The shape of success

October 12, 2001

Loughborough University's only student spin-off company has signed a global licensing deal with an American brewer, writes Tim Greenhalgh.

Ellula Sounds has produced what is believed to be the world's only inflatable speaker system. The product was designed by Joe Stephens, an industrial design and technology graduate. Mr Stephens is now creative director of Ellula, only a year after graduating.

Ellula has agreed a global licence to go into partnership with Budweiser to use the system to promote the brand worldwide.

"We aim to offer the best combination of design and quality sound reproduction," Mr Stephens said.

Mr Stephens conceived the original design at Loughborough but his student project was kept under wraps during a degree show last year, and protected by confidentiality guidelines.

The project was awarded the Loughborough Advanced Technology Initiative/Loughborough University Innovations Ltd prize for innovation.

One of the judges was Andrew Garner from the Loughborough-based venture capital house Maxim Corporate, which is backing Ellula. Mr Garner is now also the new company's chief executive.

He said: "We see many investment opportunities during the course of business, but in Joe's project we saw extraordinary talent."

Ellula became a registered company six months ago. It has an exclusive licence and patent with NXT, creators of the flat-panel speaker technology.

The system can recreate any shape - a drink can or bottle, chocolate bar, car or a football shirt, for example - either in solid colour or in transparent plastic. The speakers produce multi-directional stereo sound.

Fresh from being awarded the prize of best innovative product at the National Incentive Show in September, Ellula has received widespread interest from national and international companies for bespoke promotional designs.

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