The brightest product makers and hardware pioneers at the Central Research Laboratory have partnered with Mouser Electronics to realize exciting concepts.
Just west of London, on the site of the old EMI vinyl record factory, is a unique facility that brings the spirit of innovation to life.
The Central Research Laboratory (CRL) in Hayes is the UK’s first purpose-built hardware accelerator and coworking space – where the brightest startups come together under one roof to design, build, collaborate and create.
While EMI’s scientists and engineers on-site once helped develop audio systems such as stereo sound, the CRL cohort focuses on a remarkably diverse set of technologies — from the next generation of agricultural robots to new sustainable building materials made from potato waste.
For each of these start-ups, being accepted by CRL’s accelerator means taking advantage of an intensive, six-month program of hands-on support. This process includes help in taking a product idea and turning it into a viable business, guidance on financing and achieving scalable growth. It also provides advice on areas such as how to go through the process from design to fabrication.
Whatever the requirement, the accelerator provides an unparalleled suite of services to help the next generation of product makers and hardware pioneers achieve their goals.
Collaboration is critical
But none of these activities can take place in isolation. The CRL accelerator is based on an ethos of collaboration, encouraging the startups to form links with larger organizations that can help them on their journey. One such partner is Mouser, the global electronics distributor, which sponsors the accelerator program and plays a critical role in the product development process.
“CRL is a fantastic facility with a proven track record of growing and driving product innovation,” said Mark Patrick, Head of Technical Marketing, EMEA, at Mouser. “That’s why we are proud to be a partner in the accelerator program. As a global distribution company focused on driving innovation, we have a long history of helping hardware entrepreneurs and inventors achieve commercial success.”
Mouser’s support manifests itself in several ways. First, it provides the startups with design tools and resources, giving them access to the latest technology such as semiconductors and embedded solutions that are crucial for the development of their prototypes and products. Many of these systems and components are brand new to the market and represent the latest cutting-edge technology.
Second, Mouser connects the startups with an extensive network of experts from its ecosystem of suppliers, who can help them overcome any challenges. This resource represents a talented pool of technically qualified people with vast experience, providing valuable insights.
Finally, Mouser also provides dedicated input through open events and workshops, including CRL’s Demo Day, which provides applicants in any cohort the opportunity to pitch and demonstrate their inventions to potential investors and partners.
Bringing ideas to life
How does the relationship between the startups and Mouser work in practice? WarnerPatch – one of last year’s CRL accelerator cohorts – is an excellent example of the value that can be derived.
The company has developed a medical device that predicts the evolution of the disease. The hardware focuses on diabetic foot and wound care and includes a wearable wireless sensor that continuously measures symptoms and predicts disease progression, notifying the physician when the patient is at high risk.
Initially, Mouser worked with WarnerPatch on product development to help them identify the right components and suppliers. “As an engineer, I was delighted to provide technical support,” says Mark Patrick. “Then it was about building relationships – helping WarnerPatch connect to the right companies from our supplier ecosystem.”
This led WarnerPatch to partner with Molex, the manufacturer of connectors and interconnects, to provide connectors suitable for medical applications. WarnerPatch then needed help with a PCB design review, so Mouser facilitated a meeting with MicroChip Technology, who could provide such a service. Now, WarnerPatch is in talks with another Mouser partner, TTI, who is helping with supply chain manufacturability and management.
“WarnerPatch is developing a fantastic product and together we have forged a successful partnership,” says Mark Patrick. “Mouser has provided a gateway to a world of technology and support that WarnerPatch never knew existed. It has proven to be very beneficial.”
Introducing the latest cohort
This year marks the eighth CRL accelerator, with the latest cohort working on an incredibly diverse mix of technologies. For example, Muddy Machines has produced a new generation of agricultural robots that can help growers manage labor-intensive crops. Starting with some types of field vegetables, such as asparagus, the robots could help automate fieldwork at a time when the agricultural sector is struggling with a chronic labor shortage.
And then there’s Yawboard, creating the next generation of personal electric vehicles. Yawboard has put a tremendous amount of effort into creating fun in their vehicle, more in line with a snowboard than a scooter, while providing the user with practical and durable personal transportation. In 2021 they will work with CRL to further develop their powertrain.
“The accelerator program always delivers an incredible diversity of technology,” says Mark Patrick. “We look forward to working with these start-ups to bring their innovations to life.”
In addition to the accelerator, Mouser participates in other CRL-led initiatives. These include Boost sessions and workshops that run over several days. These events cover a variety of topics, including hardware development and component selections, financing and financing, bill of materials formulation, and design for manufacturability.
“Again, it’s about making connections and building relationships, bringing the startups together with members of our partner ecosystem,” he says. The 2020 Boost event included contributions from Analog Devices, Molex, Mouser’s parent company TTI and a UK-based contract manufacturer, WPS. Mark hopes the 2021 event will add even more value through additional contributors.
Deriving mutual benefit
Mouser also benefits from the kind of partnerships developed with the cohort at CRL. It’s a symbiotic relationship, says Mark Patrick, where small and large organizations work well together. “We have a history of supporting innovation with groups such as Hardware Pioneers, the CLIK Innovation Lab (Turin, Italy) in Politecnico di Torino, the NXP Cup (Germany), plus numerous other smaller sponsorships of individual projects and student teams.
“In any case, we meet some of the brightest young engineers and get an idea of where the technology is evolving. This aligns with our strategy of being the first to market with the latest components and technologies. We see these relationships as a win-win situation.”
The future looks bright for CRL in particular. The organization has plans to expand into a converted 20,000 sq ft Victorian power station, a stone’s throw from the historic EMI site. This move will triple the number of companies it can support in its programs and workspace.
“It’s an exciting time,” added Mark Patrick, “We look forward to continuing to work with CRL to support the innovators of tomorrow.”