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Aston and Salts pinch top prize

22 November 2004

Aston and Salts pinch top prize

ASTON UNIVERSITY and Salts Healthcare Ltd have beaten off stiff competition from local universities and businesses to win a top innovation prize at the prestigious Lord Stafford Awards dinner.*

Aston and the Birmingham-based medical technologies company collected the Achievement in Innovation** award in front of VIP's from across the West Midlands at a formal dinner on the evening of Wednesday 17 November.

On collecting the winning cheque for �5000 and a special edition Wedgwood vase, Peter Salt, managing director of Salts Healthcare said: 'With the help of Aston University we have gone from near disaster to remarkable success. This award is the culmination of lots of hard work from a truly dedicated team. To say we are over the moon would be an understatement.'

Distinguished guests of the award ceremony included BT, Winning Moves and the awards' sponsors, Advantage West Midlands.

'All the judges enjoyed visiting the short-listed companies to see where the cutting edge of innovation really starts,' said John Edwards, chief executive at Advantage West Midlands. Salts Healthcare showed true depth and knowledge of their chosen subject. To them, being innovative hasn't been a luxury, it's a chosen necessity.

'By working with one of the region's top universities they have managed to safeguard their future and move ahead of the game.

'Aston University is at the forefront of knowledge transfer and by working so closely with Salts Healthcare they have secured the future of one of the region's most innovative companies.'

The collaboration came about as a result of a knowledge transfer partnership facilitated by Aston University's business partnership unit.

Aston graduate Richard Darwood was positioned Salts to develop the company's stoma care products, under the supervision of Aston's Dr Alan Amass. A stoma is an artificial opening between an organ and the skin's surface formed by surgery, with one of the critical performance issues of an appliance being the reliance on the quality of hydrocolloid materials used. This is in contact with the patient's skin and has two functions, as an adhesive and as skin protection. Richard was looking into how the manufacturing process and hydrocolloid product could be improved.

'Hydrocolloids have been manufactured by companies such as Salts Healthcare for sometime,' said Aston University's Dr Allan Amass. 'Our first objective in this project was to put this manufacturing process on to a sound scientific footing. We could then move forward in the development of novel hydrocolloids and give the Company a true competitive edge over its rivals,' he continued.

'The vehicle we used to fund this collaboration, the knowledge transfer partnership, is a DTI scheme designed to put academics together with industrialists to foster innovation and solve problems. I have been involved in a number of such projects but the involvement with Salts Healthcare has been the most stimulating and rewarding of them all.'

Patron of the awards Lord Stafford said: 'Once again the standard of entries this year has been very high. There appears to be an increasingly upbeat innovation culture growing across the region. The winners are excellent examples of how a business can extract a university's unique approach to developing new and better ways of doing things.'

- Ends

For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Notes for editors:

* The Lord Stafford Awards are designed to stimulate innovative collaboration between West Midlands' businesses and universities.

The awards are a public declaration of the value and importance of such collaborations both to those directly involved, in terms of increased competitiveness and the growth of the knowledge base, and also to the region as a whole as a result of the contribution they make to economic prosperity.

In the context of the Lord Stafford Awards, collaboration is a metaphor for mutual benefit, for partnership, support, growth and a brighter future. It is these elements and the commitment to collaboration, which will provide businesses and universities with whom they work with the key to unlocking the potential that the future has to offer.

By bringing together the wealth of excellent research and development work produced by universities and diverse business enterprises, the awards seek to generate increased competitiveness, knowledge, support, growth and economic prosperity for the region.

Furthermore, in recognising the enormous value of such mutually beneficial ventures, the Lord Stafford Awards serve to continue a tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship in a region renowned for having more than its fair share of both.

To judge from the success of the awards over the past six years and the high quality of applications, it is a tradition with a bright future.

** 'Achievement in Innovation' is awarded to the business that demonstrates the greatest benefits that have resulted from collaboration with a West Midlands university or college of higher education, where the product/process has already been prototyped or marketed.

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