Re-inventing the Bicycle Joining UK Trade & Investment’s Passport to Export programme gave designer Mark Sanders the tools he needed to work with clients in the Far East and all over the world
FAST FACTS Company: MAS Design Products Ltd Country: UK Industry: Engineering & Design Website: www.mas-design.com
Mark Sanders always knew that he wanted to create, design and make things. Having completed an apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce, he went on to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College, London. Following this, he worked for the Mars Corporation for two years, where he designed drinks vending machines. Then, at the age of 25, he enrolled in the Industrial Design Engineering program run jointly by Imperial College and the Royal College of Art in London, to help him to bridge the gap between his scientific training, and the more artistic and human focused aspects of design. As part of his post-graduate studies, in 1985 Mark designed the STRiDA, folding bicycle. STRiDA has a unique triangular structure, which, when folded is thin, like a baby buggy and can be rolled on its wheels, making it easy to transport. The bike also has a clean belt drive, so there's no grimy chain, an essential feature for commuters travelling to work. The bike
appeared on the BBC’s Tomorrow World, was written up in the Sunday Times, and won numerous awards. Still in production today, STRiDA was the start of a whole new career for Mark. “Designing STRiDA and getting it to market was a real turning point for me,” says Mark. “I was able to use that success as a stepping stone to build my own business as an engineering design consultant, working with clients to help them design their products. I went on to design industrial, medical and sports equipment and a range of kitchen gadgets, but I keep being drawn back to bikes.”
Securing support In 2001, Mark revisited the folding bike concept, coming up with integrated folding (IF) technology. Like STRiDA, the technology allows bikes to be folded compactly and rolled to avoid having to carry them. But, IF Technology can also be applied to a variety of bicycle frames, and is specifically designed
to accommodate full-sized wheels. In 2001, Mark received a SMART Award for Innovation for the technology, from what was then known as the Department of Trade and Industry, which he put towards patenting costs. In 2005, Mark was looking for a manufacturer to produce IF Technology bikes, but hadn’t found one in the UK. His local Business Link introduced him to UK Trade & Investment and an International Trade Adviser helped him to develop his plans. Whilst Mark had been travelling to the Far East for his consultancy work, he had never made a dedicated trip there just to explore the possibilities for IF Technology. Joining UK Trade & Investment’s Passport to Export programme made him realise that he needed to do just that.
Technology has been assigned. Today the patent is held by Taiwanese company, Pacific Cycles, which produces a range of bikes in various sizes, including IF Mode, IF Reach and IF Urban. There are currently around 150,000 STRiDA bikes in use around the world, and a growing number of IF bikes. The largest markets are in Korea and Taiwan, but they are also sold in the US, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and across Europe and Asia. “UK Trade & Investment acted as a sounding board for me as I planned my strategy for taking IF Technology to the Far East,” says Mark. “They reviewed the contracts I had been using, showing me how to make them tighter so that they gave me the protection I needed. They suggested key people for me to talk to and helped to fund a translator to attend meetings with me. This funding, and the advice and support that UK Trade & Investment gave me were absolutely crucial to me.”
Global success Over the past five years, the intellectual property behind IF
“Since gaining the tools I needed to export from UK Trade & Investment, I have significantly expanded my business overseas, in particular in the Far East and China," says Mark. “UK Trade & Investment gave me a deeper understanding of foreign businesses, and how different they are to UK businesses. The Far East in particular has a very different culture compared to what I am used to in the UK, and you really can’t do business successfully there unless you appreciate this, and apply the necessary empathy. Having the benefit of UK Trade & Investment's training, I have been able to successfully launch several new products and continue to build my business in the region.”
Helping you to do business abroad Doing business in another country can be a challenge, so it's good to know that UK Trade & Investment is there to help you succeed. Through a range of unique services, including participation at selected trade fairs, overseas missions and providing bespoke market intelligence, UK Trade & Investment can help you crack foreign markets and quickly get to grips with regulations and business practices overseas. Through our Passport to Export programme we offer new and inexperienced exporters: • free capability assessments • support in visiting potential markets • mentoring from a local export professional • free action plans • customised and subsidised training • ongoing support once you're up and running
For further information please visit www.ukti.gov.uk
“Since gaining the tools I needed to export from UK Trade & Investment, I have significantly expanded my business overseas, in particular in the Far East and China”
The UK and Taiwan Taiwan has a strong trading and investment relationship with the West, and is keen to diversify and build on its European links. It has excellent infrastructure and logistics systems and it is a safe market in terms of intellectual property protection. Taiwan imported £750 million of British goods and services in 2009,
in a wide range of sectors, and the UK is highly visible in the Taiwanese domestic market. The country’s natural trading partners are its neighbours in North East Asia, so it can be a good stepping stone to the larger and more complex China market. For further information about business opportunities in Taiwan, please go to www.ukti.gov.uk
UK Trade & Investment is the Government organisation that helps UK based companies succeed in international markets. We assist overseas companies to bring high quality investment to the UK's dynamic economy.