For more than 25 years Scorpion Tooling has been at the cutting edge, so to speak. The company makes and reconditions solid carbide cutting tools for manufacturing companies across a variety of sectors - from medical equipment to aerospace. “If you manufacture components, you need cutting tools,” says MD Nick Reade.
Not only do they offer a full range of standard tooling, Scorpion’s expertise is in bespoke cutters for advanced materials. This requires deep knowledge of the factors that influence a tool’s life – such as material, specialised geometries and cooling techniques. Scorpion focus on increasing performance for their customers without compromising on quality. “Buy a cheap tool, and it will do one component,” says Reade, “but buy a good one and it will do 100.”
To date, however, Scorpion has been a pronouncedly local business, serving locally based global corporations. “The majority of our turnover is from Gloucestershire-based companies,” says Reade. “We have been led by word of mouth and recommendation. We want to go further afield - both in the UK and overseas.”
Such a strategic decision meant that Scorpion needed to explore - and enter - new markets for specialised tools as well as to invest in new skills and capabilities to design them.
Building expertise through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
The company successfully secured funding for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Bath to research and develop its methodology and software to improve its quality and performance for machining advanced materials.
Two more government funded projects have since followed; the second with global metrology company Renishaw and the University of Bath to explore the development of cutting tools for finish machining of additively manufactured parts, the third with the University of Bath and Nicofe Materials to investigate the machining of controlled expansion and soft magnetic alloys.
Participation in these Innovate UK projects has given to Scorpion the drive to continue the firm’s emphasis on R&D. A full-time R&D projects manager has been appointed, freeing up Reade’s time while maintaining the company’s fierce focus on innovation.
Scorpion prepares for growth
Much more has flowed from this initial engagement. EEN is now providing wrap-around support to help Scorpion successfully commercialise the fruits of their R&D. “EEN is helping us prepare for growth, build capacity and actively explore new international collaboration and market opportunities,” says Reade.
The action plan has included participation on Innovate2Succeed (I2S) - the tailored coaching programme that has focused Scorpion on building up its sales and marketing capabilities. “As a result, we have now got a marketing plan and e-commerce functionality,” says Reade. “The first fruits from I2S will be showing through soon.”
Finding overseas partners
Scorpion’s profile on the EEN Partnership Opportunities database has yielded interest from Poland and Turkey. Through EEN, the company secured support to attend the Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP) to South Korea on advanced materials. In turn this has led to Scorpion exploring the potential for collaboration with South Korean partners on the Eureka Eurostars programme.
EEN has also referred Scorpion to the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS), which resulted in a grant being awarded under The Local Manufacturing Advisory Programme (LMAP), and to the Department of International Trade, resulting in Scorpion engaging with the Export for Growth Programme.
“We have had a lot of different support,” says Reade. Opening one door has led to further openings and opportunities, none of which would have been on Reade’s radar. “If we had not been involved with Innovate UK, we would not have known about this. It’s been so important for us to gain access to this support,” he says.
With EEN’s support, Scorpion is set to cut a sharper profile. “We are a local company and have not shouted about our capabilities. Now we are starting to create awareness about Scorpion Tooling on the world stage.”
“EEN is helping us prepare for growth, build capacity and actively explore new international collaboration and market opportunities”
Nick Reade, MD, Scorpion Tooling