Innovation award hope of Black Country manufacturer

A traditional Black Country manufacturer is in line for a prestigious innovation award for a germ-busting horse grooming kit it has developed in partnership with university boffins.

Horse
Dr Gracy Sailo-Lebeau, Coventry University Peter Wilkes, MD of Vale Brothers Clare Lindsay, Technology Strategy Board and Lord Stafford Awards Judge

Established in 1786, Vale Brothers, based in Long Street, Walsall, designs, makes and sells more than 600 equestrian products with 70 per cent of its goods exported overseas.

It has now developed a groundbreaking bacteria-killing brush for horses.

Two years ago, the company began working with scientists at Coventry University to develop the KBF99 product range of plastic horse brushes and other accessories which are treated with an antimicrobial additive.

This non-chemical treatment enables the brushes to kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria, massively reducing the risk of potentially fatal infections.

The company and university have now been shortlisted in the Innovation Award category of the Lord Stafford Awards.

The awards, now in their 15th year, were set up to showcase, celebrate and recognise collaborations

between business and academia in developing innovative products, processes or services.

Vale Brothers’ managing director, Peter Wilkes, said: “We know that grooming products can be a major cause of spreading skin and respiratory infections in horses which can be fatal.

“Coventry University approached us with the idea of an antimicrobial horse grooming kit and, using their scientific expertise and our manufacturing know-how, we have managed to develop the KBF99 range.

“There are a total of 25 different products, with the brushes being the most important, but also including buckets, feed scoops and combs.”

The range is now on the market and is already being exported to horse lovers around the world with commitment from distributors to sell the range in the USA and Canada, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany.

The awards final takes place at the e.on Lounge, Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Thursday, November 15.

Lord Stafford, patron of the awards, said: “This is a classic example of how a university, by collaborating with a business, can take a groundbreaking technology from concept to market.

“While it is early days in terms of the product being on the market, the early signs are encouraging and, with the right marketing, sales should increase.

“However, what is particularly pleasing is the impact this innovation could have, reducing infections and deaths in horses around the world.”