Pregnant pause is over
A THREE-year patent battle has ended in success for Bury inventor Stephen Weston.
Mr Weston, who invented a new device to allow heavily pregnant women to use safety-belts, has finally won a full patent from the UK authorities.
Now another £80,000 worth of tests begin before the new belt goes into production.
The device - invented after a suggestion from his wife over Christmas dinner four years ago - is one of a score of innovations being shepherded to success by Mr Weston's Reel and Shafty Handling Company.
"The safety belt for pregnant women moves the safety-belts diagonal strap away from the bump, which means it is much less likely to cause damage to the foetus.
"I'd decided to come up with some new products and my wife said `why not think of something for pregnant women'.
"That was Christmas, 2003, it took until 2004 to develop the idea and until 2005 to set up the company. Now, in 2008, we've finally got the patent."
"We have already tested it with the Bolton Aerospace and Automotive Research Group but we still have another round of testing, which could cost as much as £80,000, to comply with the UK safety regulations," Stephen explained.
"We've not yet got a manufacturer lined up, so now we have to decide whether to manufacture it ourselves or to team up with someone else.
"If we do it ourselves that could mean another £80,000 worth of investment."
The Reel and Shaft Handling Company gets its name from one of Stephen's first inventions: a pair of cones to hold massive reels of papers, plastics and laminates used in manufacturing. He developed the device during his many years working in the paper industry.
Stephen has since developed a stable of other inventions, several of which he is now pushing towards the market, including a leisure product expected to have wide appeal.
"I've always been inventing - just most of the time I was doing it for someone else. It's exciting, and always has been," he said. With help from business angel investors and from organisations like the North West Seed Fund I've managed to develop projects with world-wide sales potential. If we claimed two per cent of the European market for pregnant women it would be worth £10m a year."
Another invention - to help move supermarket good around stores - could be worth £3m a year.
Today turnover is £250,000 a year and growing fast.