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Woods, nanoparticles and global 'sat nav' take the honours at Lord Stafford Awards final

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Woods, nanoparticles and global 'sat nav' take the honours at Lord Stafford Awards final


Published by Russ Cockburn for Danks Cockburn Public Relations Ltd in Education and also in Bill Payments, Central Government, Communities, Environment, Local Government

(l-r) Sandy Gordon (Promethean Particles), Karen Lowthrop (Hill Holt Wood) and Mark Dumville (NSL) (l-r) Sandy Gordon (Promethean Particles), Karen Lowthrop (Hill Holt Wood) and Mark Dumville (NSL)

A derelict wood turned social enterprise success story, a nanoparticle specialist and a global breakthrough in satellite navigation were the main winners recently when the Lord Stafford Awards came to a glittering finale.

Over 250 people packed into the Epic Centre in Lincolnshire to see the best in East Midlands innovation and was not disappointed with local organisation Hill Holt Wood securing the ‘Innovation for Sustainability’ title for its thriving business that has created 28 jobs and developed a new learning model for young people not in mainstream education.

The organisation was joined on stage by Nottingham Scientific Ltd who claimed the ‘Innovation in Development’ title for its work in developing a new satellite receiver capable of picking up global signals and ‘Innovation Achieved’ winners Promethean Particles.

The latter, which spun out of the University of Nottingham, has beaten off competition from US and Japanese scientists to create a new reactor that controls nanoparticles in water and is in the process of increasing sales to £1.5m and boosting its workforce to ten highly skilled staff.

Lord Stafford, who first launched the initiative in Staffordshire in 1997, was delighted with the quality of this year’s competition.

“The Awards are the only ones in the UK dedicated to celebrating innovative collaborations between businesses and Universities.

“All of our three winners have shown what can be achieved when the two parties combine their own skills and expertise to form a winning partnership that brings commercial gains to both the company and the educational establishment.”

He continued: “Hill Holt, in particular, was one of the most memorable judging visits I have ever been on and the way in which they have used innovation in every aspect of their enterprise should be used as a national model of best practice. It will take a lot to beat the class of 2009.

“The winners receive a £5000 cheque and a trophy from Ceramic Decals, not to mention a promotional video that will help them when marketing their products and services going forward.”

The Lord Stafford Awards, which is backed by the East Midlands Development Agency (emda), Manufacturing Advisory Service and the East Midlands Universities Association, was hosted by Working Lunch presenter Rob Pittam and featured a keynote address from PY Gerbeau, Chief Executive of X-Scape and former head of the Millennium Dome.

David Wallace, International and Innovation Director at emda said: “We recognise that East Midlands’ universities have a key role to play in driving forward innovation and this is why we support the Lord Stafford Awards, which bring entrepreneurs and academics together.

“Our winners and nominees have demonstrated that this collaboration can be creative, innovative and profitable – helping companies across the East Midlands to grow and thrive in what are difficult times.”

Other sponsors for the event included Ceramic Decals, CFE Ltd, Clever Cherry, Connect Midlands, Enterprise Europe Network and Swindell and Pearson.

More on the winners...

Innovation Achieved

Promethean Particles, a spin-out founded on the innovative research work of Dr Ed Lester at the University of Nottingham, has capped a tremendous first year in business by successfully commercialising technology that will see it play a crucial role in the development of new products, such as transparent sunscreen and green power generation.

Located at BioCity in Nottingham, the company has launched a reactor that allows the highly controlled production of nanoparticles in water for the first time ever and is now expanding at pace through feasibility studies and new contracts.
Judges were particularly impressed at the firm’s ability to take complex technology and transform it into a commercial opportunity capable of creating jobs and also developing new revenue streams for the University.

Commenting on the Award Ed Lester said: “This is a big plus for our business and, being a relatively new organisation in an international marketplace, will give us the added credibility when securing new work and partnerships.”

Innovation in Development

Nottingham Scientific Ltd (NSL) teamed up with De Montfort University (DMU) to research and develop innovative receivers, which will be able to pick up signals from all Global Navigation Satellites at all frequencies.
And the hard work is already paying off for the firm, which is predicting increases in turnover and the creation of new jobs.

With satellite navigation receivers traditionally reliant upon one network, researchers from both the company and the university started work on developing a new receiver that could overcome that.

The first receiver - the Primo - was launched in December 2008 and became the first device of its kind to be able to gather information from a number of sources, including the US Global Positioning System (GPS), the European Galileo system and similar satellite systems from across the world.

The judges praised the firm for the potential impact of its product that will also receive data from the Russian Glonass constellation and other constellations planned by China, India, Japan and other nations.

Mark Dumville, Managing Director of NSL, commented: “"I am particularly pleased with the recognition, not just for the company’s benefit, but also for the work of the individuals which is quite literally groundbreaking.”

Innovation in Sustainability

The husband and wife team of Karen and Nigel Lowthrop put everything into their dream of restoring the derelict Hill Holt Wood into a public place of interest and a thriving social enterprise, so much so they even moved into an on-site caravan.

It was all worth it, with the venture combining a flourishing public wood with numerous business activities that employ 28 people and turnover in excess of £550,000 every year.

Hill Holt blew the judges away with its use of innovation in both people and places, the latter culminating in its work with the University of Lincoln to develop the Woodland Community Hall.

Using reinforced limecrete, rammed earth walls and super-insulated timber frames, the building is going to be one of the most advanced in the UK and will become a focal point for the community.

The ancient woodland is also being used to develop the skills of young people, who have fallen out of mainstream education. Building on an oasis of vocational training, Karen and her team have already helped more than 400 under-16s gain valuable qualifications, with 70% of its graduates moving on to further education.

Karen was delighted with winning: “We’ve already had personal recommendations from Conservative leader David Cameron and HRH Prince Charles and now we’ve got the backing of a Lord. This Award is for the people who make Hill Holt so special and will give them lots of confidence to keep our enterprise moving forward.”


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