The Seat Design Company

The ERDF Catalysing Growth (TEM) programme contributed to testing and certification costs of The Seat Design Company's lightweight vehicle seat

The Company

Established in 2003, The Seat Design Company is a Derbyshire engineering company specialising in the design, development and production of automotive seating. 

The SME was founded by four directors with considerable knowledge and experience of the automotive industry, gained through working in OEM and Tier One businesses across the UK, Europe and North America.  They wanted to create a company which could provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ service to low-volume, specialist and niche manufacturers, such as British sports car builders. Their intention was to use the tools and techniques offered by larger market players but provide a more agile, streamlined approach to product development.

What they do

The Seat Design Company has a reputation for innovation and cost-effective production tooling solutions, having provided engineering and design solutions to the automotive industry for over 14 years.  In addition to expertise in seating, the company also offers metal prototyping and CNC foam cutting.

The Challenge

The Seat Design Company had developed an innovative, lightweight, easily customisable seat which had potential for use in various settings, including the automotive, marine and medical sectors. 

The 7.9kg seat had already attracted considerable interest from low-carbon vehicle manufacturers when it was exhibited as a concept at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Show in 2014. The first commercial application came from the marine industry, but before it could be introduced to the automotive sector – a market in which the company had several potential customers – it needed to pass certain legislative tests.

To achieve the certification necessary to take the seat project forward, the company needed to build several prototype seats and submit them for testing.  Testing and certification activities required a significant investment, as without the confidence that the product would meet with legislative requirements, the company was unable to properly evaluate the potential of the product.

Furthermore, the company’s manufacturing facility was not running at full capacity, and the directors believed that it could contribute more to the profitability of the business.

The Seat Design Company blue and black seat.jpg
Ultra-light Greenlight(TM) seat

The Solution

The Seat Design Company applied for and received grant funding from the EDRF Catalysing Growth (GTR TEM) programme, via The iNet at Loughborough University. 

The funding contributed towards the cost of testing and certification activities at Millbrook Proving Ground, which included seat belt anchorage assessments, among others.  

Additional support was provided by The iNet in the form of a two-day market research project to identify organisations within a set radius of the company’s site, that might have an interest in using the company’s manufacturing capabilities.

The Outcome

The grant funding provided by ERDF contributed to the testing costs and certification which allowed the seat to be used within automotive applications in the European market. 

The company’s ultra-light Greenlight™ seat has since been adapted and incorporated into the Ariel Motor Company’s new, ultra-high performance, electric sports car project – Hipercar – which is destined for production in 2020. 

In addition to the grant funding, the company also benefited from a two-day market research project to help the business identify potential opportunities to generate more revenue from its manufacturing facility. The research included a list of organisations across a defined area that may have an interest in using The Seat Design Company’s manufacturing capabilities. 

“The support we received from the Catalysing Growth team was excellent and the grant has enabled us to test our new seat to industry standard. This is a prerequisite to offering the seat to vehicle manufacturers and gives the seat industry recognised credibility.”

Tim Walker - Finance Director
About the client

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The Seat Design Company
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