C4 Carbides rediscovered its appetite for innovation after EEN opened the door to funding opportunities and a fruitful partnership with the University of Hertfordshire. The company is now back on the road to rapid, export-led growth.
A decade ago, Cambridge-based blade manufacturer C4 Carbides
had broken into the US market and built up annual sales of £3 million. But in a fast-moving industry it faced a simple choice: innovate or stagnate.
“When I set up the company many years ago, I was very creative and imaginative,” explained founder and CEO Pete Nicolson. “But when people start to think a lot of themselves they stop looking outside the box. Innovation started to scare me.”
Since first meeting with EEN in the East of England in 2009, CEO Pete Nicholson has been able to tap into grants that led to ground-breaking R&D, patents and products, as well as making a range of other invaluable connections. Turnover stands today at £11 million.
An introduction by EEN to the University of Hertfordshire
proved the turning point, a partnership which encouraged Pete to inject academic rigour into his engineering team with the help of Innovate UK funding. He added:
“You’re forced into making certain that your project really is new rather than something already invented 20 years ago in Germany.”
As a result, C4 Carbides developed a revolutionary diamond-coated blade, creating a cutting edge with unprecedented resilience.
It is now a truly international business, selling to Japan, China, Switzerland and across Europe, as well as the US.
The next project is 3D printing of ‘smart teeth’ made from functionally graded, super-abrasive materials. With this market estimated to be worth £2.5 billion globally, The company plans to grow turnover to £70 million over the next decade.