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Government-funded Innovate UK has awarded a £90,000 grant to a Chesterfield startup 99point9 Hygiene, to develop an automatic supermarket trolley handle sanitiser.

The non-departmental public body, part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s UK Research and Innovation group, is backing the startup so a product can be brought to market at the start of next year.

99point9 already produces a small unit that can be fixed on to doors, to spray handles with disinfectant after use.

The funding will be used for research & development, to create a similar product that can “achieve total coverage on any type of trolley handle”.

“The world has permanently changed,” said Simon Sassoon, CEO of 99point9. “Hygiene is now at the front of people’s minds. Key touchpoints are a weak point. Shopping trolleys are a prime example. 

“Supermarkets need cost-effective, easy, rapid fixes,” he added. “They do not need expensive, hard-to-install solutions.” 

The company says its handle sanitisers help “reduce fear and hesitation” among consumers about visiting shops.

“In these difficult times, we have seen the best of British business innovation,” said Dr Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK. “The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy. 99point9 Hygiene’s technology is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development and helping citizens return to normal.” 

In July, Asda trialled a trolley washing machine – developed by UK company the WasteCare Group – that can “thoroughly sanitise” them within 15 seconds, at its Morley superstore in Leeds.

Several vendors are targeting supermarkets with technology that promises to kill Covid. Rentokil Initial this week launched a new air purifier that blasts UV-C light at any viruses in the air passing through it, deactivating their reproductive processes.

“This solution will play a crucial role in helping to break the chain of infection, by taking control of the airflow in a room – drawing contaminated air out of the breathing zone and releasing fresh, clean air back into the environment,” said Jamie Woodhall, the company’s UK technical and innovation manager. Two unit designs will be available from next week, with two further designs due in January.

JenAct is offering a similar product, which it is pitching to food manufacturers.

“As the Health & Safety Executive and other agencies make clear, fresh air is desirable to minimise aerosol transmission of viruses,” said JenAct’s Dr Jarek Bilek. “However, in food factories this is rarely possible so our systems are designed to produce ‘virus fresh’ air in the working environment.”

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