Leeds University. The Prediction of Labour Onset device (Polo) is a tool that can give doctors and pregnant women accurate information to determine the date and time when a baby will be born.
Polo was invented by IVMD, an Inverness-based spin-off company from Leeds University, which says it will make planning for childbirth easier for expectant parents and save hospitals millions of pounds by avoiding the need for them to take in women who are still a long way off giving birth.
The award judges could see its value. David Way, director of operations at the Technology Strategy Board, called it a "promising, innovative proposal, with real financial and quality-of-life benefits". Fellow judge Andrew Ramsay, chief executive of the Engineering Council UK, described it as a "valuable and worthwhile innovation with real evidence of success".
Polo, which was ten years in the making, uses small patches attached to a woman's abdomen to measure electrical signals in the womb wall. Computer equipment then analyses the data, giving doctors the clearest possible picture of a baby's due date, up to two weeks beforehand. It is expected to save lives by allowing doctors to keep a careful watch on those most susceptible to giving birth prematurely. It is less invasive and more accurate than previous testing methods, which use an assessment of the patient's history, levels of discomfort, frequency of contractions and cervical dilation.
The device successfully passed a trial on 60 women at Leeds General Infirmary. IVMD patented Polo's analytical software this year. Researchers are now working on a handheld device that women can use at home.