Innova: Giving a lift to exports in the healthcare sector

27 October 2016

 

Distributing healthcare equipment for other manufacturers gave family business, Yorkshire Care Equipment, an insight that the sector had stalled in providing new solutions for the sick, infirm or disabled.

“We realised that manufacturers had failed to move forward and innovate and, in doing so, had lost sight of the most important element – the patients’ quality of life,” says group chief executive, Tom Hulbert.

The realisation that that innovation based on a deeper understanding of the needs of patients and their carers could fill a vital gap in the healthcare market at a time of ageing populations, led Yorkshire Care Equipment, Harrogate, which was established in 1972, to launch a new division, Innova Care Concepts, with the brief to develop and source the latest and most innovative healthcare products.

Tom Hulbert, whose two brothers, three cousins, father and uncle all work in the business, adds: “We decided that we had to be thorough so we travelled widely in the English-speaking world including the US, Middle East, much of Europe and Australia, talking to hospitals, care homes, hospices and architects to hear their concerns about current healthcare equipment and to learn how products could be improved.”

Doing so, immediately made Innova Care Concepts,  Thorp Arch Estate, a business with international contacts, by-passing some of the traditional first steps towards exporting, such as desk research, and led to the launch of its first product, Integralift, an innovative, fold-away hoist which has opened up significant export potential.

Integralift was designed by the friend of an entrepreneur who was paralysed from the waist down after a diving accident in Norway. The equipment differs from the other two main types of other hoists. It is not a trolley on wheels and does not need overhead tracking both of which are bulky, unattractive and dominate the room they are in, focusing attention on disability.

Instead Integralift, for which Innova Care Concepts acquired the patent and now manufactures in Estonia, operates with a hoist on an arm which folds away unobtrusively into a cupboard – which  can be made to match other furniture in the room - so people have the assistance they need but the space they require when it is not in use.

The quality of design for Integralift has also opened up the hotels sector for Innova as the equipment can be built into rooms, which can then be let to people with severe disabilities.

After selling 200 Integralifts in the UK, Tom Hulbert and his team, who also supply mattresses, bedroom furniture and special bathing equipment, decided to look at exports and contacted Chamber International for support.

Tom Hulbert adds: “Our first export sale was in mid 2015 to a distributor in the Czech Republic and we have since fulfilled orders for 30 Integralifts in France and in Australia and have just completed a Euro 200,000 deal for Integralifts to Norway in each case selling to stockists and distributors who supply the healthcare sector.

“However, achieving this on our own led me to realise that we could benefit with help in targeting other countries and I approached Chamber International. They have been very helpful and have initially given us contacts in British Embassies to facilitate local support and contacts overseas.

“Some of the Chamber International export courses will also be useful to us as we develop overseas sales but what attracted me was knowing that they are there and have the expertise to help us develop overseas sales as and when we need them. 

“Integralifts sell for between £3,500 to £5,000 to the end user and so have significant potential for our business. Our group turnover is £7m with around 34 staff and our target is to achieve £500,000 in exports in the next 12 months, then build from there.”                      

Chamber International export adviser, David Attia, says: “Innova Care Concepts’ instinctive understanding that they should visit overseas markets to research healthcare equipment needs is opening doors for them and we look forward to helping the business grow its overseas sales in line with the considerable potential.”

 

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Chamber International - Innova Care Concepts