Something interesting is coming... transforming the meaning of 'meanwhile'
Meet the people sowing seeds, changing perceptions and finessing their development plans through a series of temporary and not-so-temporary growth initiatives from Hillingdon to Sittingbourne.
“We have to get away from the idea that the clever, creative things we do are just space fillers before building a load of houses – that they’re cynical marketing ploys to make something seem interesting when it’s actually not. It’s about saying our inventiveness has a long-term inherent value, socially and commercially.”
James Nettleton has made a career out of bringing this mindset to U+I, where he heads up the Central Research Laboratory at The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes as Programme Director. The incubator for start-up companies that make high-tech physical products has put real economic growth at the very centre of the £200m mixed-use scheme. The laboratory changes the nature of the landlord–tenant relationship – not just by providing start-ups with space and facilities, but by offering mentoring, deep expertise and, crucially, access to investment. We asked James to choose three of his favourite businesses making waves in Hayes.
“This company has created an unmanned submarine drone which makes it easier than ever for people to explore underwater environments. An unmanned, untethered boat takes the drone out to sea, before dropping it and allowing the pilot to guide it via video-link. The drones have been designed with adaptability in mind, so a user can add a camera, infrared sensor, temperature gauge or any number of attachments. This opens up a huge number of commercial applications. So, for example, if you’re a company inspecting an off-shore power station or oil rig, you can use a Deep Six drone to gather data, make repairs or investigate the cause of a fault.”
“Designed by Sol’s ‘Bump Mark’ product is really interesting because it’s an example of product design and technology tackling big societal issues, in this case food waste. They are developing bio-reactive packaging that replaces (or supplements) use-by dates. Rather than displaying a static date (based on a calculation of how long a given food takes to decay) Bump Mark degrades at the same rate as the food contained in the packaging. The label simply copies what the food inside the package is doing, so the expiry information is far more accurate than a printed date can ever be. And it’s simple to use – when the label feels smooth, the food is fine, when it feels bumpy, the food is decaying.” – www.designbysol.co.uk
“It’s a digital drawing system that essentially uses pens, pencils and paint to draw increasingly complex things from a whole load of different digital streams. So it could be as simple as having an iPad, and when you draw something on the iPad it scales it up onto a wall. But it could also be something much more complicated, like using Twitter streams, for example. The founder used to design shop window displays and found people didn’t engage with screens as they’re very easy to ignore – this is a more active alternative that is digitally derived, as it provides something physically moving and creating the image. They’re now developing a consumer version using crowd-funding.” – www.thoseworks.com