Tech Innovators 2013: Bactest

Bactest has pivoted away from its initial concept but is finding strong growth in the bacterial detection market for users such as sewage treatment facilities.

Bactest has pivoted away from its initial concept but is finding strong growth in the bacterial detection market for users such as sewage treatment facilities.

To follow on from our maiden Tech Invest event, we’ve profiled some of the most exciting technology companies in the UK.

GrowthBusiness has now produced a new 2014 version of Tech Innovators, where we have again profiled some of the best technology ventures in the UK through interviews with founding entrepreneurs.



Based in: Cambridge

Founded in: 2001

No. of employees: 7

Company FD: Andrew Taylor

FD profile:

Andrew Taylor is a chartered accountant who trained with Ernst & Young in London before moving into industry, first with BAE Systems and then Xaar, where he held a number of senior roles including finance director. Taylor now works with a portfolio of small growing companies and joined Bactest as finance director in September 2011.

Background business profile:

Bactest is the originator and owner of intellectual property relating to the detection of bacterial contamination in liquids. The company is developing a series of portable and in-situ bacterial respirometers that can be used on-site, thereby substantially reducing the time required for testing from current multiple day (laboratory-based) tests to hours. These products have applications in the potable water, food, paint, brewing, waste water management, human clinical and other industrial sectors.

Inside track:

Bactest has been a case of stop and start growth and innovation.

Having been first set up in 2001 by a few guys from Unilever using personal capital, the venture fizzled out and wasn’t restarted until 2010.

The business has produced a technology centred on detecting bacterial contamination in liquids.

Its original direction had been testing for septicemia in the blood, but the clinical trails required for producing a product for that market meant that vast amounts of cash would have had to be found.

The bacterial contamination angle is a much easier sell, Andrew Taylor says, as it is unregulated from the supplier point of view.

Another possible space was food, mainly pieces of machinery which have been cleaned and can then be swapped to test for cleanliness.

Taylor says, ‘There is also a low carbon element to what we do. Sewage plants need bacteria in them, it is what it feeds on.

‘The need to keep that level of bacteria re-growing at an optimal level, and if it drops then you have a big expensive problem.’

However, with sewage plants tending to overdo the aeration process associated with keeping bacteria levels up, Bactest is developing a product to test levels in a fraction of the time it currently takes.

The Low Carbon Innovation Fund has already stepped in as a backer of the company, with other capital sourced by targeting angel groups around the country.

Recent milestones:

  • Speedy Breedy product launched in Q4 2012
  • First Speedy Breedy distributors appointed
  • Third Technology Strategy Board grant won for the development of the ‘Shepherd’ prototype (a solution to optimise the efficiency of waste water treatment plants)

Upcoming milestones: 

  • Accelerate roll-out of Speedy Breedy to UK market
  • Continue programme of Speedy Breedy trials and case studies
  • Develop and build Shepherd prototype
  • Close £500,000 funding


  • Anglian Water


View all 25 UK technology companies contained within Tech Innovators 2013.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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