Barnsley company secures nearly £100k to tackle spread of Covid in workspaces

A Barnsley business developing smart technology to help prevent coughs and sneezes spreading diseases in the workplace has gained a funding boost.

Twin Dynamics, based at Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre, has received a £91,633 grant from Innovate UK to invest in an intelligent airflow analysis system which will predict how respiratory droplets travel through the air and settle on surfaces.

The Covid-focused innovation is designed to give building managers vital information which will help them adjust office lay-outs, ventilation systems and working practices to reduce the risks of airborne virus transmission amongst workers, and to support effective track and trace monitoring.

Innovate UK has backed Twin Dynamics’ development as it focuses on enabling the co-working spaces market to re-open safely. The investment, provided through the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will enable the company to create two new jobs.

Director and co-founder of Twin Dynamics Dr Noukhez Ahmed said: “We are very pleased to gain this funding which will accelerate our R&D work on this scientific tool to help create optimal Covid-secure workspaces and public buildings.”

Twin Dynamics’ virus control innovation builds on their existing Multi-Fidelity Building Model (MF-BM). This ‘digital twin’ technology was developed to provide an insight into air flow and heat transfer within a building; and so help managers deliver optimal thermal comfort for workers wherever they sit, as well as reduce energy costs and carbon footprint.

Noukhez said: “We have developed expertise mapping out a building space centimetre by centimetre through our existing MF-BM which uses real-world data combined with virtual data, plus the principles of fluid mechanics, to simulate air flow.

“We can now build on this model but focus on the behaviour of respiratory droplets in the air. We know the heavier ones may travel two metres but in which direction and what surfaces will they reach? Lighter micro-particles will circulate with the air but where to and how will they be re-circulated as a result of ventilation systems?

“The information gained by this analysis will help facilities managers dramatically reduce the risk of cross infection through the lay out and positioning of furniture to direct where people will work and walk and by the introduction of smart ventilation systems and targeted cleaning regimes.”

The digital twin’s data will also enable managers to respond more effectively if a person proves Covid-positive by accurately identifying their potential areas of contamination based on where they were in the building.

Noukhez added: “Currently no other market solution offers to either predict droplet spreading in a workplace or identify probable contaminated areas when an active Covid case is detected. Instead, they focus on using air conditioning to try and dilute virus particles in a building.”

The new Covid-19-focused prototype MF-BM is being developed at the Diamond Building at Sheffield University and Barnsley College to help them create a safe environment for students. Noukhez hopes this will be the first of many field trials to gather more active data which will develop and improve the MF-BM.

Noukhez said: “We are at the technological development stage of the process and need to put the MF-BM to work to develop its functionality so it can be expanded as quickly as possible to help get people back into communal workspaces.”

DMC manager Tracey Johnson said: “The global co-working spaces market is set to become increasingly important as we come out of the pandemic with more companies supporting remote working and making use of co-working spaces for occasional working, collaboration and meet-ups.

“Whatever happens next, we will continue to need to protect against the spread of coronavirus. This smart, digital health and safety solution from Twin Dynamics could really help to make workspaces, like our own Digital Media Centres, exemplars of well-managed Covid-secure environments. We look forward to seeing the outcome of the team’s development.”

Twin Dynamics moved to Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre, from Dewsbury in March 2019, when the company took part in the IoT Tribe North accelerator which helps startups grow quickly as part of a wider digital ecosystem.

Their MF-BM technology was developed with the support of the IoT Tribe programme and in partnership with Cambridge and Sheffield universities. It has been put into practice in the Diamond Building at the University of Sheffield.

Noukhez said: “We are in the position where we are now because we are based in Barnsley. The DMC’s Enterprising Barnsley team and IoT Tribe have supported us every step of our journey providing us with business support, introductions to key partners such as the universities and gaining opportunities to showcase our technology such as Barnsley College. The DMC has proved to be an outstanding business platform on which to build our business.”