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.

Anneza Pitsialis – powers up innovation at CRL London

Staying sane and grounded is just one of the many challenges facing start-up founders and entrepreneurs and that’s just one good reason to be part of a CRL programme or the co-working community. As every entrepreneur knows, it can be isolating working on any kind of product, without the support of a trusted advisor, or just someone who ‘gets it’, to bounce ideas off. Fortunately for the latest cohort on the CRL Accelerator, the programme for tech start-ups comes with a ready-made community and lots of support. 
According to Anneza Pitsialis, the new CRL Programmes Manager, “A great advantage of being on the Accelerator or BOOST programme is that you’re part of a like-minded maker community where there’s always someone around to exchange ideas with and provide a much-needed sanity check.”

“Working closely with the start-ups – actual founders and entrepreneurs – who are developing tangible products, is a really exciting prospect. I’m really looking forward to implementing the CRL programmes.”

Anneza has been in the world of start-ups for 8 years developing programmes with a focus on community management. She previously worked in the arts, and even dabbled in the dating events business. She now joins CRL, fresh from three-and-a-half years at Startupbootcamp, where she managed the operations for 22 programmes, across 15 cities. That’s got to have taken some organising, so we’re pleased that she’s bringing her skills and varied experience to our programme team. She describes herself as a naturally curious person, who loves to understand the space she’s in, so she’s going to fit in very well.
Anneza will be managing both the Accelerator programme, for early stage start-ups, and the BOOST programme, for start-ups that are ready to scale up, and she’s already working closely with Toby Kress, MD and Jim Reeves, Product Development Director, to shape future programmes. She explained, “The programmes are now much more flexible and responsive to the individual needs of the cohort members. We’re working more closely with them to shape the content that’s most relevant to their business and fitting that around the core content. That way, they each get a truly bespoke programme built around a tried-and-tested, common foundation.”
She added, “It’s important that cohort members realise that they’re massively supported by a great community, including some amazing mentors, so we’ll be encouraging them to engage with each other and to make the most of it while they have it. Being on these programmes is not just about churning out a fantastic product. It’s also important that the founders leave with a resilience that will serve them long after they leave the programme. 

“To help with that, we’ve factored in founder talks and we’re planning to have regular socials where everyone can get together, let off steam, and have a bit of a sanity check. Cohort members will be encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences with each other and that should help to build a better, stronger start-up community.”

The latest Accelerator programme has now started, and the cohort is made up of a diverse mix of ages, experiences, graduates, non-graduates and team sizes. Anneza says, as a group they should be able to offer each other a lot of support, as they all bring something different to the mix. She admits that it does make things more complex, in terms of the programming, but, as she says, that’s all part of the fun and she’s looking forward to being part of the high-octane energy created by the start-ups and entrepreneurs.
If you’re looking for inspiring co-working space, maker space, world-class prototype facilities, or looking to join a structured, start-up support programme, why not pop in and take a look at what lies at the heart of the CRL community? Contact Anezza Pitsialis anneza@centralresearchlaboratory.com

3D printing – helping tech start-ups to push the boundaries

3D-prining, Prototyping, prining,

3D printing is radically changing how manufacturers, large and small, approach product development. With the ability to print increasingly sophisticated prototypes, and parts for the production process, at a reasonable cost, our imagination is possibly the only thing that will limit how the technology develops. That’s got to be good news for tech hardware start-ups. If the co-working community at CRL is anything to go by, they are not short of imagination and they will be making the most of it.

Speeding up prototyping and driving down the cost

You can probably knock a zero off the previous costs of a 3D printer which now puts it within reach of some consumers but more importantly small businesses. Now there’s the opportunity to push the boundaries, from the comfort of your own garage, without the huge development costs that were once needed.
Traditionally, a start-up with an idea for tech hardware could spend a lot of time, and money, refining their ideas and developing and tweaking prototypes until, after many iterations, they got to a point where they had something tangible to test or put in front of investors.
According to Simon Hayden, CRL’s workshop manager, 3D printing is accelerating new product development and making the prototyping process easier and more accessible for hardware start-ups. The model-making process is a lot less constrained. Now start-ups can easily produce solid objects, with relatively complex shapes, and quickly move through the iterative process to a polished product.
Previously the process would have started with square-edged shapes, which would be whittled down to create the final shape ready for post-production. 3D printing, also known as additive layer manufacturing on a more industrial scale, builds up material in thin layers to create 3D shapes and allows greater scope for sweeping bends and more ergonomic shapes to be developed from the start. There’s still the need for the final ‘spit and polish’ but the time getting there is a lot quicker.

Prototyping made easy

For start-ups making small tech hardware and gadgets, 3D printing can be used to create moulds or the actual parts. As an example, previous Accelerator cohort member Lauren Bell, founder of Cosi Care, developed an award-winning product that helps relieve the discomfort of eczema particularly for children. Simon explains, “An essential feature of Cosi is its very ergonomic shape, and beautifully curved edges. The prototype would have been more difficult to machine, and the development would have taken longer, using traditional methods. With 3D printing you can make either the tooling for 3D moulds, or the parts themselves.
“One start-up within the community is developing a product which sits on the head like headphones. They recently used 3D printing to make models of real ears to use for ergonomic purposes, after downloading the codes for 3D scans of actual ears. There are lots of open source sites for 3D models online now and you can have an .stl file on the printer, ready to go, in minutes. It’s now perfectly possible to design and print a prototype in a few hours – effectively tech start-ups have the ability to ‘plug and play’.”
As Simon says, how things develop will depend on what manufacturers are making. He explains, “Sometimes 3D printing is better for the prototyping stage because of the structural properties and aesthetics of the printed object. It can reduce the need for lots of iterations of a part in the prototype phase, and accelerate how the geometry of a part develops. That can mean shorter development times and significantly reduced lead times which can make all the difference to a start-up.”.

Materials, mechanics and the next big thing

Naturally, when it comes to finished products, aesthetics and mechanical properties are key and the different materials and printing processes are significant factors. The most commonly used printing method is Fused Deposition Modelling. It uses plastics or suspended metal powders which are extruded through the print heads and built up layer-by-layer. More unusual materials, including chocolate and cheese, have been tried using the same process (although the jury’s still out on whether any of it was edible…).
The wood-grain effect associated with 3D printing is fine for a prototype, where the purpose is to show what something might look like, or how it might fit together, but consumers will expect something more polished and aesthetically pleasing when it comes to an end product.
At a basic level, the plastics used don’t have great material properties, so printing a range of mugs might not be the best use idea. At the other extreme, high-performance industries, like aerospace and motor racing, are already using high-end plastics, and carbon-fibre composites, with comparatively high temperature resistance and tensile strength, to print parts for aircraft and cars. Simon thinks the next big thing in 3D printing will be creating mechanical assemblies. He says, “We’re very close to being able to create metal parts like the gears, but those parts are limited in terms of their mechanical properties at the moment.” He adds, “If we wanted to make a new can opener we could probably do that now, because that’s relatively simple in terms of the mechanics and moving parts, but something more complex like a gearbox or a car is less likely… for now…”
3D printing is an incredible tool for those with the right technical knowledge, a workshop and an understanding of the mechanics and materials. How it develops will depend very much on what we want to do with it. In the meantime, Simon will make sure that the CRL maker community has the best equipment, materials and knowledge, it needs to keep pushing the boundaries and do what they do best – innovate.

Start-ups on the Right Track with the CRL Accelerator Programme

The new CRL Accelerator launched this June and, as usual, the support team is really excited about working with a whole new set of entrepreneurs designing innovative tech to solve life’s problems. 
 
The latest cohort of six start-ups were selected, out of 50 outstanding applicants, to join CRL’s 6th Accelerator programme which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The programme supports a range of hardware entrepreneurs, from sole traders to small teams, and helps them to focus on business growth, resilience and job creation. 
 
Competition is fierce but the rewards are well worth it. As part of the Accelerator support, each cohort member receives a £5,000 start-up grant, a ‘meet-the-manufacturers’ trip to Shenzhen, in China, advice on funding strategies, and ongoing guidance from industry mentors. Previous CRL cohort members, including Aceleron, Design by Sol and Makers Cabinet, have gone on to raise substantial investment, while Cosicare – a female-led tech start-up focused on alleviating the symptoms of Eczema – recently won the Mayor of London’s Award for Innovation.
 
This year, the CRL Accelerator has seen an increase in products centred on improving lives (human and animal), with a focus on energy and sustainability, business efficiency and mental health. We caught up with one of the new cohort members, to find out if he’s as excited as we are about his journey. 
 
New cohort member, Leo Meng, founder of SenTrak Technology, describes his product as a next generation indoor tracking system which significantly reduces operational costs, improves productivity, and provides an intuitive user experience. According to him, traditional indoor location technologies, including RFID, QR code scanning, WiFi and cameras, are expensive, high maintenance and hard-to-install. He says, “SenTrak’s innovative technology, and Location as a Service platform, solves these problems and has the potential to help industries, including retail and manufacturing, to improve efficiencies in warehouse management and logistics”.
 

What made you come up with your idea/product?

LM: I do online shopping, a lot, and I’ve found I don’t always get my order on time from some online shops. Nowadays, I can see fancy fitting rooms, interactive mirrors, mobile payment in stores… but I believe smart things should also happen behind the mirror… in the supply chain. So, I had this idea to provide just the right way to manage it all.
 

How did you get to this point in your start-up journey?

LM: I started this project 2 years ago, as my part-time project. I’ve been full-time since April, because I know I have to put more time into SenTrak if I want to make it happen.
 

What challenges have you had to overcome so far?

LM: I have 10 years of product R&D experience in the IoT industry. I think one of the challenges was to quit a lead engineer job and start over as an entrepreneur, but I’m always challenging myself and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t make the move. The most challenging thing for me was how to jump out of the tech box and think with a business head and it’s taken me a long time to overcome it. During the day, I learned a lot from books and my advisors, and I attended lots of entrepreneurs’ competitions to practice. I even made it to a UK top 10 in one of the competitions. 
 

What are you hoping to get from the CRL team (that you can’t get anywhere else)?

LM: CRL is the only hardware focused accelerator in London. I’m looking forward to getting good support on hardware designs, and linking up to manufacturers, supply chains and market opportunities.
 

What would you say to anyone else thinking of taking the tech hardware journey?

LM: We’ve learned from history that tech hardware is the real winner in industry. All the services are based on hardware like smartphones, laptops, and smart sensors. It’s the right journey and maybe you’re going to be the next one to change the world. Find a hardware focused accelerator, if you can, because hardware companies have different requirements to software companies. 
 

How do you see your product changing the world?

LM: The supply chain is like spaghetti these days. The logistics are neither transparent nor real-time, while the warehouses have bad inventory accuracy on average. SenTrak will provide the future supply chain management system to change this industry. By using SenTrak, everyone will find their products anywhere, anytime.
 

Finally, as a busy entrepreneur, how do you take time out/kick back..?

LM: I have my own ‘reward mechanism’. I only take time out after I’ve achieved something in my journey. It might be a big order, a good customer interview, successful fundraiser, or just great traction. The breaks and holidays, after a great achievement, are definitely a 1000 times better than any birthday, summer holiday or even Christmas.
 
If you’d like to find out how you can join this illustrious band of makers why not pop in and take a look at what lies at the heart of the CRL community? Whether you’re looking for an inspiring co-working space, or a supportive accelerator programme for your tech start-up, or you just need access to some world-class prototyping facilities, we’ve probably got what you need. Contact Katia Padilha katia@centralresearchlaboratory.com and we’ll see what we can do.