Here, Robert Boyce, director and co-founder of IceRobotics, a developer and provider of data collection and analysis products for monitoring dairy cow behaviour, discusses how his company got hold of a £5,000 grant from the China-Britain Business Council.
What’s your company’s background?
Over the past decade, IceRobotics’ technologies have supported animal behaviour research at many of the world’s leading academic institutions and have led to key developments in the commercial dairy farming industry, including measurement of lying time and the world’s first cloud-based approach to monitoring dairy cows.
Founded in 2002, we developed a commercial wireless sensor, cloud-based behaviour monitoring system for dairy cattle. Since then, IceRobotics has generated global acclaim among the academic community as the leading provider of sensor technologies for cow behaviour monitoring with its IceTag and IceQube products.
IceRobotics has commercialised the technology to support insight-based decision making in the dairy farming community through the CowAlert system, a fertility and health monitoring system for dairy farming.
How did you find out about the grant?
China naturally presents us with a great opportunity to grow our business.
I learned about China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), the UK’s leading organisation supporting trade in and with China, through my preparation activities as part of my involvement in the ‘EIE Shenzhen and Hong Kong’ mission last October. EIE is a showcase for Scottish tech firms looking for investment. From there we became members of the CBBC and entered this competition.
What are the full details of the grant?
We won £5,000 worth of business support as part of the China-Britain Business Council’s (CBBC) ‘Ready for China’ campaign.
This involved using a self-diagnostic tool online to assess export readiness for China and encourage more UK companies to enter the China market.
What was the process like, from application to receiving the grant?
As this was a competition we filled out a form answering questions about our current work with China. Then a few months later we were notified that CBBC selected us. We have had a number of calls and meetings since then to talk through the different steps for using their support and the scope of work that would be done at each point.
What did you spend the money on?
CBBC will help IceRobotics initially in identifying potential partners in market. Both sides will then look at the progress and tailor the continuing support to enable an appropriate market entry strategy to be defined.
China is a market that raises the interest of any company. Bilateral trade with the UK stands at around £60 billion annually, having increased two and half times in the last ten years or so. Moreover, the Chinese market is increasingly sophisticated with increasing opportunities for pioneering companies such as IceRobotics. However, like any new market, China has some challenges in market entry and understanding the local market.
What advice would you give to other small businesses looking for grant finance?
CBBC organised this ‘Are you Ready for China?’ through Winter 2016 and Spring 2017 and around 400 companies entered. Generally speaking, it’s good to be connected to organisations such as your local Chamber of Commerce to find out about grants, as well as gov.uk and sites dedicated to SMEs, such as SmallBusiness.co.uk.