10 minutes with... Frank Allison
Cumbria is growing its reputation for fostering and supporting innovation and one company in particular is working to help businesses make a commercial success of new technologies.
FIS360 was established by Frank Allison just under four years ago but now has an impressive and diverse portfolio of businesses, all well on their way to make the most of their new - and often ground breaking - technologies.
Initially based in Manchester, the company is now based in Cumbria and much of its work focuses on the county’s innovators as well as having input with businesses and academia across the UK, North America and the Middle East.
Dr Allison was speaking to in-Cumbria as part of our “10 minutes with…” series.
“It’s a company that support the commercialisation of early-stage technologies and helping take them through to commercial products and solutions, and helping clients generate revenue from their ideas.
“Primarily, we work with technology and physical science and engineering subjects which is where our expertise lies.
“We offer a range of services, we can hand-hold a client all the way through from concept through to mentoring, advising and working with sector experts - IP strategies, drawing up patents, putting together a business plan and introducing investors or sourcing funding.
“We can also help with setting up spin-out companies or support with license negotiations and help businesses to ensure they are paid royalties or license fees, it really depends on what the client needs.
“It’s quite a unique proposition that we offer: universities have commercialisation organisations or departments to help commercialise their research, some large corporates have venturing arms that can help with licensing, but there are very few truly independent commercialisation organisations like FIS360.”
“The business was set up in 2013 by myself and my co-founder Ian Proctor, who is based in Saudi Arabia.
“We set up FIS360 while working at the University of Manchester in their commercialisation organisation.
“We were always drawn to the diversity of new technology businesses - engineering, software, pharmaceuticals, advanced manufacturing - so we decided that setting up on our own would afford us the flexibility to work with these great innovators.
“Today our work involves helping SMEs, academia, universities and large corporates like Sellafield and the National Nuclear Laboratory in their commercialisation activities.”
“Having worked extensively with Innovus over recent years means I have a good number of clients in the county such as Cumbria Crystal and Barrnon.
“I live near Appleby and the links across to the west coast, up to Carlisle or down to South Lakeland are great and the beautiful landscape means there’s never a bad commute.
“We’ve also got really great rail links, so I can hop on the train in Penrith and easily meet with potential investors, innovation partners and universities in London, Edinburgh, Manchester and other major cities.
“I have to also say that the amount of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in Cumbria is astonishing.
“Having worked with Cumbrian businesses since 2014, it’s so impressive to see the heart and spirit they have and the ability to carry it through to commercialise their products.
“Without exception the companies we’ve worked with here in Cumbria are very engaging, very forward thinking and are a credit to the county.
“It’s quite unique to have such a high intensity of businesses that are so driven by innovation - the county should be very proud of them.”
“We’ve currently got a portfolio of about 25 companies that we’re working with across Cumbria.
“One of the ones that stands out is called Typhon Treatment System, and their idea came into Innovus as an early stage concept.
“The team’s incredibly talented and has gone from proof of concept to a real game changer developing the world’s most energy efficient UV water purification system.
“Their technology is starting to mature, and the company is going from strength to strength so we’re very excited that we are part of that journey.
“We only work with companies where we genuinely feel our services can add value. The companies that we work with have a drive, passion and an enthusiasm and we can just make them aware of what they should be looking forward to.”
“The growth of our company is driven by the success of our current client base and the increased number of calls we receive as a result of that.
“We work on an associate model, we’re not staff intensive, but what we do for each project is we make sure to put the right team around a project at the right time.
“We also have an international network of trusted associates which we engage on a case-by-case basis to build a fit for purpose team, for example using sector experts or professional services etc.
Currently, Frank Allison and FIS360 are working extensively with Sellafield Ltd, Innovus and the National Nuclear Laboratory on the ‘Game Changers’ initiative which is supporting the nuclear decommissioning programme by engaging with diverse industry sectors to introduce innovative new technologies to help accelerate the activities and reduce costs.