Automotive and manufacturing businesses ready for market success


Some of the £1 million made available from EEDA to help test the commercial viability of innovative ideas from entrepreneurs in the region has been put to good use by two very different companies, both clients of YTKO in Cambridge.

Helmsman, a 230-year-old manufacturing firm employing over 100 people in Bury St Edmunds, used the proof of concept fund grant to commission an effective 'value-add' strategy for high tech access control for personal storage in schools and leisure facilities. Active Technologies, a new start-up company based in the Hethel Engineering Centre in Norfolk, needed to discover the potential, the competition and the best international routes to market for their unique engine throttle bodies.

The YTKO team in Cambridge and in Europe worked together to assess markets, create value propositions and plan market entry, getting valuable feedback from prospective customers in the UK, France and Italy.

 "It's vital to get robust early-stage market validation, before spending time and effort taking innovative new concepts through to production," says Peter White, founder of YTKO. "The EEDA funding ensures that companies really focus on the customer, not on their technology. Utilising our market and customer readiness expertise, our sector knowledge and research skills, we were able to clearly demonstrate the best opportunities, and highlight some of the risks, for our clients."

For Helmsman, the innovation project involved the final design, manufacture and sale of a unique product. However, in the light of market feedback, the original proposals were improved radically, with the new plans getting buy-in from the whole team.

Anne Rivett, Helmsman's Managing Director was delighted with the outcome.

 "We now know what new products and services are best for our positioning and future growth. Not only have we a better strategic vision of the future, we've also seen how our development resources should be used to work with supply chain partners. We'll retain more added value - and profit - from our contracts in the future."

Active Technologies products are aimed at the aimed at the performance and motorsport market. As a result of the funding, they have a future opportunity in motorbike tuning, and two new distribution opportunities in Europe. Competitive analysis has shown they can afford to sell at a premium, with users welcoming new products in a marketplace where the players have grown complacent. Ten detailed interviews with leading UK and European tuners helped with product specifications and range composition, and intelligence on pricing and channel margins ensured the products would be competitively priced but also profitable.

Paul Spinks, partner in Active Technologies, was seeking verification of the company's own ideas on markets.

    "We know our market well, but we need to move from creating custom products to selling from a range. The YTKO work showed us where the biggest opportunities were, and how to reach them. We're now preparing a product roadmap, and a market engagement exercise to get real feedback on process and specifications."

These proof of concept fund successes in the East of England are verification of YTKO's long-standing campaign to get market readiness recognised as a vital component of SME profit and growth. In Yorkshire, more of YTKO's proof of concept work has leveraged over £2 million of grant, seed fund, angel and research funding, and helped develop nine new science- and technology-based companies in the region.

    "Market readiness - or what we prefer to call customer readiness - is the best investment any organisation can make at the idea stage. Our work helps both entrepreneurs and established businesses get all the facts to inform their business strategy, and ensures there's real market interest in their innovative products" says Peter White. "It's an essential investment in building a business."


  • For more information, please contact Kate Gray or Peter White on 01223 421470.
  • For images, please see:
  • YTKO, based in Cambridge, Leeds and Athens, Greece, is a leading exponent of enterprise development and innovation, working with start-up, growing and international private sector clients. Our public sector economic development work includes Europe’s largest biotechnology proof of concept programme for Yorkshire Forward, and the management of the UK's foremost women's enterprise project in the East of England.

A transformational programme with a mission to create over 5000 new jobs, 1400 new apprenticeships and generate significant inward investment in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough over the next three years.

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