Best Midlands Radical Innovation and Design

AGA Rangemaster Original Range Cookers

Kitchener Range CookerThe range cooker, which was invented in the Midlands, has changed the way we live and remains a great feature of the modern Midlands industrial landscape – where AGA Rangemaster has factories in Leamington Spa and Coalbrookdale.

It all started back in 1707 when Abraham Darby was given a patent by Queen Anne to make cast iron cooking pots at the World Heritage site foundry in Coalbrookdale where the AGA cooker is made today.

In 1830 William Flavel’s radical innovation using cast iron was the ‘Kitchener’ range cooker made in the Eagle Foundry in Leamington Spa.  The Kitchener’s design was a radical leap forward with the heat source for the first time separated from the cooking pot.  One heat source was used to heat separate ovens which could be used to boil, roast, bake and keep food warm.  It was hailed as one of the greatest domestic institutions of the 19th Century and celebrated in the kitchen as the ‘end of sooty food’.


In 1851 the Kitchener was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace and won one of only a handful of Gold Medals awarded for excellence in production and design.  The Kitchener became an appliance in a category of its own and at the end of the century owners included Queen Victoria.  Its status was recognised by everyone from the King of Italy to the Emperor of Germany, all of whom had Kitchener stoves.

The AGA cooker – which has become embedded in British life and culture – is a design icon which was designed for manufacture and restyled in the late 1930s by renowned US industrialist, Raymond Loewy (who was to go on to design the interiors of Concorde for Air France and Air Force One for the US government) and industrial designer, David Scott (famous for the much-loved Routemaster bus).

AGA Total Control

AGA Rangemaster’s latest innovations provide further enhancements to the original range cooker design. They include a radical new design of range cooker hob from Rangemaster which incorporates ideas gained from the Group’s collaboration with the Chinese gas burner company, Vatti and the revolutionary AGA iTotal Control which has the cast iron appeal of the classic AGA cooker but can be ‘turned on when you want it, and off when you don’t’ and is fully programmable by text message via an iPhone or Android phone or via web access from a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet.  These products will be on display at the Birmingham Made Me Design Expo this year and are a further demonstration of the great range of design and innovation skills in the Midlands today.


Apple Innovations, Sir Jonathan Ive

Sir JonathanSir Jonathan Paul “Jony” Ive, KBE (born February 1967) is a British designer and senior vice president of industrial design at Apple Inc. He is the leading designer and conceptual mind behind the iMac, titanium and aluminum PowerBook G4, PowerMac G4, PowerMac G5, G4 Cube, iBook, Mac Pro, MacBook, unibody MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad – radical design innovations that have changed the way we live and work.

Jonathan Ive was born in London. He was brought up by his teacher father, attending during his formative years, Walton High School in Stafford, a period which he remembers with great fondness. He later studied industrial design at Northumbria University (Newcastle Polytechnic at the time).
Once enrolled in Walton, Stafford, it became clear that he attained many technical and drawing skills through his father. Ive met his wife, Heather Pegg, while at secondary school in Stafford. They married in 1987, have twin sons and now live in San Francisco.
Ive has said that he knew he was interested in “drawing and making stuff” since around age 14. The idea of design was long in his mind, but he was unsure about exactly what he would design. His interests were very broad — from furniture and jewellery to boats and cars. He was never sure about where his interest would lead. It wasn’t until he met with various design experts that he was able to see some standard ground in wanting to further his study in product design.

Ive was not always adept with computers and originally found them frustrating. Once he discovered Apple’s Mac computers though he felt more at ease. He realized they helped his confusion, and brought a newer and greater outlook to the technology of computers. For him this was a significant discovery because he was hoping to enhance his design skills using computers.
After finishing university, Ive went on to become a co-founder of London design agency Tangerine. Subsequently, he was commissioned in 1992 by Apple’s then Chief of Industrial Design Robert Brunner as a Tangerine consult, then full time employment. He was the designer of the 2nd generation of the Newton, the MessagePad110, taking him to Taipei for the first time. He then gained his current position at Apple in 1997 as the senior vice president of industrial design after the return ofSteve Jobs and has subsequently headed the industrial-design team responsible for most of the company’s significant hardware products. Ive’s first design assignment was the iMac; it helped pave the way to many other designs such as the iPod and eventually the iPhone. Jobs made design a chief focus of the firm’s product strategy, and Ive proceeded to establish the firm’s leading position with a series of functionally clean, aesthetically pleasing, and remarkably popular products.
The work and principles of Dieter Rams, the chief designer at Braun from 1961 until 1995, have influenced Ive’s work. In Gary Hustwit’s documentary film Objectified (2009), Rams states that Apple is one of only a handful of companies existing today that design products according to Rams’s ten principles of “good design.”

Ive has his own laboratory with his appointed design team. They work to music that a close friend of his, DJ John Digweed, provides. The majority of Apple employees are not allowed in the laboratory. According to the Steve Jobs biography, Ive’s design studio has foam cutting and printing machines inside it. Also the windows are tinted.
The Sunday Times named Ive one of Britain’s most influential expatriates on 27 November 2005: “Ive may not be the richest or the most senior figure on the list, but he has certainly been one of the most influential as the man who designed the iPod.”
A recent Macworld magazine poll listed Ive’s joining Apple in 1992 as the sixth most significant event in Apple’s history, while Dan Moren, a writer at MacUser magazine (a subsidiary of Macworld), suggested in March 2006 that, when the time came for Steve Jobs to step down as the CEO of Apple, Ive would be an excellent candidate for the position, justifying the statement by saying that Ive “embodies what Apple is perhaps most famous for: design.” However, Jobs was succeeded as the CEO by Tim Cook, the company’s former COO.
On 11 January 2008, The Daily Telegraph rated Ive the most influential Briton in America

Honours and awards
In 1999, Ive was named by the MIT Technology Review TR100 one of the top 100 innovators in the world under age 35.
In 2003, Ive was the winner of the Design Museum’s Designer of the Year Award, which was the first given.
In 2004, he was named the “Most Influential Person on British Culture” by the BBC.
In 2007, GQ UK named him “Product Designer of the Year.”
In 2007, Ive received the 2007 National Design Award in the product-design category for his work on the iPhone.
In 2008, he was named the #1 “Most Influential Briton in America” by the Daily Telegraph.
In 2008, Creativity Online named him to their “Creativity 50″ list
In 2008, Ive was awarded the MDA Personal Achievement Award for the design of the iPhone.
In 2009, Ive received an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design
In 2009, he was named Honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Art.
In 2009, Fast Company put him at #1 on their list of “100 Most Creative People in Business
In 2009, the Daily Telegraph named him #2 “Most Influential Briton in Technology
In 2009, Forbes named him #2 “Most Powerful People in Technology
In 2009, he was named “Inventor of the Decade” by the UK Guardian
In 2010, Bloomberg BusinessWeek listed him among the “World’s Most Influential Designers”
In 2010, CNN Money named him “Smartest Designer” in their “Smartest People in Tech” story
In 2010, Ive was listed at #18 on “The Vanity Fair 100″ list
In 2010, Eureka! (part of the London Times) named Ive #5 on their list of “Britain’s Most Important Scientists”
In 2010, Fortune named Ive the “world’s smartest designer” for his work on Apple products.
In 2011, the Daily Mail in London profiled him, hailing him as a “design genius.”
Ive holds almost 600 design patents.
Ive was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2006 New Year Honours for services to the design industry. In June 2005, British monarch Queen Elizabeth II was revealed as being an iPod owner. Ive was elevated to Knight Commander of the same Order (KBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to design and enterprise. He described the honour as “absolutely thrilling” and said he was “both humbled and sincerely grateful” (Source Wikipedia)


Droplet team celebrating David Robert's win at BYPY - photo Jas Sansi (2)Droplet is a mobile payments app that lets you load money onto your phone and send payments to anyone for free.

The whole idea was born in a coffee shop in Birmingham.  We thought there must be a way to use the power of mobile to make sending payments easier.  In fact we discovered we could make receiving payments fee-free for merchants too.

We launched our “beta” in Birmingham in October last year and thousands joined in.  It was fantastic to see people in our home city backing something home grown, and when we extended to London in March we found it was just as popular.

For us, London was the second city.  Birmingham was where it all began and where our business is still based.  We’re about to secure funding that will help us take Droplet nationwide.  It all started here and the majority of the new jobs we’ll be creating will be based in Birmingham.

Not everyone likes what we’re doing, especially the banks and credit card companies.  But the people we speak to tell us they love using Droplet, and our merchants are excited by all the things they’ll soon be able to start doing with Droplet as well as taking payments.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy things on the train without needing cash?  Chiltern are on board and will go live with Droplet soon.  Or how about if you could park your car the same app without needing to enter any credit card information or even put a ticket in your windscreen?

We’re in it to ‘go big or go home’ and have a strong team already in place to make it happen.  Birmingham City University students helped with early market research; a University of Birmingham MBA team consulted for us as part of their studies; DWF supported us with legal and accountancy services and the sector even recognised our significance by awarding our COO “Birmingham Young Professional of the Year” for Financial Services; Birmingham Science Park, now Innovation Birmingham, have supported us with a space to base the business.

Birmingham users were the first to trust us and try something new, and Birmingham merchants saw value in our service and wanted to join our story.

It would be fair to say that “Birmingham made Droplet” and achieving our vision to change the way the world uses money will carry that hallmark.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Professor Sir Kenneth Murray is credited with saving countless lives after developing the first vaccine against viral hepatitis B.  Having started his career as a laboratory technician for high street chain Boots, he then studied part time at University of Birmingham, earning a first class honours degree in Chemistry and then a PhD in Microbiology.  He then went on to study at Stanford University and joined University of Edinburgh in 1967 at what was then the only department of molecular biology in the country.

During research into the devastating liver disease at the University of Edinburgh, Sir Kenneth is credited with developing gene cloning where DNA from two different species are inserted into a host organism, allowing for new genetic combinations.  He then applied the principles to the practical task of creating a vaccine for hepatitis B, by identifying the hepatitis B virus and then producing a man-made vaccine.  This was the first vaccine made using genetic engineering.

By 1978 Sir Kenneth and his team had created the vaccine and established Biogen, a company which commercially developed the vaccine for use.  Today the global market for the hepatitis vaccine exceeds £650 million each year.  The income generated from the hepatitis B vaccine was used by Sir Kenneth to found the Darwin Trust, which has supported the education of many young scientists and helped to fund cutting edge research.


Jaguar C-X75

C-X75Jaguar has announced its intention to put the C-X75 into production in 2013.  Voted Most Significant Concept Vehicle 2011 as well as Concept Car of the Year in Detroit 2011, the limited run of 250 cars will feature a hybrid drivetrain, although the company has not ruled out using the gas turbines seen in the original concept, which debuted last year at the Paris Motor Show.

For the production model, Jaguar will work with Williams F1, which will provide engineering expertise in areas such as aerodynamics, carbon composite manufacture and hybrid technologies.

Jaguar has announced that it intends to put the C-X75 into production in 2013. Voted While full details of the drivetrain have not been released, the car will have small-capacity, highly boosted internal combustion engine with one powerful electric motor at each axle and will therefore have four-wheel drive. It will be capable of an electric-only range of 50km and achieve target emissions of less 99g/km C02.

Performance estimates for the production car include a sub-three second 0–60mph acceleration time and a top speed in excess of 200mph.

‘The engine’s compact size allows it to be mounted low in the car for optimum weight distribution and to retain the concept’s stunning silhouette. This will make the Jaguar C-X75 a bona fide hybrid supercar capable of silent electric running,’ said Bob Joyce, group engineering director of Jaguar Land Rover.

Costing between £700,000 and £900,000, the Jaguar looks likely to compete with Porsche’s hybrid car, the 918 Spyder — a production version of which was announced last month, also set for a 2013 launch priced at £672,000.

Porsche claims the 918 will be capable of a 3.2 second 0–62mph time and a top speed of 199mph with a fuel efficiency of 94mpg and emissions rating of 70g/km of CO2.

Jaguar said it will continue to develop the use of the micro-turbine technology that was showcased in the original concept C-X75. Jaguar’s parent company Tata has taken a significant stake in Bladon Jets, which made the turbines.(source The Engineer)

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

In the late 1960s, pioneering work on liquid crystals was undertaken by the UK’s Royal Radar Establishment at Malvern, England. The team at RRE supported ongoing work by George Gray and his team at the University of Hull  working together to ultimately discover the cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals, which had correct stability and temperature properties for application in LCDs.

Micklewrights Structures Ltd

Micklewrights Structures LtdThe Good Heart Aluminium Boat is being built by Micklewrights Structures LTD in Dudley, known for their ‘flexible and accomodating approach to manufacturing’. They are nearing completion on the Circumnavigation Record attempt speedboat ‘Goodheart’ as recently highlighted in a BBC report on 3rd October 2011. This explains more of the background, “ An ocean adventurer attempting to smash a world power boating record is having his new vessel built in the Black Country. Alan Priddy is hoping to break the record for power boating around the world, a journey of 24,000 miles. The current fastest time stands at just under 61 days.

Mr Priddy is having his 90 ft (27m) aluminium boat, the Good Heart, built at Micklewrights Structures in Dudley. During his career Priddy has amassed 37 boating world records. He described the record attempt to circumnavigate the globe as “the pinnacle”. He is hoping to complete the voyage in 50 days or fewer. “We’ve come to Dudley in the West Midlands for the skills that we’ve got around us now,” he said “I needed to work with a structural engineering company. My knowledge of the sea and their knowledge of putting metal together, we’ve got it, we’ve got a perfect formula here.” Andy Micklewright, joint managing director of the company, said it was “great news” for Micklewrights.  Chris Kelly, Conservative MP for Dudley South, called it a “real flagship project” and has highlighted this project on the Made By Britain project of the Associate Party Manufacturing Group which has been designed to address the reputation challenges of the manufacturing sector through MP nominations highlighting excellence in manufacturing in their constituencies see,  Micklewrights Ltd in Dudley is a family owned company formed in 1987. The company started manufacturing secondary steelwork for small projects, progressing over time into long term contracts for power stations. We then moved out into the open market, supplying all types and sizes of structures for the agricultural, commercial, industrial, leisure and local authority sectors.  Having developed into one of the main steelwork fabricators in the midlands area, we are now actively looking for contracts nationwide.  With a capacity of 125 to 175 tonnes per week depending on the type of manufacturing, they are capable of working on a wide and varied range of projects. The company is structured in a way that allows us to be highly flexible, with minimal lead times. They can supply anything from a few lintel beams to large highly complex structures.

Microwave Ovens

The specific heating effect of a beam of high-power microwaves was discovered accidentally in 1945, shortly after high-powered microwave radar transmitters were developed and widely disseminated by the Allies of World War II, using the British magnetron technology that was shared with the United States company Raytheon in order to secure production facilities to produce the magnetron.   The cavity magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field. The ‘resonant’ cavity magnetron variant of the earlier magnetron tube was invented by John Randall and Harry Boot in 1940 at the University of Birmingham, England.

On October 8, 1945, Raytheon filed a US patent for Spencer’s microwave cooking-process, and an oven that heated food using microwave energy from a magnetron was soon placed in a Boston restaurant for testing. The first time the public was able to use a microwave oven was in January 1947, when the Speedy Weeny vending machine was placed in Grand Central Terminal to dispense “sizzling delicious” hot dogs.


The Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) based in Malvern is renowned for its role in the history of radar. This radar technology played a crucial part in the allies victory in the Second World War, giving pilots and ground controllers surveillance information that was not available before. The cavity magnetron, developed in Malvern, is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field The ‘resonant’ cavity magnetron variant of the earlier magnetron tube was invented by John Randall and Harry Boot in 1940 at the University of Birmingham, England.  Post war was the peak of radar research on the site.

Rover ‘Safety’ Bicycle

Rover Safety BicycleJohn Kemp Starley as industrialist and inventor is renowned as the inventor of the modern bicycle, and as the originator of the name Rover.

He worked in Coventry with his uncle, the inventor, James Starley and with another uncle and William Hillman building Ariel cycles for some years.

When in 1877 he started a new business Starley & Sutton Co with William Sutton – a local cycling enthusiast, they set about developing safer and easier to use bicycles than the prevailing penny farthing. They started by manufacturing tricycles, by 1883 their products were being branded as Rover. However it was sometime later in 1885 when Starley  produced the first Rover Safety Bicycle – a rear-wheel-drive,chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high wheeler designs. Cycling magazine is quoted as stating that the Rover had ‘set the pattern to the world’ and the phrase was used in their advertising for many years. Starley’s Rover is usually described by historians as the first recognisably modern bicycle. This new “safety bicycle” was an immediate success and was exported across the world. In 1889 the company became J. K. Starley & Co. Ltd and in the late 1890s, it had become the Rover Cycle Company Ltd. John Starley died suddenly in 1901 and was succeeded as managing director of the firm by Harry Smyth. Soon after his death the Rover company began building motorcycles and then cars.(source Wikipedia,

Social Media Surgery


The first Social Media Surgery was organised by Birmingham entrepreneur Nick Booth in 2008. Having set up his own successful social media company, Podnosh, Nick wanted to help charities and other voluntary groups to make the most of social media to support their work.  For many local groups social media is a much cheaper and more effective way of reaching target groups than traditional communications.  With support from the Birmingham Bloggers group, he held the first ‘social media surgery’ in Birmingham in October 2008.  These are very informal events bringing together people with web expertise and the desire to share it with people who need help to get their community group online. No lectures, no curriculum, just a relaxed space where people can learn together.

The surgeries were incredibly popular and led Nick to create the Social Media Surgery Plus website to help people all over the country to coordinate their own events.  Surgeries are now held in 7 counteries around the world and in 60 locations around the UK with nearly 400 volunteer “surgeons” giving their time to help nearly 1,700 local groups and active citizens take advantage of the internet to support their cause.


Thermal Imaging

The Malvern team of William Lawson, Stanley Nielsen and Alexander Young are credited with the development of Cadmium Mercury Telluride.  The discovery of the Cadmium Mercury Telluride mix as a suitable material for imaging infrared radiation led to a whole range of applications:   thermal imaging using infrared detectors can show flaws in steel-making, boilers and heat exchangers, etc.  and medical thermography has many applications.

Westfield iRacer

4BCS0083In the spring of 1982 historic grand prix competitor and engineer, Chris Smith decided to design and build a replica of one of his all-time favourite race cars, the gorgeous 1956 Lotus XI Le Mans car. Such was the accuracy and beauty of the car he produced in his home garage at Westfield House, Armitage he was immediately inundated with requests from enthusiasts wanting one for themselves.

By the following Easter in 1983 the company Westfield Sportscars had been created. Further demand for the new Westfield XI replica kit meant bigger premises and staff were required and the fledgling sportscar company was under way.

After the introduction of a new car, the equally well received Westfield 7SE, a decision was taken to fade out the XI allowing the team to concentrate on production of the new kit. The company continued expanding rapidly to cope with ever growing demand, which became even stronger after the bodywork was redesigned and modernised. Westfield were now firmly established.

In 1991, Westfield expanded again moving to the impressive factory and office block in Kingswinford where we are still manufacturing today. It was here that the incredible V8-powered SEIGHT first caused the earth to shake. With monster power and an incredible 0-60mph time of 3.6 seconds it was Westfield’s fastest machine thus far and received critical acclaim from the motoring press.


It would be hard to follow a car like that but Westfield went on to become one of the first car manufacturers to harness bike power. The small, but very powerful, high revving machines enabled incredible feats of speed, agility and offered fantastic performance at a low price.

In December 2006 ownership of Westfield Sportscars transferred to Potenza Sports Cars, a family company with a strong vision: To be the first choice sportscar provider and one of the world’s most admired niche vehicle manufacturers.

Potenza are continuing the investment and development with the expansion of the business and products into new markets. In 2007 Potenza continued their product development strategy and purchased GTM Cars, integrating the GTM into the Westfield production system in almost two months. Then, six months later acquiring a controlling stake in Roadster Bil AB (A Swedish car manufacturer).

In June 2009 Westfield became the first Niche Vehicle Manufacturer to be awarded European Small Series Production Status with the new land mark Sport Turbo. Utlising the VXR 1.6 GM Engine and new lightweight design chassis production of the vehicle started with immediate unprecedented orders from Europe.

Launch of the IRacer at Geneva Motor Show 2010 saw Westfield move into the Electric vehicle market utlising some advanced materials for components of the vehicle. One month following the show the worlds first Electric Vehicle Drift reliability trials took place and Westfield successfully demonstrated its new design and development capabilities. The capabilities are further extended in to the hybrid market with the successful demonstration and trials of the Sport Turbo (hybrid) at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

September 2010 sees the land mark announcement of a Joint Venture Partnership being created in Malaysia with DRB-HICOM – Malaysia’s largest vehicle manufacturer. The partnership will enable the design and development of new eco-friendly niche vehicles for the global marketplace.

Westfield has sold over 12 000 cars world wide since 1983 and currently produce over 400 cars a year for driving enthusiasts the world over. In an age of manufacturing imports Westfield are proud to boast high quality British craftsmanship in every aspect of production, and they build them right here in the heart of the United Kingdom.