Tansun Case Study
Innovation Voucher used to access specialist research which enabled the development of a new product, enabling access to a new market, increased turnover and job creation
West Bromwich-based, Tansun Ltd is the UK’s leading infrared heater manufacturer. The business was established over 35 years ago and produces a wide range of infrared thermal solutions. Each range of products is designed with a unique feature-set specific to the sectors they target. Examples of applications include those for commercial, factory, hospital, church and alfresco dining heating. In addition to serving the UK market, Tansun is a prolific exporter, with goods shipping to over 60 countries worldwide.
Tansun has a long history of developing innovative products that disrupt existing markets. Thanks to their expertise in this sector, they recognised early on the emerging competition from China and started to explore new technologies to grow its core competencies. Tansun identified that the potential introduction of a flexible infra-red heating panel, or ‘blanket’, for domestic commercial animals would fill a niche that is under supplied by the existing market. The heating panels could be placed within, or on top of, the animals’ living environment, even directly onto horses.
To develop the underlying technology for exploiting this opportunity, Tansun required external research and help to create the heating element that would be encased within the new design, and how best to utilise it. Managing Director of Tansun – Pete Rana – remarked:
“Whilst we have a long history of innovation, we are engineers first, therefore we needed additional expertise to understand the technology which would permit us to put the finishing touches to the product and bring it to market.”
Innovation Voucher Solution
Through networking with another business, Tansun became aware of the Innovation Vouchers scheme in early 2017. Representatives from Tansun then began a dialogue with Aston Business School, completing their application and having it accepted with a minimum of fuss. The application process included Tansun identifying, and obtaining quotes from, three potential providers of the required product development research.
Tansun worked closely with Magiled UK Ltd for approximately three months. This innovative research project led to a report detailing the technology and describing how it could be utilised within the product that Tansun wanted to devlop. After this, Tansun sourced the technology and materials and began to manufacture the product.
Pete put it succinctly:
“The research provided us with the knowledge we were missing to complete the product.”
The key initial impact for Tansun was the procurement of the relevant knowledge on how to effectively utilise the technology integral to their product development, allowing them to generate the capability for manufacture. This innovative product represented a completely new market for Tansun, having never previously provided products for the domestic and commercial animal sector. It therefore led to the creation of an entirely new customer base for the business.
The impact on the business that the manufacture and sale of the product has had, cannot be overstated. Over the next year Tansun anticipates achieving between £300k-£500k turnover from this new product alone, having already led to a new manufacturing role within the business, with another two-to-three expected within the next year.
Pete reflected on the further anticipated impacts in the future:
“We plan to expand the product line and hope to hit £1 million turnover from this product innovation and commercialisation within 2.5 years. This will lead to the creation of more jobs, not only in our manufacturing division, but also sales and marketing and possibly R&D.”
Without the support of Aston Business School and the Innovation Vouchers scheme, this product would have taken significantly longer to develop and market. The conclusion that can be drawn from Tansun’s experience in the programme brought forward the impacts of their planned development & product innovation. This will likely create other knock-on benefits in the future such as increased cash-flow, profits and new jobs. After the conclusion of the project, Pete explained that he was no aware of any other sources by which Tansun could have accessed the funding, making Innovation Vouchers a unique value proposition for companies in the local business support ecosystem.