An AAPT supplier member chatted with the Queen and other members of the royal family during a champagne reception at Buckingham Palace.
Simon Rothwell, managing director of Flexmort, was invited to the palace to celebrate his firm winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. At the reception for winners of Britain’s most coveted commercial prize, he also spoke to Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Princess Eugenie and the Duke of Gloucester.
Flexmort designs and manufactures innovative mobile mortuary cooling systems and accessories used across the world.
Simon said: “It was just superb. The Queen gave a bit of a smile when she described my business as ‘very different.’
“Prince Philip also had a great sense of humour. My line of business is always a bit difficult to explain to people, especially at parties. When I was chatting to Princess Anne, Prince Philip came past and told her ‘he’s the one who deals with dead people’ and they both had a laugh. We had a fantastic evening. It was very relaxed, with canapes and lots of champagne.”
The Queen’s Award recognises commercial success as a result of innovation. Since the business was established in 2010 turnover has doubled year-on-year.
Flexmort products are widely used by both the NHS, hospices and the funeral industry. Products vary from single-body cooling solutions to cold rooms, pop-up systems and traditional mortuary refrigeration capable of handling hundreds of deceased.
Flexmort, based at Waterwells Business Park in Quedgeley, Gloucester also supplies temporary mortuary facilities for use by governments when dealing with mass fatalities. For example mobile Mortuary Domes, which can be put up quickly in the event of a disaster, and other temporary storage facilities providing extra capacity. The Irish government has a dome on stand-by, while Hamad Medical Corporation, the largest hospital group in Qatar, has numerous Flexmort systems. These include the AirCool12 system, a mobile mortuary that can be set up in 20 minutes to handle multiple casualties. It is also used by many funeral directors to provide additional storage space.
One of the company’s most successful products was developed due to Mr Rothwell’s experience as a former police officer. He witnessed the trauma suffered by bereaved parents having to see their child in the clinical setting of a mortuary.
His company came up with the CuddleCot, a gentler and more dignified solution. It is now used on maternity wards and has been featured in national newspapers, on radio, and even on EastEnders during a storyline about a stillbirth.
The Palace visit followed a recent presentation at Flexmort’s premises. Dame Janet Trotter visited the Gloucester headquarters to formally hand over the award which the company will hold for the next five years. Also present at the ceremony was Gloucester MP Richard Graham and Gloucestershire County Council chief executive Peter Bungard.
The dignitaries were given a tour and a presentation about Flexmort’s other products, including DNA Memorial which enables people to preserve the DNA of their relatives at home for vital medical research.
Mr Graham said: “Flexmort is a great example of a company that sprang up almost by accident through some innovative thinking by an individual, Simon Rothwell.
“Whether it’s cooling systems for bodies, or enabling families to preserve their DNA, Flexmort is continuing to innovate in a way that will impact us all.”
Mr Rothwell said: “This award has come as a huge boost to me and all the staff who have worked tremendously hard to ensure our ground-breaking products are in demand around the world. We really appreciate the help of many AAPT members who worked with us in the early days as their input helped shape many of our product designs.”