Business Heroes - Borderless Business: P2i (winner)

Britain is often pushed to the sidelines when it comes to innovation and technology in favour of our more vociferous American peers, but our Borderless Business winner puts paid to that.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
One science and technology company shouting very loudly about its exploits (and quite rightly too) is nano-coating company P2i, which triumphs in our Borderless Business category.

P2i, which now exports its liquid-repelling nano-coating technology to companies around the world, was the brainchild of CTO Stephen Coulson when he was studying for his PhD at Durham University. Hired by the MoD to oversee the running of its chemical and biological protective clothing programme, he spun P2i out in 2004 so it could realise its commercial potential. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The technology is astounding. So thin you can't feel or see it, a plastic coating is applied to any surface, rendering it resistant to water damage - great for expensive consumer electronic goods such as smartphones and MP3 players. 'People don't go swimming with their phones, but they do drop them in the toilet, or get caught out in the rain,' says chief exec Carl Francis.

The technology isn't just applicable to electronics and gadgets, but is also being snapped up by lifestyle companies around the world. Sports brands seem to be big fans, with the likes of Timberland and Adidas Golf already signed up. And the geographical spread of P2i's client list is just as impressive, with more than three-quarters of them based outside the UK. 'Half of our customers are in the US,' says Francis. As a result, P2i's commercial director and sales team are based on the other side of the Atlantic. Similarly, its ops director is in Singapore, because the consumer electronics companies which are P2i's bread and butter, tend to manufacture there.

Thus far, P2i has little in the way of serious competition and is growing healthily, with a turnover of £3.2m last year. It helps that original inventor Coulson is still on board - but Francis (an American who's lived in the UK for 25 years) also thinks the company benefits from being in the UK. 'We have some great universities and some great science programmes around the country,' he says. 'I would just personally like to see more emphasis on encouraging that sort of thing, in order to build more world-class science and technology businesses.'

Freestyle Interactive
Naim Audio
Ten Group
Wax Digital

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