked upon our Fresh Check project we had no idea how much we would enjoy working in business - the thrill of seeing our scientific ideas become something with tangible real world benefits has a tremendous thrill.
 
What challenges did you face when setting up your business?
One of the biggest challenges we've faced is time; being PhD students whilst running a business is a massive drain on time. It was a real test of character to continue to work on both at the same time whilst sacrificing so much free time. The payoff was absolutely worth it though, and through the high times and the low it's always been fun.
 
What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement with the business?
One of our biggest achievements has got be being featured on the Forbes 30-under-30 list in 2017. It's gained us a lot of respect and international attention that might otherwise have taken longer to gather. Although in terms of our proudest achievement, that's probably got to come from trialling the spray with members of the public. It's an amazing feeling to see people using, understand and appreciating a product you've made with them in mind!
 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award in 2016, how have things changed for you since then?
Since we won the Shell LiveWIRE award in September 2016 things have changed dramatically for Fresh Check. Back then we were still focused on developing our smart use-by date to help people identify exactly when food had spoiled. Whilst this is still a long-term goal for us, we are now focusing on overhauling food auditing services. The solutions that are being used at the moment are so expensive that the City of Westminster can only afford 1 reader for the swabs they use. Using the same colour change technology that we developed for food spoilage, we can provide a spray that can allow people to test work surfaces for dangerous levels of contamination at a fraction of the price.

What’s next for Fresh Check?
We have almost finished the development of our proof of hygiene spray and are currently working with commercial partners to make the final tweaks. The next stage for us is to begin securing contracts and up-scaling our manufacture of Fresh Check to meet demand.
 
Entrepreneurs drive innovation. How do you think this can be used to help create a smarter future?
The problems that appear to affect us individually often have huge ramifications for the whole of society. If someone can come up with a solution to these problems and they have an entrepreneurial spirit they can benefit not just themselves, but everyone who is affected by it. As we continue to develop new and improved solutions to the problems facing our societies, we all get smarter.
 
What role do you think entrepreneurs will play in the transition to a low carbon society?
Entrepreneurs are very effective at taking innovative ideas and suiting them to different markets whilst still generating profit. Low-carbon solutions are often some of the hardest to adopt, often requiring people to pay more and change their behaviour which leads to slow market adoption. I think entrepreneurs will be critical in ensuring that the new low-carbon solutions are attractive not only to consumers, but to the businesses that will implement them.
 
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to keep asking for advice. It's remarkable how many people are willing to help other people with new ideas and getting a whole range of perspectives can help to develop business ideas and lower the risk of making mistakes - which are inevitably going to be made!
 
Got a Smart Idea for a Business? 
Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding!
 

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