Launching The Central Research Laboratory of today


A mix of leaders from the worlds of investment, technology and design came to The Old Vinyl Factory on 31 March for the official launch of the Central Research Laboratory (CRL). 

A unique partnership between U+I and Brunel University, the 12-month CRL Incubator Programme has been running as a pilot since September 2015. 11 start-ups joined the first cohort including technologists, designers, musicians, physicists, biologists and toymakers. Among activities at the new CRL workshop is the creation of prototype submarine drones, robotic gloves, digital drawing systems and modular walking aids. Although the programme has only been running for six months, each of the start-ups are now registered businesses, have a defined business model and have secured seed funding. 

Alongside discussions led by key speakers and experts in their respective fields, the launch event gave a number of the CRL’s start-ups the opportunity to present their business pitches to a panel of investors and an audience of industry specialists. Key topics of discussion at the event also centred on the unique challenges of starting up an innovative, high growth hardware business and how the CRL helps overcome those challenges. 

Feedback from the Venture Capital community was overwhelmingly positive, praising the originality of the ideas and the extent to which they are all genuinely trying to change markets and tackle substantive problems.

In the words of CRL Programme Director James Nettleton, “… the CRL is fast becoming the home of hardware innovation again.”

About The CRL

Based in The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, the opening of the CRL in September 2015 revived the site’s legacy of innovation in the design and manufacture of physical products.

The former home of EMI, The Old Vinyl Factory was formerly the world’s largest producer and exporter of vinyl records. Not only was this the birthplace of records by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones; it was also one of the world’s most innovative manufacturing companies of the past 100 years.

The beating heart of The Old Vinyl Factory was the original EMI Central Research Laboratory – the company’s collaborative R&D division. Here, scientists and inventors pioneered innovations such as stereo sound and airborne radar; they turned television into a commercial product and developed the CAT scanner. 
Today, CRL’s goal is to recreate this model of innovation for the 21st Century – taking products from design, to prototype, to production.