Gloucestershire’s Lord-Lieutenant has presented a local firm with Britain’s most coveted commercial prize – a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation.
Dame Janet Trotter visited the headquarters of Roftek Limited, trading as Flexmort 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 business, based in Waterwells Business Park, Quedgeley, manufactures a wide range of innovative products, including cooling systems for the deceased, used by both the NHS and the funeral industry.
Flexmort also supplies temporary mortuary facilities for use by governments when dealing with mass fatalities.
Managing director Simon Rothwell launched the enterprise in 2010 after a chance remark by his brother-in-law that UK hospitals were struggling to cope with a rise in obesity. This meant many bodies were too large for traditional mortuary refrigerators. It led him to develop a range of cooling units which would allow a body to be stored anywhere, including a bed, trolley or coffin, without the need for a cold room.
As a former policeman, he had also witnessed the trauma suffered by bereaved parents having to see their child in a mortuary. The entrepreneur came up with a solution now widely used on maternity wards – the CuddleCot which has been featured in national newspapers, on radio, and even on EastEnders during a storyline about a stillbirth.
A cooling pad inside the crib allows a baby to be kept in a room with the parents for longer, instead of having to be moved to a mortuary. Midwives and other experts say giving a family this time is crucial because it enables them to form a bond. This helps them come to terms with the death of their baby, for example by taking photographs, dressing the infant, or simply staying close.
The company also provides 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.
Presenting Mr Rothwell with a cut glass bowl, Dame Trotter said: “I’m amazed by everything you have achieved. You clearly have huge potential. There is vision, hard work, innovation, excellence and there is team work. We are proud you are here in Gloucestershire and thinking of expanding.”
Mr Bungard also read a proclamation from a scroll signed by the Queen.
The dignitaries were given a tour and a presentation about Roftek’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, backed by the experience of Warwick University’s incubator approach to business ideas. It’s great to have Flexmort here in Gloucester and committed to providing apprenticeships, and to grow locally with exciting expansion plans. 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 will also attend a reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace next month (July) for winners of the Queen’s Award.
He 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. I couldn’t have wished for more, given that the company has only been going for a few years.”