Levelling Up the UK: Test Labs Breaks New Ground with Growth Works Grant

By Joanna Aitkens
Aitkens Media Ltd


In a robust response to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s calls for “levelling up”, Test Labs, renowned for their medical device testing & certification solutions, heralds a new era of innovation with their recent win of a Growth Works Grant. This monumental achievement not only showcases their integrity and determination but signals the evolution of the East Midlands as a formidable hub for science and technology.

It’s important to view this milestone beyond the success of just one entity. As the East Midlands pivots towards becoming a potent force in science and technology, it stands shoulder to shoulder with its neighbour, Cambridge. The bigger picture reveals a strategic effort to elevate the UK’s stature in global science and forge strong alliances between business and academia.

The grant will allow Test Labs to expand their laboratory, increasing both its capacity and scope. A tailored set of testing services will be available to all clients, complemented by state-of-the-art specialist equipment. These services are being developed and expanded in response to the growing market demand that has exceeded supply capacity, both locally and globally.

Test Labs’ Managing Director, Tautvydas Karitonas, said “Securing this grant funding demonstrates our seamless integration with the local government’s medical technology strategy, reinforcing our commitment to safeguarding healthcare systems worldwide from potential shortages of compliant medical devices. The grant will empower us to roll out innovative medical device testing services and expand our operational capacity. With many manufacturers striving to keep their products in the market, the escalating demand has begun to outpace the existing global laboratory capacity.”

Securing this grant funding demonstrates our seamless integration with the local government’s medical technology strategy…

Testing the Science of Medical Innovation

Millions of people around the world rely on safe, effective medical devices. Stringent scientific principles are used in the testing of these devices to ensure that they are safe, deliver accurate results and withstand repeated use in a variety of conditions. Laboratories like Test Labs are at the forefront of medical breakthroughs, helping clinicians make life-saving decisions. With the huge surge in global medical developments, there is a growing demand for this type of testing, an area that the UK excels in.

As experts in medical device evaluation, Test Labs is more than just a contract research organisation. Their ISO 17025 laboratory, accredited by UKAS, is the epitome of modern scientific endeavour. With state-of-the-art testing chambers to replicate a multitude of real-world conditions, and dedicated teams across chemistry, microbiology, and material sciences, they exemplify innovation. As they are quick to point out, in a world where the status quo won’t suffice, their agile approach to research makes the difference. This isn’t about maintaining standards; it’s about setting them.

Eligibility for the Growth Works Grant was no mere formality. With stipulations requiring candidates to demonstrate longevity, employment robustness, financial viability, and most crucially, a clear trajectory for high growth, many faltered. However, Test Labs in a candid dialogue, were able to showcase their uniqueness. The company isn’t a typical manufacturing plant employing hundreds or even thousands; they are a highly skilled group of expert scientists, each a specialist in their field. Overcoming the scepticism surrounding their eligibility was no mean feat. However, their passion, combined with their undeniable results, made their case irrefutable.

Eligibility for the Growth Works Grant was no mere formality.

Test Labs’ Research Funding Manager, Eleanor Barnes said “We’re obviously hugely proud of our achievements but we also believe that we’re providing a concrete roadmap for other businesses in the region, demonstrating how determination and a clear vision can gather substantial rewards.”

Bridging the Gap

The mantra “levelling up” resonates powerfully in the UK’s political spectrum. While initiatives like the Levelling Up Fund and Community Ownership Fund have pumped nearly £380 million into the East Midlands, there remains a palpable desire for more transformative projects. Despite criticisms of the East Midlands being ‘levelled down’ due to decisions such as the HS2 high-speed rail system’s partial scrapping, it’s ventures like Test Labs’ recent triumph that truly encapsulate the essence of regional growth and progress.

But what differs here is the ability to involve different aspects of the local community that will all benefit from the growth of a relatively young company in the science and technology sector.

With the UK Government placing R&D and innovation at the heart of its Plan for Growth, collaboration between universities and businesses is paramount.  Britain is known for its world-leading academic research and combining the power from private enterprise helps fuel what is often called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Martin Johnson, Programme Director for Growth Works, explains that behind the scenes, the grant application process is enormously important to young businesses trying to get a foothold in expansion projects. However, the amount of due diligence to ensure that the facts are presented correctly with compelling evidence to back it all up can sometimes leave business owners scared of the entire process or frustrated at the time it takes, especially if they are unsuccessful.  But without this intense scrutiny, it would be difficult to identify deserving companies and assess their viability.

Test Labs have already proved themselves a major contender by becoming the sole UK laboratory accredited by UKAS, to conduct reprocessing procedure tests for medical devices.  “In partnering with businesses like Test Labs, we’re not just investing in companies; we’re investing in the future of the UK’s scientific sector as well as supporting local communities.”

“In partnering with businesses like Test Labs, we’re not just investing in companies; we’re investing in the future of the UK’s scientific sector as well as supporting local communities.”

Bridging the University-Business Divide

With organisations like Growth Works helping businesses to scale and innovate, the relationship between academia and scientific enterprises has never been more important. As Peterborough anticipates the launch of a £20million transformative ‘Living Lab’, an interactive centre for science and technology within its new university, it underscores the potential of such partnerships.

Principal of ARU Peterborough, Professor Ross Renton, said “Test Labs are a classic example of how we co-design all our courses with employers. They were involved from day one in designing what our courses look like.  By doing this, we keep up with what industry really needs and businesses get a ‘try before you buy’ opportunity. They are able to meet talent really early on and help shape and make sure our students have the right skills and attributes that they’re looking for.”

ARU Live Briefs and Test Labs work placements represent dynamic, hands-on educational experiences designed to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application.  Work placements allow students to immerse themselves in a laboratory setting, participating in activities that span chemistry, microbiology, and material science.  These tailored experiences cater to students’ individual interests, ensuring they gain personalised and relevant experiences within their field.  Placements are not just about technical skills but also about exposure to a professional environment, interactions with a range of professionals (from lab analysts to management) as well as providing valuable insight into a number of career paths in science and the day-to-day operations of a business.

In addition to hands-on laboratory experience, ARU’s Live Briefs task students with problem-solving challenges requiring them to apply their knowledge to current industry issues.  A recent partnership with Test Labs involved ARU students improving disinfection protocols for medical devices. This project highlighted the importance of aligning with NHS standards to ensure patient safety and compliance.

The East Midlands: The Ascending Phoenix

The East Midlands, with a workforce exceeding 2.4 million, has long been a nexus for professional, scientific, and technical activities. Despite a decrease in the number of businesses in recent years, it still reigns as the largest broad industry group. With the Health and Life Sciences sector contributing a staggering £20.5 billion annually to the regional GVA, the growth trajectory is evident.

Urgent calls from prominent figures like Peterborough MP, Paul Bristow, call for the government to recognize this potential. “We’ve got so many natural advantages here: we’re positioned right off the A1 with a direct train link into London King’s Cross, we’ve got our hard-working population, we’ve got a long-established history in manufacturing, science and technology, construction, agri-food and drink and logistics sectors and we need to use those advantages to create the future health, wealth and happiness that my constituents deserve.”  He continued, “We’re finally turning a corner here in Peterborough as the potential of the city is finally being realised and the catalyst for that has been our new university, specialising in engineering, manufacturing, science and technology”

“This grant is a vote of confidence in Test Labs and what can be achieved in the future but it’s not just a betting on Test Labs, it’s also a betting on Peterborough…

“This grant is a vote of confidence in Test Labs and what can be achieved in the future but it’s not just a betting on Test Labs, it’s also a betting on Peterborough.  I want to demonstrate that we don’t have to keep doing the same things that we’ve always done.  There are new companies here in Peterborough and if you are prepared to make an investment, you will be backed.  It should be seen as a vote of confidence for all businesses in Peterborough.”

The Future Beckons

The journey of Test Labs is emblematic of a larger narrative, one where resilience, innovation, and a commitment to excellence translate to tangible successes. As they gear up for the inauguration of their new laboratory in early 2024, one thing is clear: Test Labs isn’t just levelling up; they’re setting a new level altogether. With this stride, the eyes of senior politicians, including the likes of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, are sure to turn towards the burgeoning potential of the East Midlands. The future is here, and it’s brimming with promise.

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