The journey from Innovation Alley to Innovative Success

Innovation Alley is one of the hottest dates in the UK event calendar.  Each year KTN and Innovate UK provide a space to young fledgling digital technology innovators at one of the UK’s leading manufacturing shows – Digital Manufacturing Week – a national festival of advanced manufacturing organised by The Manufacturer, which attracts thousands of manufacturers, industry leaders, and technology providers from around the world.

In its 5th year, many of the companies who have previously exhibited on Innovation Alley have now gone on to become successful, growing businesses.  Here we talk to two of them who have had outstanding success since their early days on the Alley.

SamsonVT’s journey: From 3 to 16 employees in 2 years!

Innovation Alley at Smart Factory Expo - part of Digital Manufacturing Week.
Innovation Alley at Smart Factory Expo – part of Digital Manufacturing Week.

SamsonVT has developed a suite of interactive, AI and machine learning-driven products and services that is enabling manufacturers to embrace Industry 4.0 technology. They first exhibited on Innovation Alley in 2019 having heard about it from their colleagues at Sci-Tech Daresbury and through connections in the manufacturing team at KTN.  Having never exhibited before, they realised that they needed to start getting in front of customers so they could commercialise their offering.  

Innovation Alley proved to be very lucrative for SamsonVT.  They met Mazak, a leading global manufacturer and distributor of machine tools, on the Alley who became one of their most significant early customers.  The show also gave the company a fantastic opportunity to get their name out there in the market and build brand awareness amongst the manufacturing community.  

CEO Sam Burgess said, “I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  In previous jobs, I had been on exhibition stands, some good, some terrible.  I can honestly say Innovation Alley has been one of the best shows I have ever exhibited at. Attendees use it as a corridor to get from one end of the show to the other so it is a perfect opportunity to meet everyone ‘passing your stand’.  There is also a fantastic partner network on your doorstep as you are surrounded by some of the UK’s most innovative, young digital tech entrepreneurs.”  

Sam went on to say KTN, Innovate UK and the team at Sci-Tech Daresbury have been instrumental in our growth, helping us form the connections necessary to take the business to the next level”.  

Since their early beginnings on the Alley in 2019, SamsonVT has grown from a 3-person organisation raising angel investment to a 16-person business, now finalising their Series A funding round.  They have had significant support along the way including securing a £500k Smart Grant from Innovate UK in January 2020 which has enabled them to develop a scalable detection application. KTN’s Ben Peace and Kevin Hallas introduced the team at SamsonVT to BAE Systems, Autocraft Drivetrain Solutions, Europe’s largest independent engine remanufacturer and assembler and LBBC Technologies, experts in pressure vessel and autoclave design, all of which led to active projects.

Sam’s advice to anyone considering exhibiting on Innovation Alley, 2021 is ‘Go for it – it will transform your business.  Make sure you spend time talking to the companies exhibiting around you and develop close relationships with the team at KTN as they will really help build your connections.’

CROP - Automation Cloud Digital Digitalisation Industrial Internet IIoT - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

*Image courtesy of Depositphotos

Total Control Pro grew from strength to strength

Total Control Pro provides cloud-based data-driven planning, scheduling and resource optimisation solutions to tackle the challenges of complex planning and resource management within the manufacturing process.

The team at Total Control Pro were only 5 strong when they first exhibited on Innovation Alley in 2016, having been introduced to the idea by Malcolm Harold and Ben Peace from the KTN manufacturing team.  With an early-stage prototype of their core solution and an idea that cloud-based systems were the future, they wanted to meet manufacturers and really find out if there was an appetite for their offer and get direct feedback from industry as to exactly what they wanted. 

Total Control Pro came back to the Alley in 2018, still a young, early-stage business, and used their second visit to build partnerships with other innovative exhibitors on the Alley. They realised they needed to integrate other technologies into their solution to make it even more compelling.  They met and engaged with the Data Analysis Bureau who collaborated with them on their successful Women in Innovation award.  Commercial opportunities also started to generate for Total Control Pro on the Alley. They met Chris from Bindatex, a supplier of carbon fibre strips for aerospace with whom they subsequently bid jointly for a 25k award and were successful. They also met the new head of digital at RS Components on the Alley for whom they subsequently delivered a machine learning and IoT project.  

Strategic Director Dolores Sanders said, “Innovation Alley is a significant part of Total Control Pro’s roots.  Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to evolve our early product and build relationships with key partners to evolve our solution into what it is today.  Both Innovate UK and KTN have been instrumental in our success. Young businesses should realise the opportunities these organisations offer.  It’s more than just raising money, it’s about the connections and conversations they can facilitate. Their networks can work well for you, but you have to engage fully.  In a world where we are all really busy, it is difficult to see the wood for the trees but it is important to identify the opportunities that are valuable and I would say Innovation Alley to young startups trying to reach the manufacturing sector is definitely valuable!”

Total Control Pro have evolved their business significantly since their time on the Alley.  They now employ 20 people and have recently taken on 5 apprenticeships to help evolve their skills and expertise. They have had support from Innovate UK to secure a loan in 2018, the Women in Innovation Award in 2019, they bought their own full exhibition stand at Smart Factory Expo in 2019 and have recently become part of the Made Smarter Digital Accelerator Programme working with Safran Landing Systems to assist the workforce in reducing the complexity around planning whilst understanding impact and consequences.

Dolores’s advice for anyone considering exhibiting this year is to ‘consider practically what you are going to show on Innovation Alley.  Don’t just turn up with a leaflet.  Have something that will attract a manufacturer or partner’s attention and engage them in conversation.  And when you have enough income, book your own stand’.  

KTN and Innovate UK have been working alongside Digital Manufacturing Week organiser, The Manufacturer, to enable 50 of the UK’s most innovative businesses to exhibit FREE and in-person on Innovation Alley in Liverpool on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th November 2021.  Find out how to apply for a place on Innovation Alley 2021.

Source: The journey from Innovation Alley to Innovative Success

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