ORB Innovations

NESTA prize finalist on its mission to make contact sports safer and help teams win more


ORB Innovations is a hardware-enabled sports analytics company that is developing the next generation of sports wearable for professional and semi-professional contact sports teams.

It was founded following a traumatic head injury that its CEO, Robert Paterson, experienced while playing rugby. That is why, ORB’s mission is to improve both player safety and team performance – the two largest areas for innovation in the contact sports market.

Back in 2018, ORB was amongst 10 finalists for the NESTA prize. At the time, Robert was fresh out of university with a degree in Design Engineering, knowing a lot about developing a product, but not so much about building a sustainable business. Mentorship and support from Barclays Eagle Labs helped Robert feel more confident about business development: he learnt more about IP, strategy and pitching as they were helping him prepare for the Final of the NESTA prize.

Since then ORB has grown and advanced a lot. The company has graduated from Startupbootcamp IoT accelerator and joined the HYPE Sports Innovations accelerator. The founders won the MIAT Prize and got recognized by their alma-mater - Loughborough University - with the Enterprising Graduate of the Year Award. ORB has also closed its pre-seed round by bringing together the Startup Funding Club and London Co-Investment Fund (backed by the Mayor of London), alongside with two angel investors.

The solution ORB is offering is rather unique as it combines both player performance tracking and injury management. We all know that head injuries are a problem in contact sports, but rarely is the true scale of the problem understood. Last year the English Rugby Football Union reported that on average a concussion occurred in 7 out of 10 games, but it is estimated that only one in four of these were ever reported. The lack of positive confirmations makes concussion a much bigger issue than people first think. Current identification methods rely on perception not evidence, as it has never been possible to collect enough, or the right type of data to understand the series of events surrounding a head injury. ORB is changing that.

ORB’s first product - Smartguard - is not like any mouthguard you’ve seen before. It is called smart for a reason. It collects an unprecedented amount of data about each individual player, allowing ORB to shed light on where, when and why concussions occur in contact sports. This knowledge will help guide teams and governing bodies in the future towards making contact sports such as Rugby, safer to play.

But this is just half the story. ORB aims to increase the knowledge base and understanding around concussion while simultaneously improving the methods and effectiveness of athlete performance tracking. The same data collected with the Smartguard gets translated into actionable insights for coaches - giving them the stats live and allowing them to play smarter.

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