With preparations underway for the Wales STEM Awards 2021, we couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible achievements of our 2020 winners.

Following the inaugural award ceremony last year, we caught up with the class of 2020 to share their stories with you.

Next up we have Bond Digital Health who won the Innovation in Technology Award for their commitment to a culture of innovation and to creating cutting edge digital technology products that provide tangible benefits for the end user.

Bond Digital Health developed its flagship product, Transform™, over three years, during which it conducted extensive research of the lateral flow industry. They then spent two years and £300,000 developing and implementing a quality management system to ensure its technology is ‘medical grade’ and fully compliant with strict software as a medical device (SaMD) regulations.

What does your company do?

Bond Digital Health is a life sciences technology company that is making diagnostic testing better with data.

Why did you enter the Wales STEM Awards?

As a business we really value the STEM disciplines and strongly believe in empowering people to pursue a career in related industries. We are also committed to a culture of empathy and excellence and to creating products that make a difference to people. We were excited to hear about a new national awards ceremony that would celebrate all of those things, so we decided to enter.

What does winning a Wales STEM Awards mean for your business?

We couldn’t be happier to have won the Innovation in Technology Award because it shines a light on our commitment to excellence, not just in product but in people, too.

We’ve been working around the clock to create innovative products and it’s great to be recognised for it.

We’re also proud to be inspiring the next generation to pursue a career in STEM. This award will help strengthen our partnerships with universities to attract and retain talented people.

We would like to thank the organisers and the award sponsors CPS Group (UK) Ltd.

What did you think of the virtual awards ceremony?

While it was obviously disappointing we couldn’t get together in person to celebrate and share ideas with the rest of the award nominees and the wider STEM community in Wales, we were glad the ceremony went ahead virtually. It was a very well run event that we enjoyed being a part of.

What’s been a challenge for your business during the last year and how did you overcome it?

2020 was a challenging year for everyone, and though we were fortunate to have continuing business growth, we weren’t immune to those challenges. The biggest challenge for us was our funding round. We’d set up a funding round to take place in March for £2.25m. Everything was going fine, then three days before it was to go live one of our prime investors said they couldn’t do it. Investors had taken hits because of the lockdowns and were being cautious with their cash. We were facing what seemed like an insuperable obstacle, but we rethought, we replanned, and we acted quickly. We put together a fast interim round for less than £1m within a month. It went to the market and it was oversubscribed by a factor of six. Thankfully, we got the money we needed and that propelled our growth.

What’s been a highlight for your business during the last year and why?

There have been so many highlights of 2020 – not least winning the Innovation in Technology Award! But our biggest achievement was after months of hard work being able to deliver the first real-world application of our Transform® technology in the market for an infectious disease. The system, called Sona Connect™, is a companion app and data management platform for a rapid lateral flow test for Covid-19 developed by a Canadian partner.

What are your goals for 2021?

We’ve just been named one of the ‘21 firms to watch in 2021’ by the Western Mail, so that’s certainly something we’re going to have to live up to! We’re going to continue to grow our business and develop our digital technology – technology that is redefining and accelerating the growth of the entire rapid diagnostics industry.

What, in your opinion, can be done to inspire more young people to pursue careers in STEM?

It all comes down to education. The earlier you can enthuse young people about the STEM subjects and develop STEM skills and knowledge the better – especially in maths, which is an incredibly important but often undervalued subject. Then they need to have the pathways available to pursue that interest later into their education, whether they are academic or vocational routes. Hopefully, the new national curriculum will encourage and inspire young generations – we need them to help us make the world better with data!

What or who is exciting you in the STEM sector in Wales?

We were inspired by the other winners at the STEM Awards, particularly Louise O’Shea and Hazel Thorpe, who are both doing great work in inspiring young people and women to take up STEM careers. 

What do you think could be done to help the STEM sector in Wales?

The Welsh Government seems to understand and appreciate the importance of STEM to the future of Wales, describing it as “the bedrock for innovation in business and industry”. We agree with that and we hope the government continues to value its importance and continues to work with and support the STEM industries in Wales after the pandemic.