University innovation competition drives growth for Birmingham SMEs

The University of Birmingham is delighted to announce that Birmingham based businesses, Webster & Horsfall and IMI Truflo Marine have been named as winners in the University’s first Innovation Competition.

Delivered in partnership with R&D Tax Claims Ltd and Forresters, the competition featured two strands; High-growth Innovative SME of the Year and Best Innovative Idea for Exploitation.

Webster & Horsfall

From left to right: Robert Horsfall (Webster & Horsfall), Mark Evans (R&D Tax Claims Ltd), Dr Shervin Tabrizi (University of Birmingham)

Present to collect the High-growth Innovative SME of the Year award on behalf of Webster & Horsfall, financial director Robert Horsfall was keen to emphasise the link between his company’s R&D investment and their steady increase in turnover during the past few years. ‘It is fundamentally important to Webster & Horsfall’s future that we invest in research and development’, said Robert. ‘For a company that will be 300 years old in 2020, if we want to survive for another 100 years then we need to be focused on R&D’.

For Research Fellow Shervin Tabrizi, it will continue to support the ongoing Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with the company, enabling them to write another chapter for this company’s rich history. Mark Evans, representing competition sponsor R&D Tax Claims Ltd, said that Webster & Horsfall’s commitment to R&D funding and clear plan for investment of the £5,000 prize money were key to their application’s success. Mark also explained the importance for research-intensive organisations to make sure they claim for tax relief where applicable. ‘R&D tax relief is out there and not enough SMEs are claiming it. These savings aren’t wasted or spent on dividends; our clients take that money saved and reinvest it back into their businesses, whether through jobs or new plant and equipment’.

Truflo Marine

From left to right: Jagvir Purewal (Forresters), Catalin Pruncu and Karl Dearn (University of Birmingham), Rob Watson (IMI Truflo), Russell Sessford (Forresters)

In the Best Innovative Idea for Exploitation strand, IMI Truflo Marine impressed the competition panel with their plans to develop a novel valve, the output of KTP project between the University and the company, with the potential for sale to the civil nuclear, oil and gas industries. Technical Director Rob Watson was looking forward to working with Forresters to exploit their idea, saying that previously the company has ‘felt quite inhibited about delving into the intellectual property world’. He also praised the support provided by academic Karl Dearn and KTP Associate Catalin Pruncu, saying ‘the University gives us a focus, and has inspired us to put a lot more effort into a more academic view of the practical things that we do every day as well as enabling Truflo to up skill our work force’.

For Karl and Catalin, the award is the latest development in what is proving to be a successful relationship between the University and company. ‘Truflo is a project where it is very easy to demonstrate a great deal of impact’ says Karl (Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering). ‘It’s been an exciting project, as we’ve moved from fundamental research to understand the underlying physics in the valve, through the design process to what we think is a very innovative, unique product that has the potential to differentiate Truflo from its competition’.

Research fellow and KTP Associate Catalin echoed this. ‘I’m very proud to know that my research is being transferred into industry, and producing novel products and embedding new skills into to Truflo. I’m aware that my work will help people’.
For Forresters, working with Higher Education Institutions such as the University of Birmingham is the ideal way to reach start-up companies that are beginning to think about protecting their ideas. Russell Sessford, Partner, said ‘a lot of these ideas come out of universities, and we need to be there to make sure the protection for those ideas comes in at day one so that valuable assets are not lost’.