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Celebrating Scottish Innovation Day - Report

Glentress Peel café was host to ‘A Celebration of Scottish Innovation in Mountain biking’ workshop - the first ever of its kind in Scotland, and we believe, the world!

The aim of the event was to inform, inspire and ensure businesses in Scotland have the knowledge of how to take their ideas and make them a worldwide success. It is hoped this will allow Scottish businesses to take advantage of the £853million market which exists in the UK alone for mountain biking.

The event certainly captured the imagination of both existing and potential mountain biking businesses and universities with 72 businesses and 7 Scottish universities attending.

The day was organised by the Mountain Bike Knowledge Transfer (MBKT) Project, which is delivered within Scottish Enterprise and whose members include Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland(DMBinS), Sporting Chance Initiative, Napier University and Borders College.

The day was successfully facilitated by Colin Burns, himself a keen cyclist and an innovative Scot whose previous roles have included product development with global brands such as Proctor & Gamble, who commented "It was one of the best workshops I have attended, and been part of, the atmosphere was positive throughout the day and the programme allowed for a successful mix of information sharing, inspiring talks and, most importantly, people with innovative ideas meeting real contacts including the agencies who organised the workshop and universities."

The link between businesses and Universities is key for businesses to take advantage of their innovative ideas explains Moira Forsyth, the MBKT project manager “By bringing together a diverse range of companies to look at where these new product opportunities could come from and then linking them with the expertise which exists in our Scottish universities, we can encourage innovative, quality, Scottish-made products which demonstrate why Scotland is a global destination and centre of excellence for mountain biking.”

Graeme McLean, project manager for DMBinS (the project responsible for delivering the national strategic framework for sustainable mountain biking in Scotland) spoke of the value of mountain biking in Scotland. “Mountain biking brings many benefits to Scotland including helping Scots be healthier and happier by participating and if they wish to further develop enter races and attempt to be Olympic and world champions. It also gives us the opportunity to be a wealthier nation as mountain biking is a large draw for tourists to come to Scotland, indeed this is currently valued at £139m and predicted to increase to £155m by 2015, and with our fabulous network of trails it gives us a great advantage to innovate and create new products which could create even greater economic benefit to Scotland.”

Company Interviews 

Colin Burns introduced four businesses which work with different products in the Scottish mountain biking industry.

Chris Ball founder of Dirtschool, himself holder of a first class honours degree in Sports Sciences from Edinburgh Napier University, Chris talked about where mountain biking is going and where Scotland can position itself.in the future.

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He has a unique insight as well as running his successful business he is also the coach of the Scottish National Downhill Squad, who run an innovative college course (BASE Downhill) based out of Borders College. The college links with Napier University where they are pioneering new techniques and analysis of mountain biking performance. He spoke of the advancements they are making with rider development which could be translated into commercial opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Following Chris's talk was Jim McFarlane, Managing Director of Endura Ltd, who explained how he took a company from making shorts on his kitchen table in 1992 to becoming the UK’s leading cycling apparel company from its base in Livingston. Jim explained how the business has progressed internationally using the power of the image of Scotland and how the warmth felt towards Scotland was a key driver behind his international marketing campaigns. He also explained Endura’s commitment to quality of product and his belief that his company needs to keep innovating and producing high quality goods to maintain and grow their global reputation.

Scotland’s largest bike manufacturing company Paper Bicycles was next on stage with Nick Lobnitz, the owner, describing his passion for designing and building bikes. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from Glasgow University, the idea for his innovative bike trailer (the clever Y-frame) was soon born. He now successfully develops simple multi-purpose bikes from concept to production through his company Paper Bicycle and also sells them overseas under licence for fleet use from his Ayrshire base. Nick spoke about the power of positive reviews and customer feedback. Indeed, he took the innovative approach of providing free designs for his trailers in return for photos and feedback on how they were being used. This gave him new ideas for future product design and application – good market research. Those individuals then told positive stories about his brand worldwide which is the best form of marketing you can get. He believes his brand and his ability to fulfill its promises are driving his reputation and ensuring the continued growth of his business. .

Last, but by no means least, of the company interviews was Paul Masson of Cycle Therapy. Paul is a trail designer and builder who has been involved in mountain biking in Scotland as both a racer and a participant for a number of years. He spoke of the evolution of trail design and building in Scotland where initially the work was reasonably ad-hoc with limited brief and specification given by his clients. Essentially he just builds trails, and but he explained how this has changed, with the creation of trail gradings, which has lead to more direct and specific briefs as to the type of trail required and how this will meet the needs of the users of the individual sites. He also spoke about the future direction of trails in Scotland believing there will be more facilities created closer to where people live and then links created to wider more remote trails and mountain biking touring. He also warned of the need to keep ahead of the game by continuously re-visiting the challenges of the trails as the customer becomes more confident and therefore requires more stimulating rides. As such maybe we need to revisit the design and materials used in our Red and Black trails to keep the customer engaged.

After a coffee break Colin Burns then inspired businesses with an entertaining presentation which, amazingly, linked Steve Jobs, rabbits, Gerry Garcia and some fish! As random as this sounds it was an insightful look into the innovation process and lessons he has learned in creating effective and quality products for small and large organisation which have succeeded both in international and local market places. This was followed by a workshop where businesses found themselves thinking through the innovation process on a number of different issues which could be addressed in mountain biking from cold hands to comfier saddles.

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After the workshop businesses were given the opportunity to have 1 to 1 sessions with universities and agencies. The results of these meetings are confidential but we are certain that there are projects which were brought to attention at the day which will be further progressed in the near future and will be promoted through Scottish Enterprise and its partners on the project.

Overall the event has highlighted opportunities for Scottish entrepreneurs to take their ideas and turn them into reality. If you were unable to make the day but have an idea of your own please get in touch with DMBinS on info@dmbins.com

To keep up to date with mountain biking developments in Scotland sign up to the DMBinS newsletter, twitter and facebook accounts at DMBinS.com.

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