Enterprising thinking outside the caravan box


For second year electronic engineering student Ilan Wyn Davies, 19, from Bala, a luxury caravan equipped to allow his late disabled father to enjoy a family holiday was the driving force behind Project Draig, his team’s winning entry in this year’s Arloesi Pontio Innovation funded Enterprise by Design programme.

The competition, which has a prize fund of £4,000, brings individuals from diverse academic disciplines within Bangor University to work together as teams to solve a real world design brief provided by a local commercial partner. This year saw a total of 48 undergraduates and 12 post-graduates involved in Enterprise by Design.

As a central activity for the Arloesi Pontio Innovation, Enterprise by Design provides a way to teach students about enterprise while bringing together academics from various disciplines to work on commercial collaborative projects. This year’s challenge was set by Denbighshire-based Fifth Wheel, a leader in the design and manufacture of bespoke luxury caravans. The brief required the students to propose a concept for a £100k flexible, mobile work-play luxury tourer.

The four students who made up the winning Team Serenity were Ilan Davies, Electronic Engineering; Lewis Joinson, Product Design; Alexander Alkozei, Psychology and Niranjan Bisht studying Business and Marketing. Students worked in teams for 8 weeks and attended a series of intensive workshops focussing on creative practice and decision making within multidisciplinary teams to help them develop and hone their ideas for the final session where they had to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts and Fifth Wheel.

For Ilan, the lure of the competition was initially the offer of a free slap up meal once a week, but very quickly evolved into an experience he will never forget, “Enterprise by Design offered a unique opportunity for me to not only meet fellow students but to dip my toes in departments not normally linked to my own discipline. It was like work experience without having to do work experience, but it soon became a real team project. We found ourselves fully immersed, often working very late into the night, so good project management skills were also paramount.

Team Serenity initially worked on a number of different innovations but Ilan’s personal experience and his team’s final idea won over the judges and the first prize of £2,500. A second prize of £1,000 and a third of £500 were awarded to the runners up Team Sapphire and Team Synergy respectively. The judging panel were Adrian Parry-Jones and Gethin Whiteley from Fifth Wheel, Professor David Shepherd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Bangor University and Dewi Hughes, Executive Director of Pontio.

Ilan, added, “For people, like my father, unable to go on a family holiday I wanted to provide a commercially viable solution for the manufacturer and a unique offer for the customer. Rather than reinvent the wheel we looked at the extreme elements people with severe disabilities would require and reverse engineered a solution from there. We added ramps, a system of hoists, emergency buttons and a facility to hydraulically lower the caravan. We also designed a way to extend the rear of the caravan by an additional 2 metres to allow a full time carer to also stay under the same roof.”

Dr Andy Goodman, Director, Arloesi Pontio Innovation, said, “The Project Draig concept showcases all that is unique about the programme’s ethos. Enterprise by Design is all about exploring ways to create educational experiences that inspire creativity, foster innovation and support subsequent enterprise.

“I think having teaching as a focus within a conversation between academics, students and commercial partners makes the whole project accessible for all involved. For some commercial partners it is also about tackling the perception of a university as an ivory tower and providing the metaphorical drawbridge to enter and explore from a commercial partners’ perspective.”

Adrian Parry-Jones from Fifth Wheel, added, “All three winning teams displayed great team work, co-operation, and an understanding of each other’s specialities to take on the brief and come up with innovative solutions. Team Serenity had very much thought out of the box, made a brilliant presentation, displayed great teamwork and came up with a concept that could be easily developed and shows good market potential.”

Enterprise by Design judge and Bangor University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Shepherd, said, “Enterprise by Design encapsulates everything a modern university education should be about; creativity, linking across the disciplines, creating something out of nothing in effect but also working within disciplines, because the brief defines the constraints of what you can do to design a product that meets the brief. The students who take part in this challenge get real world experience. A package of ‘Hothaus’ start-up support, incubation and advice will also be made available to the winning team and scope to work with Fifth Wheel in the future.”