Liverpool’s upcoming Sensor City technology centre offers a unique opportunity for the Manchester-based entrepreneur behind an innovative road safety app.

Co-founder and CEO Kirk Ryan explained why K-Safe was moving west to a packed audience at ‘The future of Manchester’s digital tech scene’ lunchtime event, held by BusinessCloud jointly with Business Growth Hub.

The app – which seeks to protect vulnerable motorcyclists – is currently based at NatWest’s Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator in Manchester but will become the first tenant at the £15 million innovation centre when it opens in June.

Speaking to BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire, Ryan said: “Sensor City offers us a unique environment. We are linked directly to the universities and benefit from the contacts and expertise of the Sensor City team.

“We are able to go from idea to prototype quickly as there is dedicated manufacturing equipment for Sensor City businesses, plus a strong sense of community and networking between tenants.

“We can have an idea on a white board in the morning and get to a fully functional prototype by the end of the day, a process which currently takes weeks.”

Ryan on stage during lunchtime eventBusinessCloud
Ryan on stage during lunchtime event

Sensor City and Liverpool Science Park sit at the heart of the Liverpool's rapidly growing Knowledge Quarter which is the focus of investment programmes worth more than £1bn.

Ryan added: “Sensor City and Liverpool have strong links to China which are extremely valuable to any technology company.”

Ryan founded K-Safe with Aaron Lloyd in 2015 after a friend was injured while riding his bike. Its product is the MiBB, which stands for ‘My Black Box’.

“MiBB subscribers wear compatible sensors. We have different safety checks: the forces the rider experienced, acceleration, impact and we can model the whole thing in 3D like a computer game – we understand the physical position of that person,” he said.

“There’s a little safety period so if it’s just a bruised ego the rider has suffered, they can cancel it.

“However if a genuine emergency response is required then the emergency services can be contacted and the time, location and telemetry data are readily available to aid the first responders.

“Today 30 motorcyclists will be injured or killed on UK roads. A close friend of mine was severely injured, suffering a few broken ribs, toes and other pieces – but thankfully the driver stopped to help him and he fully mended.

“Had he been a subscriber to MiBB, if we’d thought of this beforehand, and if the driver had just left him, the system’s smart enough to know he needs help. So it would get the medical services there very quickly.”

A packed house for the event held jointly with Business Growth HubBusinessCloud
A packed house for the event held jointly with Business Growth Hub

Ryan is now targeting commercialisation, with the goal of securing his first paying customer in 2017.

“We’ve created our own sensor to start with, purely so we can get to market faster rather than relying on TomTom or FitBit or Apple, although we can develop an app for the Apple Watch, or GoPro – or whatever accessories the rider has – down the line,” he added.

“For us it’s all about the yearly subscription… and getting our product launched in May this year.”

Ryan told BusinessCloud recently that riders could benefit from reduced premiums on their insurance plans – and that he believes the North West tech scene is missing one key ingredient.