Funding boosts development

Well done: Finance Yorkshire's Ashwin Kumaraswamy, second left, with Dr Hywel Jones from Sheffield Hallam University, XeraCarb technical consultant Dr Anthony Pick and chairman Chris Wright.
Well done: Finance Yorkshire's Ashwin Kumaraswamy, second left, with Dr Hywel Jones from Sheffield Hallam University, XeraCarb technical consultant Dr Anthony Pick and chairman Chris Wright.
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The South Yorkshire company behind a lightweight ceramic composite that can stop bullets has won financial backing from Finance Yorkshire.

XeraCarb, based in Dodworth, Barnsley, has secured undisclosed funding from Yorkshire Finance’s Seedcorn Fund, which provides sums up to £780,000 to help small and medium sized companies to grow.

The Finance Yorkshire funding will be used for further product development, exploring different uses of the material and setting up a management team to grow the business.

It comes almost a year after the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers gave the material’s creators, ceramics consultant Dr Anthony Pick and Sheffield Hallam University researcher Dr Hywel Jones a £25,000 prize to help them to move towards full scale commercial production of the material, for use by soldiers as body armour.

Dr Pick, who runs Barnsley ceramics consultancy KeramTech, started developing the revolutionary ceramic in his garage six years ago in the hope of creating a material that would make it easier for British porcelain and bone china companies to compete with imports from the Far East.

He said: “Our research has led to the creation of a new composite material, which can be manufactured in a range of complex shapes and in large sizes, and, whilst lightweight, retains an impressive hardness and strength.

“Our material is 30 per cent lighter than existing alumina products. That has advantages the Ministry of Defence recognises and we are keen to develop the product for this and other applications.

“We now need the commercial expertise to exploit these exciting opportunities. We need to measure how effective the material is and explore its potential with customers in the ceramic manufacturing industry.”

Dr Jones says the material still has potential applications for use as supports – kiln furniture - in porcelain manufacturing, because it allows more porcelain parts to be packed in a kiln, saving on energy, carbon emissions and fuel costs.

Finance Yorkshire investment manager, Ashwin Kumaraswamy, says XeraCarb is “an exciting new start-up business which has huge potential for growth.”

“XeraCarb has developed a material which shows great promise for its unusual combination of extreme hardness together with being lightweight and having high temperature performance,” said Mr Kumaraswamy.

“A real bonus for the material is that the team are confident that parts can be made using a low-cost and highly flexible manufacturing technique.”

The founders have appointed Chris Wright as XeraCarb chairman to develop the company further and explore potential business opportunities with porcelain manufacturers and protective clothing companies.

Chris Wright is a former group operations director of AEA Technology and chief executive of IP Group. He has been involved in a number of university spin-outs and is currently chief executive of Faradion, which is developing new ways to make electric vehicles more practical by bringing down the cost of high-capacity batteries which will.

Faradion is based at the Electric Works in Sheffield and was one of the first businesses to receive investment from Finance Yorkshire’s Seedcorn Fund.