A partnership between a Shropshire company and the University of Wolverhampton which helped transform the business has won a national award.
Tough Furniture designs and manufactures products for challenging environments such as Young Offender Institutes, care homes, mental health units and individuals with learning difficulties.
The company, based in Craven Arms, enlisted the help of the University’s School of Art and Design as part of a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership.
KTPs are UK-wide programmes which enable organisations to improve their competitiveness, productivity and performance through a partnership with an academic institution.
The partnership won the Special Recognition category at The Impact Awards, run by PraxisUnico.
The awards showcase outstanding contributions to society and the economy through innovation and had more than 100 entries.
The University provided help to revolutionise the company’s design processes by mentoring a Product Design graduate to help provide a dedicated design capability.
As well as being able to benefit from the transfer of skills to their workforce, Tough Furniture was also able to have access to University facilities, such as rapid prototyping and specialist training in photography and Photoshop to aid its in-house sales and marketing output.
Since the KTP was run the company’s profits have increased by 20 per cent.
Tough Furniture Managing Director, David Vesty, said: “As a small specialised company, Tough Furniture has always endeavoured to punch above its weight.
“The new design technology delivered by the KTP with the University of Wolverhampton transformed our ability to do this in production, customer service, marketing and product development.
“To be awarded ‘Special Recognition’ for this at such a prestigious event as the Praxisunico Impact Awards has been inspirational for the whole team here.”
Rob Cooksey, senior lecturer in Furniture Design at the University, mentored graduate Rhys Thomas through the scheme. He said: “Supervising KTP partnerships like Tough Furniture, is a wonderful opportunity to keep abreast of design developments in the furniture industry and the individual needs of manufacturing companies.
“Using the company as an example of design in practice makes my teaching more relevant and impactful to students on our applied design undergraduate programmes and demonstrates how valuable their contribution can be to companies seeking new graduates”
Note: PraxisUnico is an educational not-for-profit organisation set up to support innovation and commercialisation of public sector and charity research for social and economic impact.
Picture Caption (from left to right): David Vesty, MD Tough Furniture, Barbara Vesty, Director Tough Furniture, Nigel Jordan, from the University’s Business Solutions Centre, awards presenter Maggie Philbin and Dr Douglas Robertson, PraxisUnico chairman.
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