Lontra, the fast-growing Midlands firm backed by Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) and The Carbon Trust, has been shortlisted as one of Britain’s most innovative manufacturers.
Lontra is a finalist in the Innovation and Design category at The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2014. The firm has been nominated for its ground-breaking Blade Compressor®, a replacement design for the industrial pumps and blowers that consume 10% of European industrial power.
The shortlisting in the awards run by UK industry publication ‘The Manufacturer’ is the latest accolade in a successful year that has seen Lontra sign a multi-million pound licensing deal with Sulzer. A fresh funding round to secure new licensees for the Blade Compressor® is now open.
The Blade Compressor® represents the first clean sheet design in nearly 80 years for a market worth over £20bn per annum, where today’s machinery is still based on designs dating to the 1935 Screw Compressor, Roots Blower (1867) and Vane Compressor (1588). New funds will support expansion into lucrative new markets in automotive supercharging and industrial air compression.
Lontra will now face finalists from nearly every sub-sector of manufacturing including automotive, food and drink, engineering, defence contractors, speciality steel, aerospace, beauty products, medical technology, and precision components. Shortlisted companies will present to an expert panel of judges on 7 October at Aston Villa Football Club. The winners will be crowned at The Manufacturer of the Year Awards Ceremony & Gala Dinner on November 27 at The ICC, Birmingham.
Lontra CEO and founder Steve Lindsey, likened to British inventor and industrial designer Sir James Dyson by The Carbon Trust, says:
“It’s great to be recognised by The Manufacturer for what we are doing at Lontra and in good company with the other finalists. What sets us apart is the fact that the Blade Compressor® is proven, licensed and in production; it is truly revolutionary, not evolutionary; and it delivers a genuine step-change in efficiency where many industries chase a few per cent gain.”
Lindsey and his expanding team have already demonstrated the Lontra technology to great acclaim in the Water Industry. Severn Trent Water’s first machine having run the equivalent of three years duty without issue with their own figures showing a saving of electricity of 21%. The myriad benefits of the novel design include low maintenance, low cost manufacture and low energy use.
The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2014 were launched at the House of Commons on 3 March and sponsored by Margot James MP and attended by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. More than 200 senior business leaders turned out for the launch to improve the image of manufacturing in the UK and inspire manufacturers to increase competitiveness.
Lontra’s license to Sulzer was for the £600m per annum municipal and regulated waste water aeration market. Pumps incorporating the Blade Compressor technology are equally applicable to the industrial waste water aeration market, which is three times as large at £1.8bn per annum.
Future research and development will adapt the Blade Compressor® technology to match the needs of the industrial blower market with a view to seeking licensees for non-water applications of the same machines for industries ranging from cement, fabric and carbon black manufacturing to power generation worth a combined £2bn per annum. Lontra is doubling floor space at its Napton R&D lab.
To date Lontra has secured £5m toward the development of the technology and the business: £2.9m equity; £1.1m development finance/IP license revenue from partners; and £0.94m from public R&D grants. Equity investors to date include Imperial Innovations, Seven Mile Capital and MidVen, together with angel investors. Board members and their associates have invested £1.4m.
Lindsey is supported and mentored by Executive Chairman Peter Watson OBE. The former engineering director for British Rail was also Chief Executive and Chairman of AEA Technology where he was part of the team that licensed the Lithium Ion battery to Sony, technology now used in nearly all laptops and mobile phones. Lontra’s UK business development is run by the ex-Sales Director of leading compressor service company Motivair; it has a strong and growing representation in the US.