Partnership with University of Leicester nurtures organic growth of Bulb Studios
Left to right: Jim Willis, co-founder and managing director, Bulb Studios; Professor Simon Lilley, head of the School of Management and Dr Will Green, senior lecturer University of Leicester.
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 28 May 2012
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Leicester-based design agency Bulb Studios has nearly doubled turnover and new jobs as a direct result of support provided by the University of Leicester School of Management. Under a scheme run by the Technology Strategy Board under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the company has started to develop its own IT products in addition to providing services in web and software design, film-making, photography and music production. Turnover in the last 12 months has gone from £700,000 to £1.2 million and overall staffing levels from 8 to 18. Growth for the small company on New Walk could eventually lead to the establishment of London and US satellite offices.
Dr William Green, lecturer in innovation, operations and knowledge management, is using Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project funding to help the Bulb design teams better understand user-centred design to ensure new software applications are intuitive and engaging. Just six months into the two-year project, the company has developed a mobile market research application which has already been adopted by several leading market research companies. The CrowdLab™ app significantly improves the way market research data is collected and analysed and has already contributed £500,000 to company turnover and created four full-time jobs.
Bulb operates in a highly competitive sector, dominated by London and US-based design houses. The company was started in 2007 by co-founders Jim Willis (37) and Mat Mabe (34) who know each other from Loughborough University when Mat was student magazine editor and Jim ran the Media Centre. Both pursued careers in media and design by working for major companies before returning to Leicester and launching Bulb from the LCB Depot. The company moved to bigger premises in New Walk last November, and engaged with international marketing and branding expert Richard Owen to develop CrowdLab™.
“We have great ambitions for the company and are very proud to be based in Leicester,” says Jim Willis, “but we recognised the need for greater expertise to take us into a whole new area of product design and development. The Knowledge Transfer Partnership suits our needs well and has allowed the employment of a full time computing-science KTP Associate to work on Crowd Lab, Dr Asma Adnane. We have regular advisory meetings with Dr Green, who has also delivered training in user-centred design, so we feel very well supported.”
Working alongside a company like Bulb Studios enables the University to apply its knowledge and literally transfer the latest management practices to local company owners. Dr Green brings experience of research and development and operational practices of major blue-chip organisations having worked for IBM, Philips Research and Vodafone,which Bulb will need to understand if it is to do business in this global market-place.
“We chose to work with Bulb Studios because we could see the potential for growth in their plans and existing management capabilities. We have seen rapid progress already and the continued adoption of user-centred design will strengthen the commercialisation of the new mobile market research app. As a researcher, I’m interested in watching Bulb’s organic growth, supporting product development and organisational change, and my students are always interested to hear about how the work is going.”
The next phase of development for Crowd Lab is to ensure the product design is scalable and multi-lingual. Two more designers are due to be appointed and the app is already being used by a Chinese market research agency.
Professor Kevin Schürer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise says: “Our work with Bulb illustrates the impact that applying university-based expertise – in this case from the School of Management - can have in a highly-receptive small, enterprising company. Working through the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme makes this possible at a time when firms struggle to find the internal know-how to innovate and stay competitive.”
Issued by Louise Third
0115 912 4350
University of Leicester Expertise:
Notes to Editors:
More information on University of Leicester Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is available from Dr Lisa Stocks, Head of Business Services and Collaboration
Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2437
This Partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme (KTP). KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. KTP is funded by the Technology Strategy Board along with the other government funding organisations.