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Bicycle design specialists, Islabikes, uses £20,000 grant support for in-house testing

5 January 2023
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Islabikes a leading UK bicycle designers for those typically left behind by the cycling industry, are putting to use the £20,000 grant support they received through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub as part of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme – West Midlands at the end of 2021.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the three-year Made Smarter scheme with its fellow Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire Business Central, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick (WMG) and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry to tap into the expertise of their digital manufacturing specialists.

The support from Made Smarter consisted of three parts: an on-site review and ‘Digital Transformation Report’ detailing how technology can improve operational efficiency and the product development process within the business, a 50% match-funded grant to cover the purchase of new testing equipment and installation costs. and Warwick Manufacturing Group will provide ongoing support on upskilling Islabikes’ use of material characterisation and virtual engineering.

The new in-house laboratory, which Islabikes have had since May 2022, comprises of two pieces of machinery that will eventually allow the team to test frame and fork assemblies in line with the relevant ISO, ASTM and EN standards, while also enabling them to test forks and handlebars in isolation in the future.

This investment was key to the company's development for four reasons. Following the closure of Islabikes’ local test lab in Warrington, the nearest testing facility became mainland Europe – significantly increasing the lead times and cost of their R&D activities. The new in-house laboratory will help reduce these times and their associated costs.

Secondly, the business’ mission is to pioneer how a bike frame is traditionally designed, and this occasionally exposes gaps in the coverage of the industry standards. However, having their own laboratory will help them identify, replicate and rectify such areas in half the time.

What’s more, global supply chain issues have caused much disruption for the cycling industry over the past three years. So, an in-house testing facility allows the team to develop a surveillance testing programme to ensure their bicycles remain compliant throughout the entire production cycle, regardless of any changes that take place further down the supply chain.

Finally, Islabikes are increasingly using virtual engineering tools to review the structural performance of a frame design earlier in the product development process, reducing weight, waste and time to market. By having their own facility the team will be able to continually review test setups to ensure they’re as aligned as possible.

Tim Goodall, Managing Director at Islabikes, said:

“We are very excited to be receiving support from Made Smarter, as a leader in the manufacturing industry and a developer of the next generation of technology solutions. This investment gives us the blueprint to evolve. It’s the prime time for Islabikes to invest more in digital technologies to fine tune our product development process.:

The company's founder Isla Rowntree was travelling home from a sustainable manufacturing conference when she began imagining how her business could make and supply bicycles to families in a more sustainable manner. Thus, the aptly titled “The Imagine Project” was created to ensure that Islabikes could operate in a way that’s viable for the future and addresses negative impacts on the environment in the face of climate crisis. Since then, the company has taken more steps to address immediate sustainability-related responsibilities and take action in areas where a rapid impact can be made.


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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