Our brand new mission to support digital startups

 New facilities & expert services will drive digital innovation in West London district 

When the Central Research Laboratory was first launched as part of EMI’s department for invention in the 1960s, few people could have imagined how its legacy would inspire a future generation of innovators. 

Now 70 years later, a brand new chapter of digital innovation support, fuelled by a £1.6m fund from the Research England Develop Fund (RED) will further propel a future  of brave invention and bold innovation. 

Since its inception in 2015, the newly formed Central Research Laboratory (CRL), located within EMI’s original factory estate and part of the Plus X network of innovation hubs, has helped 100s of hardware pioneers transform early stage product concepts into viable businesses.  

Through its world class accelerator programme, workshop facilities and expert support, CRL’s track record of support includes 55 market ready products, £4million in funding and awards and the creation of over 60 new jobs. More than 2,100 businesses have interacted with the Central Research Laboratory with 343 start-ups and early-stage businesses using the facilities. 

Now it’s time to reveal a brand new chapter in the story. The RED fund which is part of the Making The Future Digital project in partnership with Brunel University London and regeneration property specialists, U+I plc, will help launch a wide range of new expert services and specialist maker facilities for digital startups. The support includes a focus on business concepts being planned by graduates and staff from universities in West London. 

Access to virtual prototyping and a new immersive space will allow multiple users to collaborate on design through 3D sharing and innovation showcasing. The virtual prototyping laboratory will enable entrepreneurs to perform virtual engineering modelling, build digital twins, creative content, physical products, services and immersive experiences.  

Currently in early construction, Plus X Powerhouse will become the new hub for Making the Future Digital. With a capacity for 300 entrepreneurial minds, Plus X Powerhouse will triple the size of the Central Research Laboratory. Using sustainable building materials and light infused space, the new innovation hub will offer the best digital connectivity in the region with world class work space designed to enhance health and wellbeing. 

“Making the Future Digital will draw on the experience and networks we have developed during the original project and will create a community of the brightest and the best digital minds in the nationally significant economy of West London,” said Prof Geoff Rodgers, Vice-Provost of Research at Brunel. 

“By extending into the digital arena, Brunel and our partners will boost our impact on this economy through nurturing digital innovation, facilitating the development of new digital products and services, and creating new jobs. I look forward to seeing Brunel students and alumni as part of future success stories.” 

“This is a truly exciting new phase in our support for a new generation of digital innovators” says Mat Hunter, Co-CEO, Plus X. “The team at Brunel have been an incredible partner to work with, helping us design a world class range of support services and facilities that have turned founder concepts into successful global businesses. We look forward to working together over the next 4 years, supporting Brunel students, partner university students and entrepreneurial talent both locally and UK wide.” 

Among the many business accelerator success stories to have emerged from CRL is Aceleron. The battery re-purposing business was co-founded in 2016 by Brunel graduate and Shell Entrepreneur of the Year, Carlton Cummins. Aceleron has recently secured £2 million of equity investment to further expand its operations. Cosicare is another recent accelerator success story. Led by female founder and Brunel design graduate, Lauren Bell, the eczema relief company has secured a raft of funding, investment and awards, with an imminent global launch planned this year. 

University partners joining Brunel in Making the Future Digital are City, Imperial College London, Royal Holloway, UCL and the University of West London. The project has support and endorsements from a host of local, regional and national businesses, including Heathrow Airports, Hillingdon Chamber of Commerce, West London Business and Innovate UK. 

We’re so excited to commence an exciting new journey of support for digital innovators. We hope you can join us!  

To find out more, contact us at hello@centralresearchlaboratory.com 

The Central Research Laboratory Accelerator formula for success

The UK’s leading hardware accelerator at the Central Research Laboratory has been supporting startups to thrive since 2015. With cohort 7 graduated and making their way in the world, the programme is now seeking to recruit startups creating unique innovations impacting everyday life.  

The CRL accelerator programme has supported a range of successful award-winning new businesses that have raised a combined £10m+ investment over the past few years. Notable alumni include, Aceleron, creating sustainable lithium batteries, who were amongst the top 10 shortlisted for the 2019 Telegraph Tech 4 Good Pioneers. CosiCare, a female-led tech startup focused on alleviating the symptoms of Eczema and winning the 2019 Mayor of London’s Award for Innovation, Tata Varsity Pitch 2019 and Santander Entrepreneur of the Year 2019. And Chip[s]Board, a company creating bioplastics for the design sector globally. 

The Central Research Laboratory Accelerator success formula is crafted by experts and specialists. It encompasses intensive mentorship, access to an award-winning workspace, a focus on customer discovery and investment readiness, engineer support, a trip to China and a £5,000 grant towards testing and product development costs. 

A team of experts at CRL will be helping to guide and support the 8th cohort, including CRL Programmes Director, Toby Kress, Accelerator Programme Manager, Anneza Pitsialis, and Product Development Director, Jim Reeves. 

The cohort receives hands-on product development support from the in-house CRL engineers and product design team. With a particular focus on manufacturing, such as getting your product manufactured at the right cost and setting up supply chains for scale. 

“Having so many experts in their fields, giving attention to your hardware development really helped us to progress our design. We got a lot of support in making our product more DFMA (designed for manufacture assembly) to make it a more viable and profitable product.” 

– Eli Heath, Co-Founder of Enayball and The Soapstone and cohort 7 alumni

“Product development was the key thing. When we came to CRL, really, we had an engineering product in the sense that, you know, it was all about engineering and reliability. Whereas CRL really helped in developing the perspective of the product with usability and product design. Which made a massive difference when we came to the next phase of the commercialisation of the product.”

Melissa, Founder of WarnerPatch and cohort 7 alumni 

Beyond product development, the programme utilises experts from diverse fields to focus on core areas such as investment readiness, commercial strategy, and customer discovery. Mentors help the cohort understand what their customers want and what value their product brings, and paths to successful revenue models and sales strategies. Mentors also support the cohort in gaining hardware-specific funding from grants and crowdfunding to angel investors and venture capital. 

“I’m still working with a lot of the people that we met, in terms of the advisors, so everything from digital marketing, to brand, to finance to legal, it really helped. I can’t think of an area of our business that we didn’t meet someone who’s helped us grow in some aspect. And that’s from a kind of full 360 business growth perspective. So, I think that’s a wicked thing – the network and the experts that you get to meet.”

­Lottie, Co-Founder of Myomaster and cohort 7 alumni 

“When they say the word “accelerator”, it is literally accelerated learning to the max. I learnt a lot more in my time on the accelerator than in three years at university. You’re learning marketing, branding, product development… the learning is angled from everywhere. Having access to experts has been invaluable. You can just message someone and ask: “can you help with our online advertising, branding campaigns” and they’ll give you 15 minutes of time because they know you’re from CRL. Having those connections has been amazing.” 

Liam, Co-Founder of Stix Mindfulness

The Central Research Laboratory is proud to have won the West London Business Award for best coworking space and accelerator for the fourth time. The workspace is a thriving entrepreneur community featuring desk space, meeting rooms, specialist workshops, prototyping facilities, and collaborative spaces. The cohort receives 24/7 access to this space for the duration of their time on the programme to work alongside other cohort members and a network of product startups and specialists. 

“It’s amazing to continue successfully supporting product makers and hardware pioneers and reflecting on the achievements of our diverse cohort members over the past few years makes me very proud. Our accelerator programme is truly unique, offering over six months of intense support blending product design expertise, customer research, manufacturing and market understanding. We look forward to meeting the next cohort, which we’re sure will be another exciting collective of talent who are working to creating amazing innovations impacting everyday life.”

Toby Kress, Programmes Director

The programme runs in two phases, with the first phase focusing on customer discovery, and no more than twenty startups will be selected to join the stage. Six startups will then receive an invitation to join phase two, focusing on product development, commercial and fundraising strategy. 

The second phase features a trip to Shenzhen to gain an insight into the manufacturing process, Investor Day for the opportunity to receive feedback from potential investors, and Demo Day, an end of programme opportunity to showcase their product to a network of potential customers, commercial partners and investors. You can watch Demo Day 2020 here

So, what do you need to apply for the UK’s leading hardware accelerator at the Central Research Laboratory? 

  • A Prototype (it doesn’t have to be pretty)
  • Technical knowledge relevant to your hardware development
  • Desire to build a scalable product-based business
  • A product or business model displaying genuine innovation
  • Two or more team members are desirable but not essential
  • Ability to attend the programme (The programme requires a full-time commitment. On average, you will be onsite 2-days p/week with progress made in between)
  • Business registered in the UK

You can find out more about the programme here, and you can apply here

Got a question? Don’t hesitate to get in touch

How to Secure Early Stage Investment

Insight from Anneza Pitsialis – Accelerator Programme Lead at Central Research Laboratory.

Venture Capitalists are your customers.

Steve Blank’s mantra “get out of the building” and Eric Reis’ Lean Startup are gospel  for early stage startups seeking product market fit. It is widely accepted that understanding your customers is key to any startup success. However, it’s less common for startups to apply this same principle to getting their investment strategy right.

When seeking investment (i.e.selling equity) VCs and investors are a startups customer. Understanding their process and perspectives gives founders a better chance of success. 

“If you are unable to understand the cause of a problem, it is impossible to solve it.”

Naoto Kan

In July, we ran our second online programme “How to secure early equity investment” delivered in partnership with KPMG Emerging Giants and ERDF.  22 Founders and 10 investors came together to share insights and best practices on how to meet investors, build a relationship and get that deal. One insight was echoed across every session and by every expert – prepare, prepare, prepare! 

We have summarised their top tips and practical advice to help founders navigate the investment journey.

1. Finding and connecting with investors.

This is not a numbers game.

Sam Heilds, OpenOcean
  • Do your research. Establish if and how your company is relevant to the fund. Check their fund size and strategy to make sure your company and financial ask is aligned. 
  • Get to know investors. Understand what piques the interest of individual analysts and investors. Read the teams’ bios, follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, read their blogs, see what events they go to and which investments they have lead. 
  • Research their portfolio. Have they invested in similar companies, competitors? 

Warm intros are much better, but not the only way.

Reece Chowdhry, RLC ventures 
  • Search LinkedIn for connections in common and ask for introductions.
  • Reach out to recent portfolio companies. It’s an opportunity to do your due diligence on the VC and to ask for that introduction. 
  • Attend events. VCs spend lots of money and time on events where their sole focus is deal flow. Take advantage by researching who’ll be there, join the matchmaking app, try to set up meetings in advance – tailor what you want to say to each investor so you don’t sound like you are spamming them like a robot – be personal, human but have your messaging clear and concise.
  • Try to stand out. This could be as simple as approaching an investor via LinkedIn rather than email, where inbound traffic is less and your message will be noticed. Or by sending you deck/ pitch in a video format 

2. Nailing your comms and getting investors interested.

[The Email] 

Don’t be spammy!

Sam Heilds, OpenOcean
  • Write as you would talk. Be human. Be you. 
  • Don’t use bold, underlined capitals and highlights in your email or mail merged emails. VCs get so many emails they can immediately identify it’s not personalised and will delete it. 
  • Find a personal connection. Research the investor and try to relate to their interests, past investments and event they have spoken at or blog they’ve written
  • Keep emails short and concise. In a couple of sentences you should demonstrate that you’ve done your research and have explained why your startup is relevant. 

[The meeting/ The pitch] 

Don’t tell people ‘it’s complicated’.

Carlton, Aceleron
  • Make sure you are aligned. Start the meeting by clarifying what you want to get out of it and recapping what you’ve understood their aims are. Close by recapping the next steps to manage expectations on both sides.
  • Work on your narrative and getting key messages across. 
  • Explain what you do simply and concisely. Practice this before you get in-front of investors – especially if your product is super technical.
  • Using language techniques like ‘FOAM’ (Facts, Opinions, Anecdotes, Metaphors). These will help you tell a captivating story about what you do and why it matters.
  • Don’t BS. Always tell the truth. Lying or keeping important information from the investor will damage the relationship and your chances of investment. 

Present [information] for the perspective of an investor.

Susannah McClintock, Sustainable Ventures
  • Know how much investment you want and what it will be for. 
  • VCs will want to understand your ‘Development Pathway’. You should identify milestones that have/will create commercial value for the business.
  • There is always competition. Don’t avoid talking about the competitors or say that there are none. Highlight what they have done well and how you position your business against it.
  • Traction and team are a big deal. The fact that your previous startup had a unicorn exit or you’ve a paid pilot with Amazon should not be a casual comment or an afterthought.

[The deck] 

Start with the story you want to tell… not the slides.

Richard Potter, KPMG

Tailor your deck for the right situation, to compliment your narrative.

  • Business Plan (appx >50pp): Fully detailed plan of your business. It is meant to be read and understood on its own and demonstrates diligence.
  • Investor Deck ( appx >20pp): This should stand on its own and can be understood without a voice over. It provides a potential investor with further information that demonstrates the vision, credibility and opportunity of the business. It is salesy and should be a deductive approach (claim something and justify it) rather than inductive (putting hypothesis and analysis first).
  • Leave-Behind (<10pp): Send to a VC after your initial meeting or in preparation for the initial meeting that enables them to remember your pitch. Shorter than the Investor Deck. Includes an executive summary. High level information that captures the key messages and can be understood on it’s own. 
  • Pitch Deck: This can be any number. The slides should support your narrative and not distract from what you are saying. Each slide should summarise one point you are making. Use imagery to provoke emotion and support your story. 

Slide science

  • Limit the number of key points you are making per slide so you don’t overload your audience or lose the impact of your messages.
  • Consistency is key. Using the same fonts and sizes throughout.
  • The Golden Ratio. (Width of blocks = 1:1.618) Grid lines will help you align positioning and composition of your slides making them easier to depict. . 
  • Hierarchy of Emphasis. Sizing your text so people know what is important to read first, next, and next. Blank spaces are good and also help to draw focus to important text.
  • F Logic. Compose your slides so the content flows from top left to bottom right.

3. Managing the process and being prepared 

Approach it as a sales process.

Susannah McClintock, Sustainable Ventures
  • Don’t bypass the Analyst/ Associate. VC’s will have an internal process for scouting startups and that often begins with an Analyst or Associate and develops towards a Partner meeting as the prospect of investment grows. Respect the process, target the right people and build positive relationships throughout.
  • Be organised. Have your admin in order so you are ready to follow-up with relevant information when needed. Make sure you stick to timelines, respond quickly and complete tasks when you say you will.
  • Think from a VCs perspective. You want it to be simple and stress free for them to access and review your information so having a thought out, well structured Data Room with consistent naming conventions, folders, etc is important. 

Find other VCs to test and practice your proposal.

Andrei, BotsAndUs
  • Identify your top 5 VC’s but set up meetings with other investors first. Each time you deliver your investor pitch you’ll gather vital feedback from investors and build your confidence before you get in front of those top VCs!

Choose your investor wisely – it will be a long lasting relationship.

Reece Chowdhry, RLC Ventures
  • Founders should do their due diligence too. Reach out to the previous startup(s) the fund has invested in to find out their experience of working with the VC.
  • Maintain relationships. If an investor shows interest in your business but says the timing isn’t right keep them updated as you progress. Setting up an investor email group is an easy way to manage comms. 
  • The VC network in the UK and Europe is fairly close-knit. Any reply, conversation, meeting should be seen as a win as it gets you into the network and on the investor CRM!
  • And finally, remember to be yourself and natural in the way you communicate. People buy people not ideas. 

“It’s great when the personalities of the founders come through.

Sam Fennell, AngelCoFund

To hear about our future programmes email: anneza@centralresearchlaboratory.com

How to take a prototype to an investor ready business

An interview with our Product Development Director, Jim Reeves

Our 2020 Accelerator programme is now in full swing and as we welcome our 7th Cohort, we take the opportunity to speak with CRL’s Product Development Director & Entrepreneur in Residence, Jim Reeves. We explore the challenging question, “how to take a prototype to an investor ready business?”.   

Question: Our 7th Cohort shows a rise in products and services focused around sustainability, med-tech and technology to support positive mental and physical health. Why do you think startups and entrepreneurs are choosing to concentrate on these specific areas?

Answer: “One of the main characteristics of hardware entrepreneurs is that their initial ideas tend to start with a particular motivation. Which is usually centre around a passion to create societal change. So by nature, they want to create something to solve significant modern day issues. Currently, the types of social trends we are seeing are hugely focused around medical and mental wellbeing, and sustainable products which benefit the environment. This in turn, creates a demand for entrepreneurs and businesses to develop a product that will have positive and long lasting effects. Which is likely why we are seeing a strong focus on these specific areas.

In short, a combination of an individual’s passion, comprehensive knowledge of social trends and involvement in their commercial environment are all contributing factors that inspire entrepreneurs to produce a product which promotes a positive social impact.” 

Q: As the Accelerator’s Entrepreneur in Residence, which part of the product development process is particularly crucial during the 6 month programme?

A: “The early phases are without a doubt the most crucial part of the Accelerator programme. During this time, we work with the Cohort to ensure their proposed product is a market fit, and that they have any considered potential issues or challenges. This isn’t to say any individual research conducted prior to the programme isn’t important. It’s about building the bigger picture around the product and its route to market.

Within this, we look at the 3 essential pillars:

  1. Desirability, do customers need or want it? 
  2. Feasibility, is this achievable?
  3. Viability, will this product create a sustainable enterprise? 

This must all be clarified very early on, which is why the start of the programme is the most crucial for product development.”

Q: In your experience, how different is a product at the end of the programme compared to its first concept?

A: “In my experience, a product’s end result is around 50% different compared to its first concept. In fact, it’s rare that a product won’t dramatically change. In many ways, the most successful projects tend to be the ones which evolve the most during the programme. But it’s also not always a given that a product needs to evolve further than its present state.

Typically there’s a product development journey which we tend to discuss at the start of the Accelerator. As discussed, the initial stages of the programme are crucial and part of this is assessing the likeliness that a product will change. Because it might be that there is simply no consumer desire!”

Q: What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a mentor for the Accelerator?

A: “Before I became an in-house resident for the Accelerator programme, I split my time between mentoring at CRL and teaching. Although I enjoyed teaching, working on ventures in the Accelerator felt very real to me. The Cohort are so committed to their work, their willingness to accept the challenges and sacrifices so they can bring their vision to a reality, is very motivating.

Going on this journey with them is hugely rewarding. Yes there are plenty of bumps in the road as an entrepreneur, but to see their journey come to fruition is why I love being a part of the programme.”

Read more of our articles here or take a look at our latest cohort here.

CRL Accelerator Programme: CRL welcomes 7th Cohort

cohort at CRL office

The Central Research Laboratory (CRL) has launched its 7th world leading accelerator programme, which celebrates five years supporting early growth stage product pioneers.

Supported by ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) the programme attracted over 85 applicants. A panel of 15 mentors and experts, including CRL co-founders Mat Hunter and Paul Rostas, and Entrepreneur in Residence, Jim Reeves, selected six finalists, who will take part in an intensive support programme over the next 6 months focused on product development and design, commercial & growth strategies and investor readiness.

In addition, each startup will be given a £5,000 start-up grant for prototyping and testing, as well as the opportunity to meet with and gain insights from key manufacturers in their sector. 

This year’s programme has seen a rise in startups creating products and services that enhance human life and our environment, including ventures that are focused on sustainability, med-tech, mental health and sport-tech.

The CRL accelerator programme has supported a range of successful award-winning new businesses who have raised a combined £5m investment over the past few years.

Notable alumni include Aceleron, creating sustainable lithium batteries, who were amongst the top 10 shorted listed for the 2019 Telegraph Tech 4 Good Pioneers. Cosicare, a female led tech startup focused on alleviating the  symptoms of Eczema and winning the 2019 Mayor of London’s Award for Innovation, Tata Varsity Pitch 2019 and Santander Entrepreneur of the Year 2019. And Chip[s] Board, a company committed to creating bio-plastics and bio-plastic composites for the design sector on a global basis. 

Our team of experts at CRL will be helping to guide and support the 7th Cohort including CRL Managing Director, Toby Kress, Accelerator Programme Leader Anneza Pitsialis and Director of Product Development, Jim Reeves.

Toby Kress says: “It’s amazing to celebrate 5 years successfully supporting product makers and hardware pioneers and reflecting on the achievements of our diverse cohort members over the past few years makes me very proud. Our accelerator programme is truly unique, offering 6 months of intense support blending product design expertise, customer research, manufacturing and market understanding. This year’s cohort is another exciting collective of talent who are working to create solutions for human challenges including mental health, sports recovery and personal medical care”.

2020 CRL COHORT BACKGROUND

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STIX MINDFULNESS

Founded by: Liam Murphy

Website: stixmindfulness.co.uk/

About: Stix is an interactive product supporting children living with ADHD. Through mindfulness activities such as meditation and balance, Stix monitors the users’ movements, enhances calmness helping to reduce symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity.

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MYOMASTER

Founded by: Lottie Whyte & Joe Gray

Website: – myomaster.com

About: MyoMaster is a wellness company on a mission to help every athlete in the world recover faster. Their products combine extreme leg compression with contrasting hot and cold capabilities designed to significantly decrease athlete recovery time post injury.

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ENAYBALL

Founded by: Pete Barr & Eli Heath

Website: enayball.com

About: The Enayball is an art tool that enables anyone in a wheelchair, even the most severely paralysed, to paint. The Enayball attaches to the front of a person’s wheelchair and extends outwards. As the person moves their chair, it paints a line on the surface below.

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CRYOSUIT

Founded by: Matt Anderson

Website: cryosuit.co.uk

About: Cryosuit is a portable body cooling device to treat heat illness. Cryosuit aims to eliminate the logistical barriers encountered with current treatment, providing a practical and unanimous cooling solution for all instances of heat illness.

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M2JN Ltd.

Founded by: Melissa Berthelot

Website – m2jn.com

About: M2JN Ltd. Melissia is developing a wearable medical device for in-hospital high-risk patients to provide health prediction, allowing preemptive care to improve patient outcome and reduce related care costs.

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BIOPHILICA

Founded by: Mira Nameth

Website: biophilica.co.uk/

About: Biophilica is developing materials from green waste making them both biodegradable and recyclable. The production process is local, scalable to urban and rural locations, and is climate independent, allowing for global applications.

CRL win Accelerator and Coworking space of the year at the West London Business Awards 2020

The Central Research Laboratory is delighted to announce that we have won Incubator/Accelerator/Coworking space of the year at the West London Business Awards 2020.

This exciting news comes only a month before we open the doors to our new innovation hub, Plus X Brighton

We are thrilled to once again be recognised with this honour. For the past 5 years, our mission has been to provide entrepreneurs, startups and established organisations access to an innovation hub with advanced hardware, tools and workspaces so businesses can focus on their growth. In addition, CRL’s Accelerator Programme continues to support participants through every stage of their journey. From concept development, all the way through to prototyping and first batch production, our mentors and Product Development team are there each step of the way.

CRL’s Managing Director Toby Kress says: “This decade is already off to a fantastic start. We are not only celebrating the 5th year anniversary of the Accelerator Programme, we’re also gearing up for the launch of both Plus X Brighton and our coworking space in London Plus X Powerhouse. To win the title of Accelerator and Coworking space of the year in the midst of all of this, is truly amazing!

We’d like to extend our gratitude to the West London Business Awards for once again presenting us with this award. We can’t wait for the year ahead.”

Our current Accelerator Programme is already well underway. However, if you’re interested in applying for our next programme, you can follow us on social media for our latest updates!
If you’re interested in becoming a member at the Central Research Laboratory, please visit follow the link here.

Powered up for 2020: accelerator programme celebrates 5 years!

5th Year Accelerator Anniversary: We reflect and accelerate into 2020!

When the Central Research Laboratory (CRL) was first incubated, its name was inspired by a rich and innovative past. CRL’s location in Hayes, now called the Old Vinyl Factory, was the headquarters of EMI, formed through the merger of the Gramaphone Company and Colombia, making the area more than just a record pressing plant. This new enterprise was a global hotspot of technological innovation.

In 2015, CRL’s first accelerator programme designed for product makers and hardware pioneers, took flight. The intensive 6 month programme supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Brunel University gave early stage startups and product pioneers the opportunity to take their prototype ideas and build them into a viable business.

Now in its 5th year marks a great opportunity to reflect on past inspiration and look forward to the exciting developments for CRL and the accelerator in 2020.

Driving EMI’s in-house innovation was a division called the Central Research Laboratory (CRL) responsible for major breakthroughs in high definition TV and stereo sound. In fact, the world’s first stereo recording is of trains pulling in and out of Hayes station!

During the second world war, the CRL team pioneered airborne radar, saving thousands of lives and in 1972 Nobel prize winner, Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, CBE invented the first ever CT Scanner at the Central Research Laboratory, using Xray computed tomography. His name is immortalised in the Hounsfield scale, used as a quantitive measure of radiodensity in evaluating CT scans.

Despite these ground-breaking inventions, the decline in vinyl record sales meant that EMI moved its operations away from Hayes and the factory site was left empty – even though CRL continued to operate until 1996.

When regeneration experts, U+I acquired the factory site in 2011, they recognised an opportunity to create a new chapter for Hayes. The Central Research Laboratory re-launched as an incubator for startups and new business tenants arrived including Sonos, GoDaddy and the Global Academy, drawing inspiration from the exciting music and tech innovation heritage of the Old Vinyl Factory site.

In 2020, the CRL accelerator programme continues to offer an array of support including product design, testing, manufacturing (including a trip to Shenzhen in China), financial, marketing and fundraising.

Access to our workshop facilities is fundamental for our Accelerator members and these include 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutting, thermoforming and CNC milling machines. In fact we are the UK’s only 24/7 access prototype workshops!

Over the past 5 years, the CRL accelerator programme has helped entrepreneurs develop a huge range of award winning products from meditation support to medtech and make-up hygiene.

Notable alumni include Aceleron, an advanced lithium battery developer focused on cleaner, renewable energy, Moment Pebble, a meditation device and Cosicare, a handheld device to help children soothe the effects of eczema. Data driven robotics designers, BotsandUs are members of CRL, utilising our studio and workshop space and expanding use of our facilities as they grow their business.

In the words of our 6th and most recent accelerator cohort, the programme support effects are highly prized and praised. Pete Beckett, founder of Ethiot, says:
“It’s been incredible, it really has. The response we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive which echoes how I feel about the programme as a whole. CRL has taken Ethiot from early-stage prototype to pre-launch in a little under six months”.

2020 sees another major milestone for the CRL Accelerator as we build our brand new innovation hub just a stone’s throw from CRL, the Plus X Powerhouse.

Renovated from EMI’s former energy plant, Plus X Powerhouse will be our first innovation hub in London, offering triple the amount of work space and workshop facilities as well as a beautiful event space, café and green inner courtyard.

We will soon announce our 7th new Accelerator Cohort and feel hugely excited about the range of product concepts and potential. As we help support a new generation of inventors, watch this video for more information about our Accelerator programme and how it could potentially help you too! httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAh40_SvqFM

Whether you’re an early stage startup seeking support or a business looking to connect with new entrepreneurs and pioneers, contact anneza@centralresearchlaboratory.com.

How Plus X innovation hubs will transform conventional co-working space

We are thrilled that work has started on the Central Research Laboratory’s new home at the Plus X Powerhouse in Hayes, West London, and we’re racing towards completion by the end of 2020!

Tripling in size, space and facilities

Next year, Central Research Laboratory (CRL) will move from its current home and expand into new 29,000 square foot premises (still within the Old Vinyl Factory estate) at the Plus X Powerhouse innovation hub, tripling in size, space and facilities.

The stunning new Plus X Powerhouse is a converted Victorian power station designed by award-winning architects Pilbrow and Partners. It will offer light-filled work space and studios for all types of businesses – from freelancers and startups, to corporations. Alongside our innovation and accelerator programmes, we will create new collaboration opportunities between business, community and education partners. Find out more here.

Combining vintage and high-tech design

This new Plus X innovation hub will combine vintage and high-tech design to provide inspiring desk and studio space, prototyping studios, an events auditorium for up to 70 people, as well as an onsite cafe and a lush green courtyard space to fuel fresh thinking. Innovative design features, such as carpets made from recycled records, nod towards the heritage of the Old Vinyl Factory, whilst sustainably sourced decor including tabletops made from recycled yoghurt pots and local UK timber point towards its exciting future.

Plus X innovation hubs support entrepreneurs, inventors, startups, scale-ups and corporations and will be opening in five locations across the UK in the next five years. We also have a mission to deliver a positive social impact in all our locations, working alongside local communities and education partners. Our first Plus X innovation hub will open in Brighton, Spring 2020, and Plus X Powerhouse, Hayes, will open in Autumn 2020.

Not a cookie-cutter approach

Mat Hunter, Co-CEO of Plus X, said: “Plus X is about creating workspaces that unlock potential, drive business growth, innovation, community collaboration and positive social impact. The success of CRL at The Old Vinyl Factory has shown the possibilities – now we want to expand with a network of innovation hubs in key areas around the country. But this is not about a ‘cookie cutter’ approach: our plans are for a national network but with a localised offer, working with the grain of the local economy to foster entrepreneurs, startups and scale-ups that are at the leading edge of the new economy.”

2020 is a big year as it also marks the fifth anniversary of CRL. Since opening in 2015, CRL has supported more than 100 businesses, including 25 new startups, with more than 60 full-time jobs created and over £5 million in investment raised. Among the numerous success stories are businesses including Aceleron which developed solutions to repurpose car batteries, Mimica which developed a high-tech food freshness indicator, BotsAndUs which developed autonomous tech for public spaces; and multi-award winning Cosi Care which developed a device to soothe chronic eczema. 

The longest running programme of its kind

CRL’s Accelerator Programme is the longest running programme of its kind and its seventh cohort will commence the programme early in the new year. Nine out of ten startups fail worldwide, however, startups that join CRL’s Accelerator Programme have an 80% survival rate. 

While based in the Old Vinyl Factory, also previous home of EMI Records and where the Beatles had their first records pressed, CRL has proudly continued the area’s legacy for innovation. We cannot wait for this to continue as we expand into our new home at the Plus X Powerhouse!

Book a tour

If you are interested in a pre-opening tour of Plus X Powerhouse, please contact Toby Kress, Managing Director at Central Research Laboratory, toby@centralresearchlaboratory.com

The spirit of innovation in Britain is alive and well at Demo Day!

The spirit of innovation in Britain was alive and well on 26 November as four Modern British Inventors showcased their new products at the Central Research Laboratory (CRL) Demo Day.

Having come to the end of their journey on CRL’s intensive six-month Accelerator Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the exciting young entrepreneurs are now ready to launch their products to market.

CRL supports a select group of startups and scaleups through product development, commercial strategy, and investor readiness. The Accelerator Programme started in 2015 and is the longest running programme of its kind.

INAUGURAL PITCHES

Over three hundred inspired investors, partners and developers flocked to Demo Day to hear the young founders’ inaugural pitches and get hands-on with the innovations for themselves.  The inspiring inventions showcased were:

PetInstincts’ wellbeing monitoring service that allows pet owners to monitor and care for their pets when they are not at home. Founded by Anil Puri.[

BrainPatch’s two-way brain computer interface that uses AI to deliver a range of applications for increasing productivity and happiness. Founded by Nickolai Vysokov, PhD.

Ethiot’s monitoring device and smart controller which will help housing associations, landlords and home owners improve indoor air quality for tenants. Founded by Pete Beckett.

Findaa’s next-generation indoor tracking system which significantly reduces costs and improves efficiency across multiple industries. Founded by Leo Meng.

TOP TIPS AND SAGE ADVICE

Top tips and sage advice was generously given to the programme graduates by a panel of industry experts and entrepreneurs including Design and Engineering Director at Brompton Bikes, Will Carlysmith, former CRL Accelerator Programme graduate and founder of CosiCare, Lauren Bell and Solveiga Pakštaitė, former CRL Accelerator Programme graduate and founder of Mimica.

Nickolai Vysokov, founder of BrainPatch said: “The Demo Day exhibit and pitches took a great amount of preparation, but it looks like it all paid off – amazing exhibit stands and four great pitches. I’m very grateful to the production team at CRL helping us round the clock to get the prototypes and the exhibition stands done and to the organizing team for putting together the programme, interviews and feedback on the pitches.”

Nine out of ten startups fail worldwide, however, startups that join CRL’s Accelerator Programme have an 80% survival rate. Since its launch in 2015, CRL has helped hundreds of startups build everything from the next generation of service robots to toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema.

Toby Kress, Managing Director, CRL says: “The energy and excitement at CRL’s Accelerator Programme Demo Day 2019 was incredible! The talent displayed by the latest cohort members is outstanding and CRL is immensely proud of them all. Our modern British inventors have, without a doubt, proven that they are breaking the stereotype of what it takes to be an inventor today. They are an inspiration. Innovation in Great Britain has an exciting future ahead!”

PLUS X POWERHOUSE

To continue CRL’s success, planning permission has been secured to move to a new space in Hayes called the Plus X Powerhouse. The new building will have three times more capacity than CRL currently occupies, allowing corporate innovation teams to work with startups as they scale to team of 40+. The Powerhouse is due to be completed by the end of 2020. 

At Demo Day, Toby Kress shared the vision and future plans for Plus X Powerhouse through this video. 

CONTACT THE FOUNDERS

To contact any of the founders who pitched at Demo Day 2019, email accelerator@centralresearchlaboratory.com



An exciting future for innovation in Britain as young investors break the mold

Media Release

On TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2019 Britain’s most exciting young entrepreneurs showcased their innovative new products at the Central Research Laboratory Accelerator Programme Demo Day in London.

Addressing global, environmental and health challenges, the inspiring inventors break the stereotype and, having completed CRL’s intensive six-month Accelerator Programme, are ready to launch their products for productive and long term business growth.

International and worldly, today’s inventors understand customers and they understand business. Britain is now home to leading, innovative small businesses and it attracts investors, makers and entrepreneurs from around the world who see it as a base from which to explore limitless opportunity in global markets. The inspiring inventions that were showcased by the current Accelerator programme cohort include:

● Pet Instincts’ wellbeing monitoring service that allows pet owners to monitor and care for their pets when they are not at home.

● Brainpatch’s two-way brain computer interface that uses AI to deliver a range of applications for increasing productivity and happiness.

● Ethiot’s monitoring device and smart controller which will help housing associations, landlords and home owners improve indoor air quality for tenants.

● Findaa’s next-generation indoor tracking system which significantly reduces costs and improves efficiency across multiple industries.

Toby Kress, Managing Director, CRL says: “The energy and excitement at CRL’s Accelerator Programme Demo Day 2019 was incredible! The talent displayed by the latest cohort members is outstanding and CRL is immensely proud of them all. Our modern British inventors have, without a doubt, proven that they are breaking the stereotype of what it takes to be an inventor today. They are an inspiration. Innovation in Great Britain has an exciting future ahead!”

Pete Beckett, founder of Ethiot, says: “It’s been incredible, it really has. The response we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive which echoes how I feel about the programme as a whole. CRL has taken Ethiot from early-stage prototype to pre-launch in a little under six months. And tonight was a great celebration of what has been achieved not only by us but all the founders in the cohort.”

CRL supports a select group of startups and scaleups through product development, commercial strategy, and investor readiness. The Accelerator Programme started in 2015 and is the longest running programme of its kind.

Nine out of ten startups fail worldwide, however, startups that join CRL’s Accelerator Programme have an 80% survival rate. The CRL is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and since its launch in 2015, CRL has helped hundreds of startups build everything from the next generation of service robots to toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema.

To continue CRL’s success, planning permission has been secured to move to a new space in Hayes called the Powerhouse. The new building will have three times more capacity than CRL currently occupies, allowing work with startups as they scale to team of 40+, and with corporate innovation teams working alongside CRL’s entrepreneurs. The Powerhouse is due to be completed by the end of 2020.


CRL is accepting applications for its CRL Accelerator Programme 2020. The deadline for completed applications is Sunday 1 December 2019.

-ENDS-

More information

For press enquiries, media photographs and to arrange interviews with CRL or the CRL Accelerator Programme cohort, please contact:


Julia Roche, Interim Marketing Manager, Central Research Laboratory. Email julia@centralresearchlaboratory.com Telephone 07908 572470

Gaby Jesson, Chief Marketing Officer, Plus X. Email gabyjesson@plusx.space Telephone 07768 024110

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Find out more information about the CRL Accelerator Programme here: httpss://www.centralresearchlaboratory.com/programme/

2. Applications to the CRL Accelerator Programme 2020 can be made here: httpss://www.f6s.com/crlaccelerator2020/about 

3. About CRL

Central Research Laboratory (CRL) is one of the UK’s award-winning and 24/7 co-working spaces and home to the country’s first purpose-built hardware accelerator programme with a global reputation. Since opening in 2015 we have helped entrepreneurial product markers succeed in a diversity of areas. Our cohort has been building next generation of robots, inventing toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema, creating new sustainable building materials made from potato waste, and designing luxury stationery products.

More information about CRL and the team can be found here: https://www.centralresearchlaboratory.com/about 

4. About European Regional Development Fund

The CRL project is receiving up to £800,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

For more information visit httpss://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding 


Britain’s most exciting young inventors who are breaking the mould

Media Release

On TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2019 Britain’s most exciting young entrepreneurs will showcase their innovative new products at the CRL Accelerator Programme Demo Day in London.

Addressing global, environmental and health challenges, the inspiring inventors break the stereotype and, having completed Central Research Laboratory’s (CRL) intensive six-month Accelerator Programme, are ready to reveal and launch their products for productive and long term business growth. 

The inspiring inventions that will be showcased by the current Accelerator programme cohort include:

  • Pet Instincts’ wellbeing monitoring service that allows pet owners to monitor and care for their pets when they are not at home. 
  • Brainpatch’s two-way brain computer interface that uses AI to deliver a range of applications for increasing productivity and happiness.
  • Vio Cosmetics’ revolutionary makeup brush cleansing system that helps reduce the risk of infections that commonly occur from improperly cleansed traditional brushes.
  • IOT Invent’s monitoring device and smart controller which will help housing associations and multi-building landlords improve indoor air quality for tenants. 
  • Sentrak’s next-generation indoor tracking system which significantly reduces costs and improves efficiency across multiple industries.  

Toby Kress, Managing Director, CRL says: “The five talented graduates of CRL’s sixth Accelerator Programme have collectively addressed significant global, environmental and health challenges which affect thousands of people today. Their enthusiasm, determination and innovation have been outstanding from the beginning to the very end of the programme. CRL is proud to have been with them on their journeys and we are excited about what is ahead of them!”  

CRL supports a select group of startups and scaleups through product development, commercial strategy, and investor readiness. The Accelerator Programme started in 2015 and is the longest running programme of its kind. Nine out of ten startups fail worldwide, however startups that join CRL’s Accelerator Programme have an 80% survival rate. The CRL is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and since its launch in 2015, CRL has helped hundreds of startups build everything from the next generation of service robots to toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema.

To continue CRL’s success, planning permission has been secured to move to a new space in Hayes called the Powerhouse. The new building will have three times more capacity than CRL currently occupies, allowing work with startups as they scale to team of 40+, and with corporate innovation teams working alongside CRL’s entrepreneurs. The Powerhouse is due to be completed by the end of 2020. 


CRL is now accepting applications for its CRL Accelerator Programme 2020. The deadline for completed applications is Sunday 1 December 2019.

-ENDS-

More information

For press enquiries and to arrange interviews with CRL or the CRL Accelerator Programme cohort, please contact:

Gaby Jesson, Chief Marketing Officer, Plus X. Email gabyjesson@plusx.space Telephone 07768 024110

Julia Roche, Interim Marketing Manager, Central Research Laboratory. Email julia@centralresearchlaboratory.com Telephone 07908 572470

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. CRL Accelerator Demo Day is being held on Tuesday 26 November 2019 in central London. Contact Julia Roche at julia@centralresearchlaboratory.com or telephone 07908 572470 if you would like to attend.

2. Find out more information about the CRL Accelerator Programme here: httpss://www.centralresearchlaboratory.com/programme/

3. Applications to the CRL Accelerator Programme 2020 can be made here: httpss://www.f6s.com/crlaccelerator2020/about 

4. About CRL

Central Research Laboratory (CRL) is one of the UK’s award-winning and 24/7 co-working spaces and home to the country’s first purpose-built hardware accelerator programme with a global reputation. Since opening in 2015 we have helped entrepreneurial product markers succeed in a diversity of areas. Our cohort has been building next generation of robots, inventing toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema, creating new sustainable building materials made from potato waste, and designing luxury stationery products.

More information about CRL and the team can be found here: https://www.centralresearchlaboratory.com/about 

5. About European Regional Development Fund

The CRL project is receiving up to £800,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

For more information visit httpss://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding 


Our 7th Accelerator is now closed to applications. Follow us on social media for dates to join our next programme.

Our 7th Accelerator programme is underway with details of our latest Cohort to be released shortly. 

CRL is the UK’s first, purpose built hardware accelerator and coworking space, with an international reputation and an unrivalled package of support.

Focusing on product development, market validation, commercial strategy and investor readiness, this intense programme includes support from industry leading mentors, access to an experienced in-house product development team and trips to meet suppliers in the UK and Shenzhen, China.

Eligibility criteria

  • Have a registered business in the UK
  • Have a product or business model displaying genuine innovation
  • Have good technical knowledge relevant to the core areas of your hardware development
  • Have ambition to build a scalable physical product business
  • Preferably have two or more co-founders within the team
  • Be available for a minimum of two days per week from January until July 2020

How to apply

For details of our next Accelerator, follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter here: httpss://plusx.space/about/

The wall of inspiration

The Central Research Laboratory team were celebrating momentous activity this week when the Plus X Powerhouse hoardings were installed.

This ‘wall of inspiration’ is a rich chronology of the 100+ year innovation that has stemmed from the iconic Old Vinyl Factory location to the future signposting of Plus X Powerhouse.


The hoardings celebrate exciting invention from EMI’s past, present day success stats and case studies from the Central Research Laboratory and share key messages to mark the future arrival of Plus X Powerhouse. The wall even offers interactive Spotify hotspots, enabling visitors to listen to Dame Nellie Melba (who officially opened the EMi factory) and also, of course, the Beatles.

The hoardings also offer useful wayfinding signposts at regular intervals helping visitors find their way to The Old Vinyl Factory and Central Research Laboratory too.

CRL is delighted to be attending the IOT & Smart Hardware Showcase 2019.
Discover some of the best IoT and smart hardware startups showcasing their products alongside leading hardware technology providers in London. Join over 500 pioneers on the 24th of October and connect with the people reinventing the future of things.
Grab your free ticket here httpss://cli.re/8Rv4JK.

Prototype Testing: Let your consumers tell you when you’re getting it right

One of the main reasons why small businesses fail is a lack of demand for their products. It’s a no-brainer when you think about it… a business is only sustainable if its products work for its end-users… and they feel confident enough to buy them. The best way to find out if you’re giving them what they want, is to ask them. And yet, too many companies, large and small, still manage to release their products to market without proper user-testing. 
To be fair, it’s not easy to deliberately expose your ‘next big idea’ to the full glare of public criticism but, in a competitive world, it’s the best way of making sure the product is viable. The companies that make the effort to test their products are often the most successful and that’s why user-testing is such an important part of the CRL Accelerator programme.

Understanding user needs

The Accelerator programme works with tech start-ups to help them understand user needs and develop prototypes at an early stage. The user-testing and piloting stages help to refine the hardware development process and, as with other products, they include everything from lab tests to ‘human trials’. 
Testing might start with potential users being invited into the lab to play with the hardware prototype, while the developers hover around in the background, doing their best to stay out of the way and resisting the temptation to sell. It’s the first chance to see how users might react to the look and feel of the product, and to deal with any immediate issues, but it’s never going to be the same as testing in a real-life situation. The lab tests will provide valuable insights that allow for refinements to be made before the next crucial stage of testing, where the prototype is released into the wild.

Every hardware company needs testers

The start-ups in the current Accelerator cohort are a diverse bunch, and they are developing a range of products that target markets including pet owners, professional make-up artists and high-end warehouse managers. The companies are all very different, but one thing they have in common is a need to get their prototypes into the hands of users, in their natural environment, for a few days at least. 
Field-testing is where potential users get to try out products in the privacy, and ‘messy environment’, of their own home or office. It’s also at this point that the developers get to see the difference between what people say and what they do when they’ve forgotten anyone’s looking… 
To give the products, and the testers, a fair chance, the prototypes need to be much more robust and must have fool-proof instructions for set up and operation. That’s another area where the CRL Accelerator team comes in handy… they guide the start-ups through the challenges of small batch production so that they can send out multiple prototypes to a diverse range of users for testing.

Test, refine and test again

Mat Hunter, Co-CEO of PlusX explains, “The Accelerator programme helps tech start-ups to really appreciate the value of prototyping and user testing. A typical mistake in big businesses is that they can spend a lot of time and money getting so far with a prototype, only to scrap it and start again when it goes wrong. Doing that wastes a lot of time and money. Start-ups don’t have months to waste on building full-scale prototypes that might not work. They need to be able to learn quickly so we teach them that they don’t have to test everything at once, and it’s better to take an iterative approach.” 
He adds, “We show them how to start with a prototype that takes days, not months, to develop. Then they can slowly build up the level of prototyping and testing so that, over time, they can get better quality evidence that tells them that people really need their product, can understand it, and won’t lose interest over time.” 

Key questions to ask when product piloting

Here are just some of the things that Mat recommends start-ups should think about when piloting new tech hardware.
Is everything clear? Did your testers understand how to set up and operate the product in their own space? Did it perform as they hoped?
Recognise those moments of truth: How did your product perform when it came to the two key moments of truth in user engagement? There’s that first retail moment of truth when a customer sees a product, in a store or online, and is so excited about it that they want to own it. Then the second moment of truth when the customer gets the product home and starts to engage with it. 
How is the performance reality likely to live up to the retail promise when the user gets it away from the showroom? How will you manage customer expectations and create those positive moments of truth for potential users that will get you talked about, in a good way, on social media? Will you be able to generate the excitement and then deliver on the promise?
Look out for loss of interest: Did testers get bored with the product after a while – maybe it didn’t work as they expected, or it was too much effort… 
Is the prototype reliable in the real world? What adjustments do you need to make to fix any potential issues? Especially with hardware, fixing quality and reliability problems is time consuming and expensive – and a huge potential risk to your reputation.
Keep it simple: What is the simplest, most cost-effective solution for the problem that your product is trying to solve? The more bells and whistles that go into a prototype, the more options there are to develop the product, but it also gets more expensive and complicated and it may not be necessary. So, were there any extraneous features that came up during testing that could be stripped out to make a better product?
The whole area of prototype and user-testing is an important one. That’s especially true for tech hardware where problems are harder and more expensive to fix if they go wrong later in the development process. In another article, we’ll take check out some more of Mat’s thoughts on what tech hardware start-ups should be looking at when considering product testing.