U + I and Brunel University London have officially launched the Central Research Laboratory, a supportive space for start-ups focussed on making.
The facility, based at U+I’s Old Vinyl Factory development in Hayes has been operating for a few months now. It is already home to 33 members involved in “hardware”, modern manufacturing of a diverse range of innovative products, and services based on novel engineering.
During the first six months of the pilot the CRL has expanded from hosting 19 permanent members to 33. Of these 40% originated from Brunel University. All the businesses have completed MVP (minimum viable product) prototypes – a key stage in the evolution of such businesses, and an important element of seeking expansion funding.
CRL provides mentors who have spent 264 hours with all 11 teams, with Brunel partners IBB, Kingston Smith, KPMG and Mathys & Squire providing additional extensive pro-bono support.
As well as expert advice, the supportive ‘ecosystem’ at the CRL provides “pitch school” training sessions, and business fundamentals training sessions, leading to 6 of the 11 having officially pitched for investment, looking to raise £1.6 million in total, and with 4 currently in due diligence process. Additionally three crowd funding are being prepared for summer launch, while one patent has been successfully posted, with four further teams preparing patent applications.
Speakers at the event focussed on the theme of collaboration being the key to success – between the delivery partners Brunel University London and U+I, and between the eleven teams.
A panel of investors inclunding C4 Ventures, MMC Ventures, Crowdcube and Breed Reply, gave guidance on what made investment pitches successful. As well as unlocking some new capability for users, the hardware innovations would need to be “easily speadable”, by which they meant easy to adopt, so they would spread quickly through users and consumers.
Speakers emphasised that manufacturing should not be given up on – and on the day of the announcement of the likely closure of the Port Talbot steelworks, it needed emphasising that the UK is the 11th largest manufacturing economy in the World.
We heard from a number of the members of CRL about their innovations. Bump Mark is an innovative food packaging tool which ‘goes off’ at the same rate as the food in the package, helping both the blind know when food should no longer be used, and also helping avoid uneccessary food waste.
Animus Technologies offered a sensor driven space planning tool that allows the management of air temperature, lighting, and more to be delivered based on real time occupancy.
Denovi offered a digital drawing system that allows you to draw on any surface and instantly capture that drawing electronically.
It seemed appropriate that the launch was held in a building once part of EMI Records key global vinyl record production site, a manufacturing industry destroyed by replacement technology. That destruction is now being replaced by companies harnessing a variety of new technologies to create a new manufacturing industry.