A retired Bolton bus driver who has designed a new medical gel cool pack to help alleviate pain for injured patients has turned his efforts to manufacturing an affordable and high-quality sanitiser for use in local hospitals.

Colin Lowe, 61, was in the final stages of establishing his new business ‘Ease for You’ when COVID-19 began to spread across the country. His original product – a non-solidifying freezable gel – has been in development for more than a decade after Colin experienced a back injury in 2009 and wanted to find a better alternative to frozen peas and ice packs.

Using only three ingredients, Colin’s product has been developed with academic support from Professor Mohsen Miraftab and a team of researchers and medics at the University of Bolton, thanks to an introduction via GC Business Growth Hub.

Colin says: “It broke my heart seeing footage of nurses and care home workers crying because of the lack of provisions and the pressures they faced earlier this year. After seeing the cost of sanitiser triple in some cases as a result of coronavirus, I decided I had to do my bit and help out. It’s been a pleasure to bring together a team of experts who have helped me to tweak my original product concept and create a lower cost but high grade sanitiser option for medical services.”

With support from a local investor, Colin has already manufactured nearly 1,000 litres of the new sanitiser, which is being gifted to Bolton Hospice and a number of local care homes.

He hopes to soon secure a deal for the longer-term manufacture and supply of both the sanitiser and his original ‘non-freezable’ gel, which could support manufacturing and distribution jobs in the region. Colin has recently been working with GC Business Growth Hub and is now on the NHS procurement list for sanitiser and is talking directly with the procurement team for one of the UK’s four major supermarket brands.

Stephanie Stafford, senior innovation advisor at the Hub, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, said: “Colin has been on a long journey to bring his product to market and was very near to launching the original gel when COVID-19 hit. He’s put a tremendous amount of energy into diversifying the product to produce this new sanitiser.

“While it’s always great to see hard work pay-off, this is particularly special because his main goal has been to help reduce costs for the health services while keeping the quality exceptionally high. It just goes to show what can happen when people with an entrepreneurial spirit are paired up with academic minds.”

Richard Jeffery, Director of Business Growth at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “One of the reasons we established the Hub almost ten years ago was to support the development of entrepreneurial ideas from people like Colin. His story is a heart-warming example of the role that business can play in giving back to local communities, regardless of your age or whether your business is a start-up, SME, or a larger corporation. We wish Colin every success on the next step of his exciting journey.”

Colin was introduced to the University of Bolton via the Hub’s Innovation Vouchers scheme. The initiative enables small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greater Manchester to apply for up to £5,000 funding to access expertise, research and specialist facilities to accelerate the development of innovative products and services.

Professor Mohsen Miraftab, an Ex-Professor of Materials at the University of Bolton and currently a Medical Device Consultant and honorary Professor at the University of Manchester, said: “I’ve worked with Colin over the past few years to develop his cool pack and he’s always been very determined and enthusiastic about the project. I’ve a lot of respect for him and it’s great that he’s not only identified this new opportunity but also taken it by the hands and created a new sanitiser gel. We’re very happy with the results. His genuine personality and work ethics are truly remarkable.”

GC Business Growth Hub’s Innovation Vouchers scheme makes access to expertise, funding and knowledge simple, and helps SME businesses to identify and progress innovative opportunities from concept to implementation.

The scheme is open to any SME business based in Greater Manchester that meets the full criteria and has potential for growth innovation opportunities that are new to the organisation or marketplace.

For more information: www.businessgrowthhub.com/vouchers.

Businesses looking to access specialist support can visit www.businessgrowthhub.com for more information an extensive range of services, part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund as part of a project designed to help ambitious SMEs achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. The Hub is also supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester local authorities.