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Leicester composite business has right formula for success

What do an Aston Martin DBS, a wind turbine blade and an America’s Cup boat all have in common? They are all made using innovative, lightweight but strong, composite materials.

Formulating the right recipe for the job is the main passion of materials engineer, Dr Yves Didier. In May 2018, following 20 years of commercial experience, he set up Reactive Components with the aim of providing product development consultancy services to the composite market.

To deliver his service, Dr Didier would use the equipment and premises of his clients all based across Europe. However, Covid-19 made it impossible for him to travel and work. Without his own laboratory in the UK his original business model, as with many other businesses, had to change.

Fortunately, Dr Didier has set up his own laboratory after receiving a £20,000 grant from the Business Gateway Growth Hub, which supports SMEs in Leicester and Leicestershire.

A composite material is usually produced from fibrous and resinous materials. The more prestigious application is the use of carbon fibres composites in the manufacture of Formula 1 cars. However, the market has taken a bigger place in society in the last 50 years, particularly around renewable energy. As well as the examples above it is used in the aerospace, marine, defence and automotive industries for its lightweight properties. By 2025 the UK government has an ambition to reach a £12 billion turnover for the industry.

Although he did manage to do some business travel during early 2020 (and between lockdowns), Dr Didier was mostly stuck at home without the right equipment or environment to work in and trade. While hotdesking at The Dock, he heard about the Business Gateway’s grant.

Dr Didier said: “I wanted to create some resilience in my business model. Although the current model still works and remains in demand, it is hindered by the ever-changing travel restrictions. With the new UK premises, I can now offer new services by taking on smaller one-off studies but also investigate technological areas which I couldn’t do before on a customer’s premises. Ultimately, this is more likely to deliver stronger intellectual property.

“For example, as I build my knowledge on sustainable products in my own laboratory, I’ll be able to ask better questions and guide my customers on a deeper level, defining their problems more accurately so I can provide the right solution.”

Senior Business Adviser Manager at the Business Gateway, Russell Pacey supported Dr Didier with the grant application helping him clarify what was required, what to focus on and hone the rationale for his application.

Russell said: “The composite market is an innovative sector, there is always a new problem to be solved. It’s been a pleasure supporting Dr Didier with his growth grant application. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out in the future that he has been involved, somewhere along the line, in the creation of some fantastic new products.”

Dr Didier added: “They say one of the big strengths of being a relatively new business is the ability to react, but I don’t think I would have been able to react as well without the support of the grant. My recovery would have been a lot slower and this extra money allows me to be a bit braver. I’m absolutely over the moon!”

If you are looking to grow your business in Leicestershire and would like to find out how the Business Gateway can help you please complete an enquiry form or email