Innovation studio

Grinding Solutions (ATI2)

Grinding Solutions are mineral processing consultants based in Truro. As experts in comminution and separation, they assist their clients by taking their waste material and separating it into its various parts.

Although the business is an established specialist within mineral processing, and predominantly works alongside the mining industry, they recognised that their skill set could be transferable into other industries, whereby they can help all sorts of organisations with their separation by increasing material recoveries, improving efficiencies and reducing costs.

“Although we are mineral processors, we are actually material processors as well”, says Nick Wilshaw, Managing Director at Grinding Solutions.

Acceleration Through Innovation 2 (ATI2), formerly known as Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI), first met Grinding Solutions in 2017 when the business was awarded an ATI innovation grant to help build a completely new machine which they had designed.

“The funding for the grind mill has given us a completely new service. It’s really helped us move our business forward and increase our service offerings. We wouldn’t have been able to do it as easily without ATI” says Felicity Wilshaw, Director at Grinding Solutions.

In this second phase of the project with ATI2, Grinding Solutions were seeking innovation advice and research support to help them explore new markets. Nick Wilshaw, Managing Director at Grinding Solutions explains:

“We wanted to be able to step sideways from what we are doing and see whether our skillset would be applicable within other industries.

“And of course, it was interesting times in respect of Covid, Brexit and all the rest of it – we wanted to be able to expand and the simplest way to do it is to take your current skillset into an adjacent market – rather than build something completely new”, he adds.

In particular, Grinding Solutions wanted to find out more about the following three waste markets: recycling, environmental and civils. ATI2’s Business Innovation Advisor, Rachel Roach, and Innovation Champion, Jenny Naldret, a dedicated and experienced researcher, were only too happy to help.

“Working with AT2’s Business Innovation Advisor and Researcher has been very good. Very easy… and we’ve had three or four zoom calls and a very good database made available to us. There’s been two or three nice reports which are easy to read – so it’s been a good experience”, says Nick.

With access to University of Plymouth resources and databases, ATI2’s Innovation Champion was able to compile the research and reports Grinding Solution needed but didn’t have the time or available resources to do themselves.

Nick expands on how this type of support really assists businesses like his:

“We’ve had ideas of where we needed to go, but we haven’t had the time to research it and spend the time and effort in doing that. Jenny Naldret was great in being able to put her thoughts behind where we should go, what we should look at and she was very quick at picking up the issues we were looking at.

“Having her there enabled us to clearly focus on three areas where we felt we could take our expertise and she showed us what the market size is and what the technology requirements were.

“At the time, we were struggling with getting the everyday stuff done and we still are. We are expanding as a business and we don’t have the luxury at the moment to do the research ourselves – so to be able to outsource it and feel confident in the data that we got back was very important to us”.

When the research project first commenced, the Covid-19 Pandemic was in its infancy. Nick and Felicity wanted to grow      Grinding Solutions, whilst also ensuring that they built resilience into the business to help them withstand any adverse effects which could arise due to the current market uncertainty and disruption.

Entering a new market and increasing their service offering would provide Grinding Solutions with an additional stream of income should their usual market dry up. Thankfully, that didn’t happen says Nick, who details how Covid affected them in the short-term:

“We wanted to grow the business but equally Covid was the big unknown, so therefore we wanted to try to build some security into the business. As it happens, Covid has not affected us too badly.

“We shut everything down to the minimum when we had the first lockdown and operated on a skeleton staff, but the work kept coming in, so we brought people back in and we now look slightly different to how we did before, but we’re operating and operating at a higher level. So that’s good”.

As a result of the project and the work carried out with ATI2, Grinding solutions were confident that their skills were well suited to the recycling market. It was also deemed an attractive market for them to pursue when looking at future trends and the green agendas.

“Moving forward we are going to have to be doing a lot more recycling or reuse. Basic mining will never disappear because you will always need to top it up, however, if we [Grinding Solutions] can assist in any way in supporting recycling and regeneration then that would be a good place for us to be in”, says Nick.

“We are now working with a number of recyclers. We’re looking at the e-project, so that’s circuit boards, mobile phones, electronic waste and all that sort of recycling, but also the more pure waste where you’ve got bottom ash from incinerators and things. We are now working across that spectrum of industries” he explains.

It is early days and Grinding Solutions are now looking update their marketing strategy in order to effectively communicate their offering to the recycling market and expand their potential customer base.

“Now we have started walking down this road we will start advertising our service offerings on our website and make sure that people are fully aware of what we do.

“We’re not a company that your everyday recyclable people will come to, because they don’t necessarily know what we do. So it’s important for us to get in front of the larger, or mid-tier companies who have these requirements”, says Nick.

If you too have a research project that you would like to undertake, but don’t have the resource capacity to get started, then Nick has the following advice:

“We’ve learnt that ATI2 has a very good source of knowledge and knowledgeable people who can provide relevant data to companies like ourselves, so anyone that is thinking that they might want to get into a further market I would definitely recommend they talk to ATI2 to see if they can find the expertise and, if so, run with that.”