University spin-out gets a crash course in branding

As an associate professor at Cranfield, Cousins is a first-rate academic. But when it came to building a brand, he was the dunce of the class.

His firm, Axon Automotive, manufactures carbon fibre, eco-friendly cars. It’s a growing niche, but without a catchy logo and a kick-ass website, it would have been nearly impossible to showcase the concept.

“Designing Demand arranged some days of in-depth discussions with similar companies about how to design businesses,” says Cousins. “That was followed up with mentoring and detailed programme of work for each company over a year. Each company had a particular task.

“Ours was to spin out! At least, we had to work out how me could monetise our technology. The scheme gave us the confidence to actually do it. And ask for significantly more investment than we would have otherwise.”

Axon was subsequently awarded a £500,000 grant, equal to half the investment needed to develop a prototype vehicle. The company later snapped up a £1.4m project to design a carbon fibre chassis.

The Design Council also recommended a couple of consultants to help with the design. These experts weren’t free. “The cost was significant, but not crippling,” says Cousins. “A four figure sum.”

But the investment was money well spent. Prototype built, Cousins is back on the investment trail, wielding his newly-designed logo and website. “We’re in the process of raising another £2.7m,” he says. “Any offers?”

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