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The University as the Research Arm of Small Companies: the NEPPCO Enterprise

May 13th, 2002

Paper to 5th SMESME International Conference, 15th May 2002, “Stimulating Manufacturing Excellence in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises”

S F Bush


NEPPCO Ltd is a non-profit-distributing company limited by guarantee of its around 65 member companies, which includes the Centre for Manufacture (CfM). NEPPCO has evolved from the North of England Plastics Processing Consortium founded in 1990, but its business now covers all the process and allied industries, including food and drink, effect chemicals, textiles, synthetic fibres, distribution systems and healthcare.

The NEPPCO SME Process Manufacture Centre (PMC) sits within the Centre for Manufacture. The PMC carries out techno-economic assessments of proposals to both design new products and processes and to improve existing products and processes. For projects passing the techno-economic tests, the PMC provides the research and process design required; other NEPPCO members provide product design, prototype manufacture, tooling, pilot and full-scale production and marketing. The PMC also provides the project management. Besides NEPPCO a second, more informal network – IMCO (Innovative Manufacturers Consortium) is being established for companies outside the process field.

From among 190 proposals, 12 new products, 3 new processes and 20 improved processes have been commercialised in the last 6 years. The paper assesses the results in terms of lifetime added value per unit of R&D resource used to develop the product or process up to and including the pilot stage.

Judged by this measure, the paper shows that the results achieved compare favourably with the average of British companies. Where failures have occurred the paper examines the reasons for this and advances remedies.