SBRI Award

Brush DJ Ltd wins Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare competition


February 2019


Dentist Ben Underwood, creator of the Brush DJ app has been announced as a winner of a national Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare competition to improve children’s oral health.  The competition was launched by NHS England in partnership with the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and aims to identify and support innovative new products and services which have the potential to improve patient outcomes.  It is the first competition of this type to focus on oral health.

Despite tooth decay being preventable, the NHS spends £50.5 million extracting decayed teeth from children under general anaesthesia every year1, with a total annual dentistry spend of £3.4 billion. This figure does not include the loss of productivity for parents/carers attending appointments during working hours. The direct and indirect global economic impact of oral conditions in children and adults has been estimated to be over US$442 billion2.

The SBRI award, which in phase 1 includes funding of up to £100k, will be used to explore the scientific, technical feasibility and commercial viability of adding enhanced features to the existing Brush DJ app. All potential features will be co-designed with children at highest risk of tooth decay and their carers and developed in collaboration with key stakeholders.  The team will then apply for phase 2 of the competition, and if successful will secure funding of up to £1 million.

Ben Underwood, CEO of Brush DJ Ltd said, “It is amazing to have not only this financial support and recognition, but, critically, access to the expertise of SBRI and its partners.  Having been part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme, I understand that in order to scale an innovation and gain widespread adoption, we will need champions from within all areas of healthcare. This award will allow us to take Brush DJ to the next level by recruiting a team of experts so that we can reach and help more children at risk of tooth decay.”

Karen Livingstone, National Director at SBRI Healthcare commented “The most common oral disease affecting young children in England is tooth decay, which has become a serious cause for concern for the NHS. We are excited to be supporting Brush DJ, an innovative toothbrush timer and dental care app, which helps to make brushing teeth a fun activity for children to build their offer and support improved oral hygiene. We look forward to helping to develop the technology further and to bring real benefits to young people’s oral health.”



1. Health matters: Child Dental Health, 14 June 2017. (Accessed 12/08/18).

2. Global, Regional, and National Prevalence, Incidence, and Disability-Adjusted Life Years for Oral Conditions for 195 Countries, 1990–2015: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors N Kassebaum et al. Journal of Dental Research, 96 (4) 01 February 2017.

3. Delivering better oral health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention. Public Health England, March 2017. Gateway reference: 2016224. (Accessed 12/08/18).


Notes to Editors:

  1. SBRI competitions are on behalf of NHS England by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network through its delivery agent Health Enterprise East. Further information can be found at:
  2. Background on Ben and Brush DJ:

Ben is an NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) alumni. He invested his own money to develop the app for benefit of his patients, but realised that it could be scaled to reach thousands, if not millions of people. As an NIA fellow he received financial support to develop the latest version of the app. The funding for the NIA programme came from The Health Foundation, NHS England and the Academic Health Science Network. Follow this link to view a quick tour of Brush DJ:

  1. Brush DJ is the only dental app in the NHS Digital Apps Library. It has been downloaded over a ⅓ of a million times in 197 countries. The main feature of the app is a timer which plays two minutes of music from the user’s device or streaming service, making the mundane task of brushing for an effective length of time more enjoyable, and therefore more likely to happen. The app also contains the evidence-based oral health information published by PHE3.
  2. As part of this process, Ben will recruit a team of expert advisors which will include:


Claire Stevens CBE

Claire is an NHS Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry and has served on the Executive Committee of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) for the last 8 years, most recently as President in 2017/18.  She also established, and now Chairs, the Managed Clinical Network for Paediatric Dentistry in Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and was on the steering group which produced NHS England’s Commissioning Standard for Paediatric Dentistry. Claire was appointed CBE in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List for services to children and will be one of the Brush DJ Ltd core team.


 Alicia Ridout
Deputy Director, mHabitat

Alicia brings significant expertise across a range of fields including clinical safety, programme design and delivery, complex care needs/carers and service improvement methodologies; user engagement is her passion and she has a proven track record of success, most recently awarded the CAHPO Digital Innovator Award in 2017.


Liz Ashall-Payne

Liz founded ORCHA, the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Application in 2015, determined to present a way to offer much needed guidance to app developers to help raise app quality, as well as helping the public and professionals to confidently find and apply apps that could genuinely improve public, patient and organisational outcomes. Liz is an NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow.


Dr Simon Bourne

CEO My mHealth

Simon has been CEO of my mhealth since 2012, and now works full time in this role. He is also one of the inaugural NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellows.  my mhealth are now the leading UK supplier of long-term condition digital products to over 100 CCGs, for patients with COPD, Asthma, Diabetes and Heart Disease. This year my mhealth launch their first telehealth product that interfaces with their self-management solutions. My mhealth launch into 2 international markets this year (New Zealand and the US).


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