Lawton founded Regenatec at the end of 2003, having been made redundant for the second time. “I’d lost two jobs in a row through no fault of my own. It was all getting a bit tedious,” he jokes. “I thought, ‘How hard can it be to set up my own company?’ So here I am three-and-a-half years later finding out how bloody hard it is!” Lawton’s first job after university was with a Newbury-based satellite design company called Space Innovations. He walked into work one Friday morning only to be confronted by the police and told that the company accounts had been frozen. The directors had been charged with fraud. “The police asked me if I’d mind answering some questions before I was made redundant. It was a bit of a shock!” He then joined Bookham Technology, based on Oxford’s Milton Park and one of Europe’s dot-com darlings. “The firm had an unlimited recruitment budget, so I worked with some of the brightest guys in the country.” But it didn’t last long. The company spectacularly imploded in 2003, making 2,000 people redundant – including Lawton. Eager to turn around his fortunes, he gathered together some of his old colleagues and launched Regenatec in 2003. The company has since ploughed more than £750,000 into researching biofuel conversion systems for commercial diesel engines. And it’s about to bring its technology to market. Will Lawton scoop the Young Company of the Year award? Find out on 28 November.
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