First Water makes “artificial skin”, in the words of co-founder Cliff Andrews, a former medical sales manager. It produces a type of hydrogel sheet that treats wounds by releasing water gradually into the skin, thereby keeping it moist and speeding up recovery. The hydrogels, which make up 90% of the firm’s sales, were developed by Hugh Munro, a polymer scientist who directs the company’s research. First Water’s sales have grown 97% a year, from £690,000 in 1998 to £2.7m in 2000. It raised £5m of venture capital in August. As a two-year R&D contract ends, First Water’s 2001 revenues will dip, but sales of its core hydrogels continue to grow.
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