Problem Solver Wins with a Bacteria-Beating Technology

Interview with IdeaConnection problem solver Graham Lea.
By Paul Arnold
Problem solver and engineer Graham Lea works for Effrey Group, a company that conceives, produces, and markets technical and functional products. He is currently involved with biofunctional textiles and fabrics and came across IdeaConnection’s website during some Internet research.

The Advanced Skin Care tech scouting challenge immediately caught his attention. The seeker was looking for a higher level of skin care performance for new and existing products, and Graham believed that skintoskin®, one of his company’s products would fit the bill. The development of this new generation wear was part of a wider European Union (EU) initiative to search for natural substances and alternative approaches that can complement and reduce the burden on current medicines.

Graham was awarded $1,000 for introducing this technology to the seeker.

What is skintoskin®?

The textile is made from cotton, seaweed extracts and silver ions and it has good antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-irritation properties. Silver ions are a hot topic at the moment because of their antibacterial properties. I have helped take the technology from ideation through to adoption by the National Health Service in the UK. We now supply directly to dermatology departments in clinics and hospitals.

It’s worn under garments and the wearer gets a great deal of benefit because it kills bacteria and stops itching. It’s also useful in the fight against MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). The technology is not a replacement for antibiotics but works as an effective preventative. Although it may only appear to be a fabric, the way it is put together is quite complicated.

You appear willing to share the technology with others.

Yes. I felt that it should be out there because it can be adapted for many uses. I believe strongly that knowledge should be shared. You never know what you might stumble upon and I like the crowd sharing and crowdfunding ethos. These concepts ring all the right bells for us.

Currently, we’re working on a t-shirt for some of the African states where we’ve actually been able to block the antenna of female mosquitos. So when someone wears it, the mosquito basically ignores you.

We’re also looking at a suit that reduces the breakout of bed sores and ulcers for people who are long-term bedridden. Those people have open wounds and sores that can get infected which can be fatal.

There are lots and lots of areas that the technology can be applied to.

How can you share, and protect your IP at the same time?

We’re open to working on any basis with any company. There are opportunities for us to manufacture or license the technology – anyway we can share fairly openly but with some security obviously. We’re open to that and I think in today’s world you have to be.

Of course you have to strike a balance between protecting what’s yours and releasing information so more people can work with the technology but won’t run away with the idea.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

My background is in engineering. I started my engineering career at Marconi and from there trained in metal work and welding to quite high standards. I also ran my own business for 11-12 years and so I’ve got a good handle on what businesses need to be doing. And the core business of the company I work for now is to do with metalwork. The company also has an entrepreneurial spirit and we're diversifying and looking for interesting things.

My background of engineering, metal work and fabrication has no relevance to the tech scouting challenge. However, for the last two years I’ve been studying a lot about skin conditions and Eczema because I’m a bit of a knowledge glutton.

Do you class yourself as a problem solver?

Definitely. For the last 20 years my background has been problem solving within in an engineering environment. When I had my own company we used to produce a lot of containers for bulk shipping. There are several companies in the UK involved in this area and they had a lot of issues with wastage and design fault problems. One of the briefs my company was given was to take this thing apart and solve the issues which we did. And we received lots and lots of money which was good.

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