Elizabeth McIlroy – IBOP Ltd
Award Received – Do It – £5,000
In 2010 I undertook a private project along with my partner for the design, patent protection and manufacture of a Self-Watering Planter which was granted a UK patent in 2012.
In 2014 I found I was eligible to enter the Social Enterprise Award Scheme at Manchester University which resulted in an award and a grant of £5,000.
2. The Product
The first product to be designed was a planter that could be used primarily as a hanging planter similar to a Hanging Basket. After satisfactory testing we decided to apply for patent protection and to manufacture the planter which would hopefully generate funds to invest in other products such as automatic self-watering planters for the production of food etc.
3. Social Enterprise
Our ultimate goal is to design and manufacture automatic self-watering planters for the production of food in deprived areas, ultimately impoverished areas abroad such as Africa and Asia. The attraction of our design is the simplicity (3 primary parts) and cost. We visit Africa every year and have witnessed the problems encountered with subsistence farming and lack of irrigation.
4. University Grant
Undertaking such a project has dictated that finances become stretched. Until the award we had used our own money to purchase IP protection, tooling to make the product and exhibition costs.
A discussion with the University concluded that a grant of £5,000 would be particularly helpful for two particular items:-
- Tooling Revisions which would cost £4,100 (based on a quotation)
- Attendance to a 3 day Exhibition in Germany which would cost circa £1,000 (the final costs slightly exceeded the £1,000 target)
In addition to funding, the help from Universities team has been invaluable where many meetings yielded encouragement and valuable advice from Laura Etchells and Ellie Sagar, and the introduction to a Patent Attourney being particularly beneficial.
5. Details of Funds Spent
As with most new inventions the design evolves and necessary modifications are required. Numerous modifications needed to be applied to the tooling which would reduce the number of parts required and allow the product to automatically self-drain in wet whether where previously the drain had to be manually opened. After the award we were in a position to engage our tooling company, SGH Moulds of Bolton to modify the tools.
The largest exhibition of gardening products in the world, Spoga-gafa is held annually in Cologne, Germany attracting potential buyers from around the world. We felt that attending this show would expose our new product to many interested parties.
6. Outcome of Funding Spent
Both exercises were successful. The mouldings made by the modified tools when tested worked as expected and the exhibition generated significant interest from around the world.
7. The Future
We are currently awaiting feedback and contact from various interested parties and samples of the new product have been despatched for review. If we get significant interest we intend to design and manufacture more products.
8.0 The Social Enterprise Scheme
We are of the opinion that the scheme is innovative and helps embryonic small companies to develop their ideas and offer free support with the possibility of no strings attached finance.
Without the help and assistance from the University Social Enterprise Scheme the significant progress made during 2014 could not have been achieved.