Tennis ace Murray backs former boxer’s Edinburgh health start-up

Scottish tennis champion Jamie Murray is among a number of big-name backers behind a six-figure investment in a fitness start-up founded by a former boxer.

Alex Birks set up his fitness innovation company after suffering a serious boxing injury.
Alex Birks set up his fitness innovation company after suffering a serious boxing injury.

Murray, elder brother of Andy, and his wife Alejandra have supported the investment round into SujiBFR which has developed a device aimed at reducing pain and increasing muscle strength during exercise.

The funding, also backed by Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow-based Gabriel Investment Syndicate and VC backer, Creator Fund, comes as SujiBFR announced a partnership with the LTA, the national governing body for tennis in Great Britain.

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The company’s AI-powered technology, named Suji Device, is based on a system called blood flow restriction (BFR) training and was developed by former amateur boxer and Heriot-Watt graduate Alex Birks who came up with the idea after breaking his tibia.

“I felt frustrated by the length of time it would take to return to peak performance and started looking for fitness solutions that could help,” said Birks.

“After reaching out to sports professionals, I realised that BFR training was recognised as a powerful tool for mitigating pain and strengthening muscles using low-intensity exercise.”

The Suji device is comprised of two cuffs that wrap around arms or legs and a Bluetooth-enabled pump controlled via a mobile app. Using AI, the device prescribes exercises suitable for each user’s body and fitness level, inflating the cuffs to partially restrict blood flow.

Murray said he believes the system could benefit athletes at every level.

“It’s a perfect example of how investment in new solutions can help athletes to reduce pain, optimise performance and recover after injury,” he said.

“SujiBFR has taken the scientifically proven benefits of BFR and incorporated these into a device that is easy to use, safe and effective. For me, Suji Device also acts as an effective tool when I’m on the road with limited access to gym equipment.”

Under the partnership with the LTA, the organisation can assign Suji Devices to players on tour, while also making it one of a number of technologies available at its National Tennis Centre, for players supported through the governing body’s programmes.

Dan Lewindon, head of performance science & medicine at the LTA, said: “The portability of this system is a crucial element for professional tennis players who spend many months of the year on the road at venues with variable access to gym equipment and facilities. This system will provide us with an effective solution to support and develop players’ strength in any environment.”

BFR provokes a physiological response comparable to that achieved in normal workouts. By ‘tricking’ the body into believing it is working at a much higher capacity, the technique improves muscular performance, strengthens tendons and bones and can offer benefits to the cardiovascular system.

After graduating in 2019 from Heriot-Watt with a first class honours degree in Robotics, Autonomous & Interactive Systems, Birks’ secured a Royal Society of Edinburgh enterprise fellowship to help develop his idea and the company was also accepted onto the Scottish Enterprise High Growth Ventures programme.

SujiBFR was represented by Addleshaw Goddard in the funding deal.

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