Covid Response Drives Innovation at BetaDen 

While the growth of big name technologies such as Zoom has grabbed the headlines over recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been driving a quieter revolution in the world of emerging technologies.


Malvern-based technology accelerator BetaDen is home to an array of emerging technology-based companies who, even in normal times, are set on the fast-track to commercialising their offer. But throw in new opportunities and requirements driven by the pandemic and many have found themselves being asked to develop their ideas more quickly than usual, fast-tracking their technologies to play their part in the COVID-19 effort in a similar way that final-year healthcare students were fast-tracked to professional status.


Linda Smith, CEO of BetaDen


Linda Smith, CEO of BetaDen, explained: “As a commercially-focused technology accelerator, our aim is to help technology businesses prove and bring their ideas to market, creating skilled jobs and attracting investment in the local area.


“Crucially, no technology – no matter how clever – can exist in isolation. To gain traction, it needs to be useful and demonstrably so. That is why we work closely with our cohort members from the off to help them identify their target markets and build connections with potential customers at an early stage in their development. This way, their business evolve in response to real-world experiences, maximising their commercial viability and the likelihood of those businesses being ‘investment-ready’ at the end of the programme.”


Spotting gaps in the market, commercial applications that haven’t previously been considered and evolving to meet new market needs are the cornerstone of any successful business and these skills have certainly been required by the latest BetaDen cohorts, which are likely to emerge into a very different world from the one they envisioned when they submitted their initial applications.


One such business is Voice Biometrics, a graduate of BetaDen Cohort 2 that fuses voice and facial recognition technology to provide secure identification software.


Clive Summerfield, managing director at Voice Biometrics


Clive Summerfield, managing director at Voice Biometrics, said: “When we joined BetaDen, we were confident that there were many potential applications for our technology but the financial sector seemed the most natural in which to develop our offer.


“However, when the pandemic started and countries began going into lockdown, it was clear that universities would struggle to operate in the traditional way, raising questions about how courses would be assessed and exams could be taken. As a result, we have been working with a University in the United States, using our software to enable them to confirm the identity of students sitting online exams with real success, so it’s an area we are now looking to develop.”




Tom Fenton, director at Veritherm, a current BetaDen member, regales a similar tale of unexpected commercial opportunities opening up in light of the pandemic.


“Sustainability has been steadily moving up the agenda for property and construction companies since the turn of the century but, while meeting environmental targets is a key part of new building design, it can be difficult to monitor how buildings perform once they are completed and handed over to their owners,” he explained.


“Our Veritherm technology was designed with the construction industry in mind but we are now actively testing it in the food sector as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.


“The shift came about when a contact in the food industry noticed that up to 25% of their fresh food supplies were going off more quickly than they should while in cold storage during lockdown, suggesting their stores were not performing as well as they should. This is likely to be an issue across the industry – as well as other sectors making use of cold-store facilities, such as the pharmaceutical sector.”


While Veritherm pivoted its technology to support new applications, other cohort members have played a hands-on role keeping medical systems operating at a time of unprecedented pressures on the healthcare sector.


DronePrep is developing a map-based platform to communicate drone access policies in low-level airspace by connecting drone users, landowners and third-party stakeholders.


BetaDen logo


They recently joined Cohort 3 at BetaDen and, during the COVID-19 crisis, have helped achieve the UK’s first drone transit corridors in low-level airspace, enabling emergency medical drones to serve vulnerable remote areas.


Gareth Whatmore co-founder at DronePrep, said: “The drone sector is a hugely exciting one and one that can truly revolutionise the way we move goods and people in an efficient, green and flexible way.


“Every new technology has an opportunity to win the affection of the public and often this is needed to realise the full potential of the technology.  We believe that emergency drone medical deployment and other #dronesforgood use cases during Covid-19 have demonstrated that drones have a place within our transport system, adding value on both a social and economic level.”


Claire Owen and Gareth Whatmore Co-Founders DronePrep


Claire Owen, co-founder at DronePrep, added: “During lockdown, we became involved in live, government-funded, UK medical drone Covid-19 response projects from the Isle of Wight and Cornwall to Scotland. Each project has seen the value of our platform in establishing corridors for drone delivery use in low-level airspace.


“It has been really rewarding to play our part in these projects, making a difference to the community at a time of national crisis, and we’re looking forward to shaping the future landscape for drone applications.”


About BetaDen

Co-located with one of the UK’s first 5G testbeds, BetaDen is a tech accelerator at the forefront of testing and developing future technologies. The testbed provides a revolutionary platform for businesses to develop next-generation technology, such as the internet of things and industry 4.0. Situated at Malvern Hills Science Park, Betaden offers entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-up businesses a package including free office space, mentorship from handpicked experts and a proof of concept grant. Applications for Cohort 4 open in November. For further information, visit