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Support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise means Forres Enterprise Park-based Phoenix Instinct Limited can expand and manufacture the Phoenix i wheelchair

By Garry McCartney

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Andrew Slorance CEO and founder Phoenix Instinct
Andrew Slorance CEO and founder Phoenix Instinct

A NEW smart lightweight wheelchair is being developed by a local company.

Forres Enterprise Park-based, Phoenix Instinct Limited (PIL), started up with an innovative luggage solution for wheelchair users - the company has now secured up to £79,500 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help towards the £137,000 costs of transitioning into an advanced manufacturing company.

Andrew Slorance is PIL’s founder and CEO.

He said: “Support from HIE has been outstanding from day one, when I demonstrated a wheelchair luggage prototype to my account manager. We rented a unit at the enterprise park to grow the business. Developing products is expensive and difficult for a small business to afford - support from HIE goes a long way to getting us to market with the Phoenix i and continuing to revolutionise technology for wheelchair users around the world.”

PIL will manufacture the lightweight wheelchairs made from carbon fibre. With an intelligent power assist, the Phoenix i is the first ever lightweight, hybrid wheelchair to enter the market.

Over the next three years, the company aims to become the leader in innovative products that facilitate independence for active wheelchair users.

PIL’s wheelchair luggage product was developed with HIE support for testing, development, and process design improvements based on wheelchair types and customer insights. Phoenix bags are now sold in 28 countries.

The development and sale of the luggage and related products helped to raise funds to support the company’s long-term aim to design and develop wheelchairs with increased functionality to improve independence for those with lower limb paralysis.

In 2020, Phoenix Instinct was one of five international finalists, and ultimately the winner of the three year-long Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge receiving a development grant for the smart wheelchair

Senior development manager with HIE in Moray, Scott McKnockiter, confirmed the move to full scale manufacturing in Forres is expected to create two jobs and support three existing jobs, boosting company turnover threefold, one third coming from international sales with Australian and American key markets.

“Innovation is a key driver for business growth, and that’s what this initiative is all about,” he said. “With the success of its wheelchair luggage product, the company has a great opportunity to begin full scale manufacturing of smart wheelchairs, and in doing so, creating new jobs. I’m looking forward to seeing the project develop.”

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