Innovation celebrated at Prodive The RAPID Challenge Final

Photo shows: Rapid Challenge winner, EAV founder Adam Barmby in the EAV Cool e-cargo van
EAV founder Adam Barmby in the EAV Cool e-cargo van

Innovation in engineering and manufacturing was celebrated at the Banbury headquarters of world-leading motorsport and advanced technology company Prodrive as the winners of The Rapid Challenge were revealed.

Prodrive chairman David Pender Richards CBE

Prodrive’s Chairman David Richards announces the winners.

Launched in the Spring of 2019 by Prodrive Ventures – a division established with the remit of using the Prodrive expertise to support engineering propositions from an array of sectors – the challenge was aimed at early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs who are developing and commercialising physical hardware products.

The Challenge attracted 25 submissions from across the UK, with five companies invited to pitch to judges. The three winners were announced on the night.

Each received a share of a £50,000 prize package which included support from Prodrive and legal and financial advice from Challenge partners including Natwest, KPMG, IP Asset, and Clayden Law.


e-cargo van manufacturer EAV was named overall winner of The Rapid Challenge. The Bicester-based start-up has set off at a blinding pace: teaming up with the UK’s number 1 domestic parcels carrier, DPD, to create an urban delivery vehicle, the P1 e-cargo bike.

The relationship even got their product under the nose of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when he visited DPD’s Manchester headquarters on the General Election campaign trail.

EAV Chairman Nigel Gordon-Stuart said: “We want to find ways of moving things from A to B in the most practical way possible in an urban environment.”

When designing the e-cargo van, EAV started with a van and worked down, rather than starting with a bike and working up. The zero-emmissions vehicle has pedals, assisted by a battery offering a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 25km/h. The P1 has a payload of 120kg.

The company set itself a sales target of 700 units a year by the end of 2021. And with the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish postal services taking an interest, as well as some big names in the UK, Nigel admitted they may have underestimated demand.


Prodrive challenge Dr Tom Llewellyn-Jones, Dr Michael Dicker and Dr Simon Bates of Actuation Lab

Pic: Dr Tom Llewellyn-Jones, Dr Michael Dicker and Dr Simon Bates of Actuation Lab

Runner-up Actuation Lab wants to replace the piston – a mainstay of the manufacturing industry for hundreds of years.

The company was founded by engineers Dr Tom Llewellyn-Jones, Dr Michael Dicker and Dr Simon Bates who spent seven years working together at the University of Bristol developing high-performance composite structures.

Their invention, the Callimorph, is a single-part actuator which creates movement by morphing when fluid pressure is applied.

The team originally envisioned it working in the field of soft robotics. But while that market matures, the real demand is in the oil and gas industries: the product is lightweight – a typical 230kg actuator can be replaced with a 40kg Callimorph – and is resistant to corrosion. It also doesn’t need the regular servicing a metal actuator does – saving drilling and mining companies money, and negating the need for a dangerous job.

The Callimorph is also extremely versatile. Inspired by Prodrive’s motorsport heritage the team designed and 3D printed a lightweight composite actuator to control the rear drag-reduction wing of a Formula 1 racing car.


Prodrive Challenge Jack Raison and Nick Orme of Njori

Pic: Jack Raison and Nick Orme of Njori

Runner-up Njori is developing a piece of smart kitchen tech due to be launched with a crowdsourcing  campaign in May.

The company was founded by design engineers Jack Raison and Nick Orme. Their single-plate multifunctional cooker aims to reduce clutter in domestic kitchens, and help amateur chefs up their game.

Its magnetic dial allows the cook to set a temperature which is then measured with a probe – ensuring food is never under- or over-cooked, or energy wasted. The plate also measures weight, meaning ingredients can be added without the need for scales, and meals cooked by reduction can be measured more accurately.

Designed with a starting point of functionality and affordability, the as yet un-named cooker is the size of a cookbook and will retail at £299.

The founders say Njori – which comes from a combination of their names and is pronounced ‘nyori’ – will be a multi-product brand and a community of customers. They hope Njori could soon be the name and taste on everyone’s lips.