Regional Scale-Up Report – Coventry & Warwickshire: Contechs — riding the wave of changing vehicle technology

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Contechs — riding the wave of changing vehicle technology

Warwick-based Contechs is a leading provider of specialist design and engineering services to some of the world’s most well-known automotive engineering brands.

The company has seen phenomenal growth, organically and through strategic acquisition, over the last three years. This year it reported a turnover of £62 million, up from £58 million last year.

With clients such as Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Bentley, the business, which was established in 1997, undertakes vehicle development from design concept to product launch and post-launch support. It also has a manufacturing facility in Warwick which designs and manufacturers car interiors.

Recognising that a key issue for UK engineering is a lack of skilled people, it established a recruitment division, which sources high calibre contract labour for clients, along with fully managed teams and the placement of permanent staff. The company also operates a longstanding in-house apprenticeship and graduate programme.

In 2017 and 2018, Contechs was listed in the Sunday Times International Track 200, which ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales. In 2018 Contechs made overseas sales of £12.5 million.

Managing Director Peter Jarvis is upbeat about the company’s growth: “We provide a diverse, scalable offering, and with the focus on electric and autonomous vehicles, we are involved in a significant amount of development work.”

With sites in Warwick, Basildon, Germany and India, Contechs can maximise economies of scale. “And with the low strength of sterling, we can currently offer high levels of skills and design capabilities at globally competitive rates,” he added. “The whole concept of vehicle technology is changing,” said Peter. “Some of what we are doing is pure research and development, but always applied to real world situations. We also do a lot of pre-production simulation work. In past vehicle programmes, vehicle development simulation would be on vehicle prototype lines. That’s all changed as the technology has developed and it can be done through software packages concurrently in the concept and design stages.

Fastest growth region outside London

Coventry & Warwickshire enjoys the fastest growth of any region outside London. The West Midlands is the most popular destination for tech professionals relocating from London and most popular UK region for foreign direct investment.

Scale-ups are part of this success, and Coventry & Warwickshire partners offer substantial business support. From local support programmes or help from Innovate UK, APC UK, Midlands Engine or the Department for International Trade. For scale-ups, Business Ready, run by the University of Warwick Science Park and funded by ERDF and Warwickshire County Council as part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme, supports tech-based SME firms across the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP with ambitions to grow and scale.

Invest in Coventry & Warwickshire support, existing businesses to scale up and new businesses to set up here, accessing the benefits of locating in this high tech gateway. For more information visit www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk  or email contact@investcw.co.uk

Top of the class ParentPay looks to global growth

Coventry-based ParentPay is the UK’s leading provider of school online payment and parental engagement software.

Launched in 2004, ParentPay Group now serves more than 15,000 schools and 5.5 million parents, and the company and its CEO, Clint Wilson, have won a slew of scale-up and entrepreneurs awards.

The company’s growth rate has been maintained for 11 years straight. Last year the company’s turnover was £30 million.

Where did it all go so right? First mover advantage for one – ParentPay created the market for school online payments. Learning from mistakes is another, and persistence in engaging with time-poor school business managers.

ParentPay was conceived by a working parent and former teacher who wanted to take away the headache of pupils having to bring cash to school for meals, trips and other things. The company’s technology helps schools collect and manage payments by parents. It’s removed the need for cash for the schools using the system. It’s also helping take the stigma away from families which don’t have access to banking facilities.

The mistake the company made was back in 2011, when its technology couldn’t cope with the increase in traffic through the website. Clint said: “We still refer to that as Black September, but we learned a lot.” Since then the company has significantly increased research and development investment in enhancement of its platforms, technology infrastructure and development of new products.

Most important, added Clint, is the company’s investment in its customer services team. The company has 70 people in this department, and ParentPay says it has a 99.5 per cent retention rate.

Growth has come through organic expansion alongside acquisition. The company bought Schoolcomms, a school/parent communication app, and also Cypad, a tablet-based meal ordering and kitchen management platform for schools. It also acquired WIS, a Dutch school payment collection software business, to expand across Europe, where it is targeting France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

“There are 10 million pupils in the UK and 65 million more across Europe,” said Clint.

“We see substantial growth opportunities across Europe and aim to enter two or possibly three new markets within the next two years.”

Stairway to heaven for Coventry timber manufacturing company

Staircraft, based at Exhall near Coventry, has retained its place in the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 for two years running. The league table ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastestgrowing sales over their last three years.

Sales reached almost £40 million in 2017. In 2018, the company’s turnover increased by 22 per cent, to nearly £44 million, with profits increasing too.

The company said this was due to a number of factors, including the significant investment of previous years beginning to pay dividends.

Staircraft makes staircases, joist floors, door linings and other timber products, and says it is the world’s leading staircase manufacturer. It operates 10 manufacturing facilities.

The company was founded by Managing Director Andy Hamilton in 1995 and now has three divisions: Staircraft Integrated Solutions, which serves some of the UK’s biggest housebuilders, Tru Building Systems, which services regional, timber frame and modular builders and Independent Construction Technologies, which provides specialist design, performance and system testing.