The Vita Group, Europe’s leading flexible foam solutions provider, has unveiled its fourth innovation hub with the launch of its new Innovation Centre in Accrington, Lancashire for its Technical Division.
The four state-of-the-art innovation centres in Lithuania, Corby, Middleton and Accrington collectively represent a £1.3m investment for the Group, 80% of which has been allocated to its sites in the North West.
The Accrington Technical Innovation Centre will work in partnership with employees and customers across Vita’s European footprint to lead research, development and collaboration on highly engineered and customized polyurethane foam, including driving forward sustainable solutions through the use of biopolyols.
The centre was officially opened by Sara Britcliffe MP for Hyndburn & Haslingden, at a virtual launch event hosted from the site in Accrington. It offered guests a virtual tour of the new facility, as well as an overview of the site from Group CEO Ian Robb and Technical MD Stuart Roby.
With over 170 employees based at Vita’s Technical sites in the North West (900 across Europe), the centre will be staffed by chemists, quality engineers and experienced technicians and will develop and test ideas for new innovative and sustainable technology for specialty PU foams used across a range of industries including mobility (automotive, aviation and rail), industrial, building and construction, medical and hygiene and consumer.
The site will be a centre of excellence for the company, combining Vita’s technical expertise in foam chemistry with the latest state-of-the-art testing equipment and systems.
An advanced new pilot plant will allow The Vita Group to accumulate all central technologies and take anything made elsewhere across its operation and replicate it on a smaller scale. This enables new products to be tested and bought to market rapidly. Bringing all these technologies together also allows the team to mix and match technologies and chemicals to develop cutting-edge new products, including a new generation of sustainable biopolyols.
These facilities are specifically designed to provide customers with the ability to work in collaboration with Vita’s expert engineers to develop and test new ideas, formulations and materials to tackle a range of functional needs, such as noise reduction, anti-vibration or flame retardancy.
The site’s ability to trial and test new concepts has already enabled it to develop a variety of new sustainable solutions, including a range of halogen free products for ester foams and a low emission ether foam that can meet Oekotex 100 Class 1 Certification. These latest innovations allow The Vita Group to open up a world of possibilities for foam to replace less sustainable products. Innovation around sustainability and investing in the circular economy are core focuses for The Vita Group.
Rowland Murphy, Innovation Manager at The Vita Group, added: “Investment in a new Innovation Centre in the Technical Division at Accrington demonstrates the commitment of The Vita Group to its customers providing the ability to rapidly develop polyurethane foams to meet exacting customer requirements. The flexibility of the new pilot plant together with the enhanced testing facilities enables Vita to bring new innovative products and sustainable alternatives to the market at an accelerated pace.”
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vita’s technical innovations team in Accrington worked with colleagues across Europe to create a high-quality, washable, and reusable face coverings (community face masks). The Vita Shield was initially produced to help protect employees, but Vita has since supported local communities by distributing hundreds free of charge to local authorities, as well as selling it commercially.
Sara Britcliffe MP for Hyndburn & Haslingden, said: “The Innovation Centre is a fantastic example of the type of investment needed in our area to help make the vision of a levelling up agenda a reality. As we start to ease restrictions, I am eager to put Hyndburn & Haslingden firmly back on the map, and work with local businesses like The Vita Group to make our area an innovation hub for the entire region, bringing forward more exciting projects like this, driving jobs and growing the next generation of innovative businesses and facilities.
“The virtual launch gave me a real sense of the ground-breaking development happening at the site, and I can’t wait to visit in person once restrictions are lifted.”
Ian Robb, Group CEO at The Vita Group, said: “We are delighted MP Sara Britcliffe joined us for the official opening of our new facility in Accrington, which is another important investment for us in the North West. The new innovation centre will be the hub for product innovation tailored to our Technical markets and will be developing world-leading products, all from concepts originally tested and produced in Lancashire.
“At Vita, we realise how important it is to listen to our partners and customers and work with them to develop new, innovative and more sustainable solutions. This ethos is an integral part of our culture, purpose and values. The world class team and testing facilities at the new innovation hub allows rapid production and fast product realization, so we can invite, converse and guide customers through the evolution of a new idea, from initial concept through to pilot plant testing and finished foam evaluation. We are very proud of what the team has already achieved and are excited to see the next ground-breaking innovations to come out of Accrington.”
The Vita Group’s four new state-of-the-art innovation centres include Lithuania (Chemistry and Formulation for the Comfort Division); Corby (Flooring Division); Middleton (state-of-the-art Bedding Centre for the Comfort Division); and Accrington (Technical Division) in the North West of England.