Some Top SMEs

Our research into the UK SME sector yields hundreds of new small companies and emerging businesses each month. For firms included within the database, we rate the future potential of these firms - from zero to a top rating of 10 - on the overall, cumulative potential on the basis of five principal factors:

  • sales track record of management, our No.1 consideration above all others;
  • the size of that future market;  
  • its fiscal strength (ie. its ability not to run out of money);
  • the strength of its existing links with big or medium-sized firms, which will form the core of the product’s future customer base;
  • and above, the enthusiasm, likeability, and level of determination possessed by the main founder.

Bladon Jets Ltd

This ground-breaking company is working closely with car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover on the development of a micro gas turbine engine to operate in a plug in hybrid car. Unlike other turbine engines, it does not power the car wheels, but generates electricity to charge the batteries as and when required.

The micro gas turbines are said to be ideally suited for plug in hybrid electric vehicles. The company claims the batteries will typically provide over 50 miles of electric range and that the cars are also capable of travelling longer distances when using an on board power generator to charge the batteries on the move. The Jaguar C-X75 super car’s range was said to have been extended to 900KM on a single tank of fuel by using the micro gas turbines.

In September 2011 the firm won a second collaborative grant from the Technology Strategy Board - an exceptional achievement. 10 months ago, in December 2010, Bladon Jets raised £500,000 in a recent funding round from members of the Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION).

Cannon Tri-Laminates Ltd

In March 2011 Cannon Tri-Laminates celebrated an impressive turnover - more than £2m in just its second year on the back of its innovation and expertise in hi-tech textiles. Cannon Tri-Laminates, based at Golborne, near Leigh, develops and manufactures specialist textiles that are resistant to everything from chemical warfare agents to a rugby player’s boot.

Customers include the Ministry of Defence, Boeing, Airbus Industries and Gilbert, which makes rugby balls used in international matches. The company was founded in 2009 and it has established an international reputation, with around 70 per cent of its output exported to 17 countries including China, Korea, New Zealand and the US.

Husband and wife Duncan and Linda Cannon are MD and finance director respectively, and son Paul is the production director. Duncan, a chemist who formerly worked for manufacturing giants Dunlop and British Vita, said: “We have a major development on at the moment for a material I have invented and patented for use in convertible car hoods. The material contains a layer of aluminium so it reflects heat back into the car on cold days, saving fuel and reducing its carbon footprint.

“We are currently in negotiations to form a joint venture with a German company to supply a major car manufacturer that should be worth £5.5m a year.” Cannon is also the only approved supplier in the world of material used in poisonous gas-resistant hoods worn by US Air Force fighter pilots.

In November 2011 rubber coated fabrics manufacturer Cannon Tri-laminates moved to larger premises so it can continue to increase its manufacturing capacity by more than 30%.

4c Design Ltd

This is one of Scotland’s best design companies - with a phalanx of first-rate and innovation-hungry clients.

Their design of a revolutionary ‘step-in’ lifeboat, for example, should be taken up by all cruise line and ferry companies – such is its ease of entry and safety, especially for older passengers. 4c doubled turnover in their third year and achieved a number of new contract wins and ongoing work for clients such as Hasbro and Red Bull. The redesign of Hasbro’s popular children’s game ‘Downfall’ was recently launched to great reviews at the ‘Toy Fair’ in London. They are also helping to create a whole new concept in outdoor socialising for new client, Ferado.

The result will be a specially designed underfloor heated terrace, which should prove popular with those of us living in colder climates. Safety is high on the agenda of our clients this year with projects ranging from child safety devices through to mechanisms for a fleet of off-shore safety vessels for Aberdeen-based Viking Offshore. They use the latest 3D software applications to create a rapid prototype or simulate manufacturing processes, creating products that look good, are technically accurate and are feasible to manufacture on any scale.

Recent clients include Eaton Williams, the UK’s largest custom airconditioning manufacturers; JRG Fireplaces; Battistinis Custom Cycles and most recently Lewmar, for their support. 4c is also becoming synonymous with packaging solutions for ‘fun toys’ and outdoor equipment. Recent commissions in this area include a corporate toy box, the ‘apodo’, on behalf of Scots motivational training company, Tree of Knowledge and a new 3D spherical logical puzzle, the k-ball, similar to the Harry Potter ‘Snitch’.