Estonian entrepreneurs and Irish scientists have joined forces to manufacture high-tech bedding solution
Just imagine staying the night at a hotel or a spa and loving the pillow so much that you decide to buy one to take home. This is quite a likely scenario, if you happen to be tucked into a bed with bedding made by Sleep Angel.
There is not a sewing machine in sight at the bedding factory in this suburb of Pärnu because the mattresses, blankets and pillows produced here are not sewn but welded together. Traditional sewing machines cannot be found here because the company’s products are just as innovative as the way they are made. Just as the main purpose of Pneuma Pure filter technology is to fight against healthcare associated infections (HAI), this bedding blocks the colonization of different bacteria, dust mites and other allergens that are commonly found in blankets and pillows. Therefore, in addition to using high-tech materials, it is important that the ‘baddies’ don’t access the bedding through the seams. For example, the pillow cover is hermetically closed but a special nanoporous filter enables the product to breathe. The pores are so tiny that the filter functions as a mechanical barrier that does not allow bacteria, fungi or pathogens to enter.
Sven Jürisoo, CEO and one of the owners of Gabriel Scientific plc, which was founded in 2014, claims that his company is bringing about innovation in the textile industry – a historically boring branch of industry that tends to absorb new solutions from other areas rather than innovate itself. Sleep Angel brand has already accessed the healthcare systems of forty countries and found its place in the high-tech league of the textile industry.
‘Currently nothing remotely similar exists on the market,’ says Jürisoo. ‘But upon hearing about our products, many hospitals have understood their relevance and said – “where have you been until now!” Considering that our technology is being used in the hospitals of Tokyo, Toronto and Switzerland, we seem to be on the right track of really changing something in healthcare.’
Jürisoo explains that the relatively young company is currently looking for adopters all around the world who would come along with the innovation, use their products and set an example to others. As Sleep Angel products are registered ‘class one medical devices’ and healthcare systems are overly regulated and very conservative, the introduction of products is always done through re-sellers. ‘It is unthinkable to reach all forty countries and their hospitals on our own, hence we need distributors. They have various profiles – for example, in Poland there is one person working on promoting our products and in Holland it is a company with a 400 million turn-over. For us the greatest value and criteria for selecting a distributor is that they see the enormous potential of our product. ‘As is common for medical devices, Sleep Angel products have special maintenance instructions that have been developed and tested together with the successful Estonian company Chemi-Pharm, which produces disinfectants.’
It is possible for anyone to buy Sleep Angel bedding for their home and the company promises that the quality of sleep will change instantly even if a person does not suffer from asthma or allergies. The first hotel to introduce Sleep Angel pillows was Estonia Resort Hotel & Spa, which is based in the company’s home town of Pärnu. The hotel has long experience in offering sanatorium and spa services. ‘The guests loved the pillows so much that Estonia Spa now sells them to visitors. This proves that people already notice the quality difference in a couple of nights,’ confirms Sleep Angel Product Manager Aile Pilberg.
In the longer term the company aims to solve a larger problem that exists in the healthcare system of every country – healthcare associated infections (HAI) that patients paradoxically pick up in hospitals and clinics where they have gone to be treated. Unfortunately, it is common knowledge that whereas the floors, toilets and other hard surfaces including door knobs are disinfected properly and often, the beds (both in hospitals and hotels and other accommodation providers) are often not seen as sources of danger that can be prevented. ‘The European Union spends 7 billion a year fighting HAI. Every year 40 000 people die in Europe from such infections; the situation in America is even worse, not to mention the rest of the world,’ says Sven Jürisoo whose company’s products are meant to decrease such awful figures. Each year there are about 100 million HAI cases in the world. This is where the world’s cleanest pillows and blankets can help. They are incredibly simple to use as the products do not need to be washed. Instead, their non-porous textile cover can be cleaned quickly. The higher price in comparison with normal pillows comes from the fact that the pillows last much longer. After all, washing regular pillows does not allow them to keep their shape for a long time. Yet even the washing of pillows is something to be happy about as Jürisoo claims to have seen hospitals where this is not done in order to save money or where bedding as a source of infections is not even part of the consciousness.
As it often happens, innovative products are born out of a series of coincidences and contacts between people. Before founding Sleep Angel, Sven Jürisoo and Lyane Lind, the co-founder and Head of R&D, worked together in one of the largest textile producers in Europe – Wendre, which also has its main office in Pärnu. The developers of Pneuma Pure technology are Jürisoo’s friends from Ireland who offered him the patent license so that Estonians could start to produce the innovative technology and market it globally. Gabriel Scientific plc has now purchased all the patents and trademarks from Ireland. However, the company still has international ownership – in addition to Jürisoo and his wife Külli Jürisoo, the shareholders include people from Ireland, Russia and Finland.
Has the constant travelling and staying in hotels around the world made Jürisoo look at hotel beds differently? ‘I do take my own pillow with,’ he says modestly.