Laxman Sivanathan was sponsored by Jo Bird. (Photo courtesy Jo Bird.)
Laxman Sivanathan was sponsored by Jo Bird. (Photo courtesy Jo Bird.)

A University of Bristol engineering student has helped a UK business win its second Queen's Award in five years.

The Queen's Awards for Enterprise are the UK's most prestigious business awards to celebrate and encourage business excellence, and five years ago fire safety equipment compane Jo Bird received its first Queen’s Award for International Trade.

The company's second Queen's Award in Innovation recognises the redesign and manufacture of a high volume/low margin fire safety cabinet made of glass reinforced plastics (GRP) manufactured using resin transfer molding (RTM)]. The cabinet range is designed to protect fire safety equipment at risk of prolonged exposure (10-15 years) to harsh environments such as high winds, tropical rain, salt water spray and extremes of heat and cold (-40C to +50C). They are reportedly the first cabinets in this market segment to use RTM technology to create a structure based on advanced composites.

‘The biggest difficulty we had was with production,’ said Guy Atkins, managing director of Jo Bird. ‘When we started running the process, there were high occurrences of defects and scraps. I enrolled on a mentoring scheme run by the National Composites Centre (NCC) to improve my composites knowledge. We decided to sponsor a University of Bristol Engineering Doctorate (EngD) student to overcome the production issues and to transfer knowledge to the company’s staff.’

Product innovations

As a result of this sponsorship, graduate engineer Laxman Sivanathan joined the team at Jo Bird and implemented changes to reduce the direct costs in the manufacture of the cabinets, as well as integrating product innovations.

‘It is great to see that the practical implementation of my academic research at Jo Bird has contributed towards winning this prestigious award in Innovation,’ said Sivanathan. ‘I could not have done without the continuous support from Dr Carwyn Ward at the University of Bristol, Guy Atkins from Jo Bird and my faith, which have been the driving force behind this achievement.  I would also like to acknowledge EPSRC for supporting this research.’

This story uses material from Jo Bird, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.