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Green tree-huggers are a global business winner.

Byline: By JULIE RICHARDS-WILLIAMS

A tree-saving device is at the heart of a blossoming business in Anglesey. Adrianne Jones weds environmental thinking with sharp business sense: could she be the new Anita Roddick? IF you want to be first in the field in business, think green. This is the advice of Adrianne Jones, co-director of the company BioCycle Ltd, based in Kinmel Bay.

She is the inventor of a new type of tree shelter, the BioTube, and a seedling cover, the BugBar.

As well as being biodegradable, they are durable.

Ms Jones, from Fron Farm, Bryn Pydew, Anglesey, said, 'We have already carried out accelerated testing of the product and this has showed that the integrity of the product remained intact for a minimum of three years.'

Interest has been shown in several countries, including Germany, Scandinavia and North America.

A large number of BugBar prototypes are in field trials in Sweden, where forestry is a major industry. Early in 2005, Adrianne, 40, was named British Female Innovator of the year at the annual British Female Inventors and Innovators Awards (BFIIN) in London. She also gained a gold medal award at the 33rd International Exhibition of Inventions and new technological products in Geneva for her improvements to traditional tree protectors.

In late October she beat off stiff competition to win the gold medal in the industrial category at the British Invention Show 2005, which took place over four days at Alexandra Palace, London. The company was also named Green Champion of Wales 2005 at the annual Green Apple Environmental Award. Her story began in 2001 when she realised that there was a gap in the world market for a biodegradable alternative to conventional plastic tree shelters/ protectors.

She said, 'Although conventional plastic tree shelters have been in existence since 1979, they eventually have to be removed at great cost and disposed of in landfill sites. 'Until now, covers that simply rot away by themselves after a few short years did not exist. 'So I started to investigate base materials that could be used to make a biodegradable material with a known life.' After four years of research and development she achieved her goal when a lightweight biodegradable material made from natural flax fibres and resin extracted from a plant grown in Brazil was produced. This can easily be formed into various shapes and sizes to suit specific needs. Believed to be the first material of this kind in the world, the BioTube supports and protects saplings during their early stages, allowing them to grow and mature naturally. After three-to-five years the BioTube Begins to degrade. Complete degradation will take a further two-to-four years. Ms Jones believes the BioTube certainly has many potential uses other than the forestry industry. It could be used on motorway embankment plantations, and fruit orchards and in vineyards. After attending a trade mission to Sweden, she developed a smaller version known as the BugBar that protects vulnerable young seedlings. It is an environmentally friendly deterrent to the destruc- tive bark-eating pine weevil, a beetle found in most northern hemisphere forests, that can kill a young softwood tree in 30 minutes and march up to two kilometres a day through tree plantations. This pest is responsible for an estimated pounds 5m-pounds 8m worth of damage in the UK alone. Made from the same material and colour as the BioTube, the BugBar is moulded into a distinctive elongated mushroom shape that fits snugly over the young seedlings, preventing them from attack for three years, when the BugBar starts to degrade. By this time softwood trees are usually mature enough to withstand predators. Until recently, insecticides have provided the main method of protection for young seedlings. However, with the introduction of the European Union Directive that outlaws Permethrin, the standard chemical treatment for pine weevil, alternative means of protection are being sought.

Ms Jones said, 'BugBars are natural, totally organic and fully biodegradable.

'Their use will produce massive cost savings, as wood producers will no longer have to worry about replanting pine- weevil-ravaged forests. 'They will also reduce pollution by replacing the carcinogenic chemical Permethrin.' Born in Zambia, where her father was a headmaster and her mother a teacher at a mixed school in Chingola, Adrianne and her sister and brother enjoyed a free and easy upbringing.

She said, 'I grew up with a love of nature and the need to conserve our natural environment, a feeling that has remained with me all my life.'

Ms Jones was 10 years old when the family returned to England in 1975, settling in Colwyn Bay.

Her first job, at the age of 20, was assistant catering manager at the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh.

She patented the BioTube in June 2002 and launched the company in April 2003, first in Conwy and then relocated to a unit in Kinmel Bay. BioCycle has moved into commercial production at a brand new 25,000 sq ft manufacturing factory, based at Bryn Cefni Industrial Park, Llangefni, on Anglesey. This has led to the creation of 24 new jobs.: Challenges:1 Safeguard the intellectual property rights 2 Purse exports in Europe and beyond 3 Plan an exit strategy 4 Gain the best training in people management possible: Denise Wilson:Business Support Executive Welsh Development Agency Through my role as a WDA business support executive, I have known Adrianne for nearly four years. A keen environmentalist, Adrianne has ensured that she proactively kept abreast of the latest developments; a key factor in optimising opportunities for innovation. Although the business has the advantage of being managed by forward thinking, experienced managing directors who keep uppermost the concept of innovation and best practice in business development, BioCycle will face many challenges in the years ahead. Constant innovation within the company and the vast potential for versatility of its products will ensure a need for assistance in protecting its Intellectual Property (IP) Rights. The IP Wales website at www.ipwales.co.uk contains extremely helpful information on all aspects of this subject. Another useful website is www.patent.gov.uk.

For more information on possible grants for this or any other aspect of technology, phone 08457 775577 and ask for a WDA Innovation and Technology Counsellor in your area.

Through the nature of the business the company will also be heavily involved in exporting and will also need to visit overseas clients. Advice on all aspects of international trade can be found via www.walestrade.com, which also contains information on ExportAssist.

Training and development is key to developing a culture of quality in any business and the Elwa Workforce Development programme provides individually tailored support for businesses in Wales. The programme provides the one-to-one support of a skills adviser to ensure the training needs are planned in line with company aims and objectives.

For more information on the Workforce Development Grant, call 0845 60 661 60 or email sgiliaubusnes@elwa.org.uk/businessskills@elwa.org.uk or visit www.skillspeoplesuccess.com.

All businesses should be looking to the future and planning an exit strategy. There are several different ways of doing this such as management buy-outs; joint ventures, selling the business or even flotation. Expert assistance for this can be obtained from large accountancy firms or equivalent management consultancy firms.

Many companies who specialise in this subject can be contacted via the web by keying in Exit Strategies. See also www.walescoop.com.

If the company continues with its present careful management and development, I believe that BioCycle is on the verge of becoming a major Welsh business success story.

www.wda.co.uk: Dr Elizabeth J Muir:Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship University of Glamorgan This is a very interesting and challenging project which combines many aspects of modern global entrepreneurship. The first challenge is to safeguard the invention and the ability to protect it, by registering and securing trade mark rights and filing for a patent (www.patent.gov.uk), can add considerable value to the company. Adrianne should also seek advice from the UK's only intellectual property initiative IP Wales' (www.ipwales.com) located at the University of Swansea and funded by the WDA.

The second challenge is to pursue global export. Good at accessing networks and gaining recognition for her development, Adrianne needs to capitalise on this expertise by developing BioCycle's competitive edge by accessing businesswomen's networks. Such networks include the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (www.bawe-uk.org) which includes access to businesswomen's networks in many countries, and their global network, the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (www.fcem.org).

Additionally, contacts such as the Commonwealth Business Women's Forum (via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office www.fco.gov.uk) provide access to English-speaking countries, eliminating the need for translation costs. The products may be suitable protection for olive, orange, apple, or other fruit trees against attack from certain types of bug. Thus networks which support growers of such organic produce can be sources of information, direct trade contacts and provide possible contacts for developing sales strategies.

Thirdly, Adrianne needs to consider BioCycle's future. Business relationships impact on reputation and business growth and thus should be carefully crafted and made legally binding.

Beyond the sales strategies there is a need to look at the development of the company: will it be through a new product, the development or takeover by a global organisation capable to taking existing products to the global market place?

Whatever the ambition, it is necessary to consider the company's future and that of the stakeholders in it.

Finally, Adrianne needs to be sure of the best management development and may consider opportunities such as the MSc Entrepreneurship (Female Entrepreneurs) at the University of Glamorgan, a course which enables, through sustained academic and practitioner support, budding entrepreneurs to develop personal, professional and business skills. www.glam.ac.uk: Richard Lane:Senior associate Hugh James Solicitors Adrianne obviously knows her industry well and has developed a product to target a known environmental issue within it. As is identified in the challenges, protecting the intellectual property rights is key to the success of BioTube. I note that a patent has been applied for on the basics of the idea. It is essential that any patent application is wide enough to protect the BioTube. A very narrow patent application could leave the BioTube open to being copied by competitors, through applying only minor changes to the product itself and thus avoid infringement.

The patent should also be applied for in those countries where it is anticipated that BioTube will be exported.

This is in order to protect BioTube as a unique product in these countries and not just in the UK.

This process can be started in advance of export and with orders already being taken for BioTube, this would seem a sensible precaution.

The same goes for protecting the trademark BioTube in those countries where it is anticipated BioCycle will export to.

Another challenge identified is planning an exit strategy. It is essential at this stage for BioCycle to ensure the ownership of the intellectual property is clearly defined. Does ownership reside with Adrianne and licensed to BioCycle, or reside with BioCycle.

Any potential purchaser or investor of the company will want sureties that the intellectual property is owned by BioCycle or that it has the exclusive ability to exploit the intellectual property.

On a final note, the potential market place for the BioTube has been identified as substantial. BioCycle will need to determine how best to service such markets.

They could follow the traditional manufacture and export route, however, it may be preferable to license the manufacture, taking a royalty for sales of the product.

This has many advantages including lower costs of supply, reduced cost to market (the licensed manufacture will take on these costs), better knowledge of the regional marketplace.

The only disadvantage would be the increased administrative burden in managing those licenses and ensuring the licensed manufacturers are complying with quality standards. www.click2law.com.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 18, 2006
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