As all eyes are on London 2012 Paralympic Games, a revolutionary wheelchair, which uses Formula 1 technology, has secured £350,000 investment from Highland Venture Capital and the Scottish Investment Bank.
Andrew Slorance, designer of the Carbon Black wheelchair and founder of I Imagine Ltd, the company behind the technology, has spent four years realising his vision of a wheelchair revolution. Carbon Black uses F1 technology to create a cutting edge design that provides a significantly improved user experience with a stylish minimal design.
Carbon Black has already been recognised internationally and was shortlisted for Design of The Year 2012 by the London Design Museum and is nominated for the World Technology Network (WTN) award in the USA.
With a successful proof of concept and £70,000 innovation support via a SMART:SCOTLAND grant, international support from Scottish Development International and additional funding and support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to build and market his second prototype, securing this first round of investment will allow for the production of commercial moulds to produce the made to order wheelchair. This will take this innovative product to a global market of over one million active independent users, comprising mainly of spinal cord injuries and war wounded.
Using the very latest composite materials and Formula 1 engineering, Carbon Black is set to change perceptions of the wheelchair. Carbon fibre offers incredible strength to weight properties, combined with unprecedented stiffness for optimal energy efficiency. The monocoque design is both lightweight and strong, yet has a minimal appearance, resulting in more person, less wheelchair.
Andrew Slorance comments on why this new product will revolutionise the market: "One of the worst days of my life was the first time I went out in public now a wheelchair user following a spinal injury aged fourteen. The chair was so awkward to use, ugly and medical in its appearance I felt disabled and not enabled, my ability was compromised by the limited capability of the wheelchair. Over the years wheelchairs have become lighter, but they are still a long way from being desirable products. It is my aim that the user of Carbon Black will feel empowered, their ability optimised and confidence boosted by using a high end piece of equipment that is more desirable technology than it is medical device.
"This project would not have been possible without the early stage support of SMART: SCOTLAND. This investment will allow us to take Carbon Black to market and reach wheelchair users worldwide currently starved of choice and innovation from the wheelchair industry."
Andrew, who has presented and directed television programmes for BBC, ITN and Channel 4, turned an inventor and entrepreneur to reinvent the wheelchair. Andrew and his wife Mary were filmed for a dedicated BBC documentary "My Perfect Wheelchair" screened last month on BBC Scotland and due for network transmission on Sept 9 BBC2.
Iain Scott, chairman of Highland Venture Capital, who is also joining the board of i-Imagine said: "This is HVC's second investment in the Highlands. The opportunity to work with Andrew to bring this novel product to the market is an exciting opportunity we are pleased to be part of."
Kerry Sharp of the Scottish Investment Bank said: "Scotland continues to produce innovative young companies with technologies that boast global potential. Through our range of equity investment funds we want to support early stage innovative companies, just like I Imagine, to commercialise technologies that will not only deliver innovative solutions to modern day problems, but will contribute to Scotland's economy."
HIE's Caroline MacLellan, commented: "We are delighted to have worked with Andrew during his journey to take Carbon Black from initial design to production. This external investment offers the exciting opportunity the business has been seeking to allow it to grow. We are also on hand with ongoing specialist advice to help Andrew maximise his orders in the world wide market."
Access to finance remains a challenge for Scottish businesses and through the Scottish Investment Bank and a range of finance options for ambitious Scottish companies, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are working intensively with Scottish companies to help them prepare for new investment and access the finance needed to grow.