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Making it in Leeds

Manufacturers in the city of Leeds have risen to the challenges of globalisation with a winning combination of enterprise and innovation

Leeds has justifiably won a reputation for itself as the UK?s leading centre for financial, legal and professional services, but it remains the country?s third largest manufacturing centre. With over 1,900 firms employing almost 39,000 people, the sector punches well above its weight, generating 11% of the city?s total £15 billion output.

Brandon Medical operations director Adrian Hall demonstrates the revolutionary new audio visual system that has been installed in UK, Irish and Danish hospitals

Manufacturers in the city turn out a wide range of products, from artificial heart valves, to precision motor components and jet turbine blades. Specialised engineering remains the largest manufacturing sub-sector, with a workforce of around 13,600. Medical technology, print and publishing, together with food and drink production, are also major employers.


Despite international trends towards outsourcing production to developing economies, Leeds companies have maintained and enhanced their position globally through innovation, diversification, and a shift into high tech product solutions and processes which are difficult to replicate.

Leeds-based company Glassflake, for example, is Europe?s largest producer of microscopic flaked glass particles, used for a variety of applications from paints and plastics to power stations. Competitors in the Far East have been unable to duplicate the unique production process, and Glassflake is growing its share of emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region via its recently established office in Perth, Australia.

General Manager Simon Brigham comments: ?There is tremendous potential for us to work with Chinese companies. Technology and product development is moving at a tremendous pace there and we?re concentrating our research and development to mirror this. ?We?re already supplying the rapidly expanding Chinese power station network. The car manufacturing industry is another sector we?re examining. We constantly innovate to keep ahead of our peers and have products and applications in the pipeline for the next seven years.?


Investment in research and development is central to the competitiveness of manufacturing companies, nowhere more so than in the field of healthcare technology, which thrives on continuous innovation. It has proved vital to the success of companies such as Xiros, a world leader in orthopaedic and ligament reconstruction technologies, which operates from premises close to Leeds Bradford International Airport.

?We have a continuous process of considering literally hundreds of ideas for surgical advancement, with around a dozen projects in progress at any one time,? says innovations manager David Beevers. The company exports 90% of its products and works closely with surgeons to develop solutions in-house and identify the best route to market.

This can either be through the Xiros ?Neoligaments? branded product range, or via commercial links with global medical devices companies. ?While much of our work has been about knee joints, particularly anterior cruciate ligament repairs and similar injuries of the types suffered by sportsmen and women, our expertise also extends into other areas of the body, including the ankle, shoulder and spine.?


Award-winning Brandon Medical has developed a revolutionary audio visual system that uses video and audio over internet protocol to allow surgical procedures to be supervised and viewed in high definition from anywhere in the world. The Leeds company has already installed the system in UK, Irish and Danish hospitals but managing director Graeme Hall sees the system as having worldwide applications.

?Our digitally-based system delivers secure, high quality video and audio over the widest possible range of options and with substantial cost advantages compared to existing analogue systems.

?Whereas one UK hospital recently invested over £1 million equipping four theatres and one seminar room for analogue video coverage, we could cover 30 theatres and distribute the information to every room in the hospital with higher quality and greater functionality for £250,000,? says Hall. In addition to filming surgery and applications such as angiography with no degradation of picture quality, it can also handle video sources from Ultrasound, MRI equipment and Pacs digital X-rays.

Ideally suited to collaborative working and medical training, the system is also being applied successfully to intensive care and high dependency nursing units. Already exporting to more than 40 countries, Brandon has achieved annual growth rates of 30% and is well placed to take the techology into markets around the globe.

Paul Stephens, Leeds City Council?s chief economic services officer comments: ?Manufacturing in Leeds is incredibly diverse and the majority of companies in the sector are small to mediumsized businesses. They play a key role maintaining the diversity and vitality of the economy. But the common denominator is the combination of innovation and enterprise, which has been central to the success of Leeds companies like Glassflake, Xiros and Brandon Medical.?

Across the city of Leeds, modern laboratories, world-leading scientists and clinicians are combining with Europe?s largest medical school to put Leeds at the forefront of ground-breaking research into revolutionary and potentially life-saving new approaches to medicine. Around 32,000 people are employed in healthcare in Leeds, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is the largest healthcare provider in Europe. Over 50% of the University of Leeds? total research income is generated by medical and healthcarerelated research.

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Added the 16 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1

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