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Tag: instrumentation

Let’s start manufacturing – new TSB strategy announced

At last the Technology Strategy Board has published its new strategy for High Value Manufacturing.

Their definition of HVM is very much allied with ours:

High value manufacturing is the application of leading edge technical knowledge and expertise to the creation of products, production processes, and associated services which have strong potential to bring sustainable growth and high economic value to the UK. Activities may stretch from R&D at one end to recycling at the other. Such potential is characterised by a combination of high R&D intensity and high growth.

And they focus on 22 competences, grouped into 5 strategic themes:

  • resource efficiency
  • manufacturing processes
  • materials integration
  • manufacturing systems
  • business models

Reading through this document and the accompanying Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing study, there is a lot of sense here, but I’d argue also a number of important omissions and (dare I say it) fashionable hobbyhorses.  For example, I feel that the UK has world class competences in metrology, measurement systems and analytical instrumentation.  These competences can enable leaner, more resource efficient and less costly manufacture.  This doesn’t undermine the overall thrust of the IfM’s argument, but I hope that the TSB will be open to a healthy debate and ongoing refresh of these 22 competences.

At Qi3 Accelerator, we use the phrase High Value Manufacturing to encompass the ‘real world’ of engineered products and associated services, including those destined for sectors such as aerospace, security, defence, space, medical and environmental.

Let’s see how this new strategy for HVM is backed up by actions that will make a material difference to the rebalancing of the UK economy towards making things.

 

Bootcamp heats up debate on British manufacturing

The Qi3 Accelerator HVM Bootcamp is heating up.  Quite a few people are asking us what constitutes ‘manufacturing’ in our context.

I’m not going to give a pat definition here, but suffice it to say that we’re looking for companies outside of the ‘wet biotech’ and ‘pure internet’ spaces, where engineering disciplines bring together core physics, engineering, biology or chemistry into an engineered product based up0n electronics, software, sensing, instrumentation and services.  Pure software is fine if it relates to engineering.

And what’s the ‘High Value’ in High Value Manufacturing?  I see it as:

  • High value added, through a high knowledge content and the deployment of skilled labour
  • Broad in lifecycle, through the recognition that ‘cradle to cradle’ lifecycle creates opportunities in the value chain not just the manufacturing process
  • Comprehensive in scope; considering societal and environmental benefits, not just the tangible product

Try us – to get 3 days of intensive support for your business acceleration, apply by 30th May.

Why we’re passionate about High Value Manufacturing

After this week’s announcement of the Qi3 Accelerator Bootcamp, friends are asking me why we’re doing it.  Are we mad? How will we make money? And, above all, why High Value Manufacturing (HVM)?

The simple answer is that we’re doing it because we see the need!  After reviewing nearly 400 prospects, we see a common set of areas in which businesses need to improve if they wish to attract investment.  Let’s be clear here, I’m not just talking about seed stage ideas.  I’m expecting that the bootcamp will be most attractive to young established businesses looking for early or expansion stage capital.  We’ll be helping on all aspects of engineering businesses, from managing technology and product development, go to market strategy, finances and Intellectual Property.

When I attended the NESTA Startup Factories conference  last summer, it became obvious to me that, whilst Accelerator Programmes were flourishing in the software and Internet space, few people had tried them in ‘harder tech’.  When we set up the partnership with Cambridge’s ideaSpace, it seemed natural to run a bootcamp as a one-off pilot to test our evaluation process and the concept of such a programme.  We aim to support 8 businesses with tough love through an intensive 3-day process, and we’ve attracted a range of top notch coaches and mentors to get the best out of this short, sharp shock.

But above all, it’s about having fun working with ambitious people in the field I love.  I grew up at Oxford Instruments, a mid-sized engineering company where the customer was king and the love of technology and manufacturing was deeply ingrained.  I’ve spent my life selling and marketing other people’s technical inventions around the world.  For me, HVM means making real engineered products, be they destined for environmental sustainability, healthcare, industry or defence.  My pleasure as an investor is seeing engineering and commercial jobs created here in the UK, and products exported across the globe.

We’ve been fortunate to attract partnership from ideaSpace, sponsorship from Harrison Clark, Williams Powell, Synergy Energy and Wren Capital, and support from NESTA and the Technology Strategy Board.  Bootcamp participants will have to contribute a token amount towards their accommodation in Cambridge’s lovely Madingley Hall, and we’ll make up the balance of the costs ourselves.  We are not seeking equity stakes in the companies that participate, although we’ll naturally be keen to see if they are attractive investments at the end of the process.

So are we just do-gooders?  Well perhaps.  I see it as a superb experiment, an opportunity to help some great businesses, committed entrepreneurs, and work with experienced mentors whilst having great fun.

To join the bootcamp apply here.  It’s a one-off; entries close on 4th May and the bootcamp will be held on 23rd – 25th July.

My next posting will be the one about the aubergine…

Qi3 Accelerator leads syndicate investment in Phase Vision

It always takes far longer to close a deal than I imagine at the outset. There’s always some hiccough or another that introduces a few weeks of delay.

Anyway, I’m delighted to be able to confirm today that Qi3 Accelerator, working with existing investors Octopus Investments, has completed a £1.5m investment in Loughborough-based industrial inspection business Phase Vision.  I’ve joined the board as a non-executive Director, to support the development of the business in the aerospace, automotive and nuclear markets, and to represent our substantial Business Angel consortium.  Our syndicate comprises a wide range of Cambridge, London and East Midlands based investors.  Great task sharing between Tim, Paul and me, together with support from other investors, made this a real team effort.  Most importantly, the management and staff at Phase Vision have been a pleasure to work with throughout, seemingly unflappable in the face of our persistent questioning.

And this is why we started Qi3 Accelerator; to find great British engineering companies and provide them with the financial and management support they need to accelerate their development.  Phase Vision offers for me the perfect combination of a strong team, a super product that benefits efficient manufacturing and reduces environmental impact, and global export opportunities.

I’m sure there will be plenty of problems along the way – it’s a risky game investing in High Value Manufacturing, particularly in the midst of a prolonged economic downturn.  But in life you have to choose whether to be a spectator or a doer, and I hope to see Phase Vision do well.

Export or Stagnate

I could even say ‘export or die’.  Predictions are bound to have huge error bars, but we know certain facts about UK technology and engineering business:

  • The UK is the 22nd most populous nation, with 0.9% of the world’s population
  • We have the 7th largest nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 3.5% of the world’s output
  • We are still the world’s 6th largest manufacturing economy
  • The US, Europe and Asia are our main trading partners, with the US alone accounting for 30-50% of global demand for many technology products and services.
  • The world economic outlook forecasts 2012 GDP growth of 1.6% in the UK

Compare the following forecasts

  • EU 1.4% (including Germany at 1.3%)
  • US 1.8%
  • China 9.0%
  • India 7.5%
  • Emerging Economies as a whole 6.0%
  • Worldwide 4.0%

The nature of technology is that it sees no national boundaries – your business should be born global.  Technology products and services can be sold worldwide with adaptation to local customer preferences.

Qi3’s recent survey of the instrumentation industry showed clearly that those companies which invested in export sales have performed better in today’s turbulent economic environment.  They have a broader exposure to demand in the growing economies, especially in Asia.

So what will you do to increase your exports in 2012?

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