Let’s Talk Business: PAPI grant enables firm to secure Government PPE contract

02nd Oct

Following the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, the UK Government urgently needed to increase manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, including protective face visors. As such, companies across the UK were contracted to produce millions of items of PPE to distribute across the NHS. Duraweld was contracted to supply 5.2 million face visors by December 2020.
Duraweld usually manufactures stationery and packaging products, including bespoke ring-binders and ID badges. Its customers include Aston Martin, Bentley, Costa and BT. When the UK lockdown was announced, it saw a reduced demand in its products and made the decision to apply its expertise in design of plastic products to develop a low-cost disposable, polypropylene visor.
The visor Duraweld designed is a single-use respiratory protective equipment (RPE) product designed to protect users against the transmission of bacteria to prevent the spread of viruses and in particular, Covid-19. The product comprises a profiled polypropylene visor to cover the face, an elastic headband to fasten the visor and foam padding that sits between the top of the visor and the forehead. Some 75,000 of the face shields were tested by NHS clinicians and reworked before the final design went in to production.
The final design is shorter than most PPE visors, enabling the wearer to look down without the visor touching the chest, which restricts movement and vision. This provides better protection and comfort for the user, particularly for female medical staff and those providing bedside treatment and relying on downward vision.
Initial test production and product trials were extremely successful and Duraweld began producing 10,000 visors per day. After securing the contract with the Cabinet Office, the company needed to increase production to 28,000 per day. However, it found that its manual cutting process was time-consuming and labour-intensive. It therefore wanted to automate the cutting process by investing in a digital cutting machine.
Grant funding
The new machine was purchased with help from a £20,000 grant from the University of York’s PAPI project.
With the new machinery, the company has been able to scale up production of the visors, supplying NHS staff with much-needed PPE. They have also been able to secure the jobs of 27 employees, who were previously furloughed, and employ an additional 45 staff on an initial six-month contract. After the Government contract has been fulfilled, Duraweld will be able to use the new machinery to develop and manufacture a new range of products and enter new markets as the economy recovers.
A spokesman said: “The PAPI project at the University of York has been fantastic to work with. At the height of the pandemic, when we were under pressure and working at a very fast pace, the help, support and flexibility was massively appreciated. It is fantastic that we have been awarded the grant, and it has enabled us to invest in a critical piece of equipment which will allow us to deliver over five million Duraweld face shields to front-line health workers.”
The PAPI project has helped small businesses in the East Riding as well as York, North Yorkshire and the Leeds city region develop innovative new products by providing grants for equipment since 2016.
Delivered by the University of York, a team of innovation advisers can help companies apply for a grant of between £8,000 and £20,000 for the purchase of equipment that will create new products, services and jobs. The project has provided more than £2 million of funding, supporting more than 100 businesses to create 130 jobs, and 100 new products. The funding will continue until 2022.
The PAPI project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014 to 2020. The project is open for applications now. Businesses can quickly check their eligibility and apply on the website at papi.org.uk or by calling 01904 328076.

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