The Mountain Trike: from undergraduate project to commercial product
Tim Morgan's all-terrain wheelchair, the Mountain Trike, started life as a final-year design project at Bath. It's now a thriving small business.
My studies at Bath formed the basis of the whole company, as they taught me how to design, develop and test a highly effective product.
Tim Morgan founded Mountain Trike Ltd just a year after completing his first prototype in the final-year of his MEng degree. As a new graduate, he continued to perfect his designs in the evenings whilst working his day job at Bentley Motors, before dedicating himself full time to the business in 2010. Now ten years old, the company ships worldwide and has a portfolio of three different products: the Mountain Trike, MT Push and MT Evo.
Starting his own business has been a steep learning curve for Tim: "Overall, it is a massive challenge running a small business and I have had to develop my professional skills in many different areas. I've had to seek funding to get the company off the ground, set up a supply chain for components and a production line. I've had to write and file patents, bring together a small but dedicated team, develop an international sales network and utilise digital marketing, as well as balancing all these aspects with future design development."
Making the outdoors accessible
The Mountain Trike is both innovative and stylish. Its unique direct drive steering, air suspension and hydraulic brakes allow users to traverse different terrains in comfort and safety. This has opened up many previously inaccessible areas of the countryside to those with physical impairments. It's Tim's love of the great outdoors that has been both the inspiration for and driving force behind the company's development.
"The Mountain Trike was inspired by my love of mountain biking and seeing people get injured at the downhill races I competed in. I identified a gap in the market for a practical off-road capable wheelchair and after testing my first prototype I was convinced there was potential to take the design to market.
"It is so satisfying to know that my design is helping people enjoy the countryside and experience greater freedom, independence and improved health/fitness. We get feedback from customers who have had their Trikes several years and they tell us how it has changed their lives."
The Trike is a winner of numerous innovation awards and has been featured on the BBC's Dragons' Den and Countryfile. In 2013 Tim was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal, which recognises an outstanding personal contribution to UK engineering. He's now looking forward to developing new models and growing the business further.
"I would encourage students looking to turn their final-year projects into businesses to go for it and have the confidence in their own design to make the most of its business potential. There is a lot of help and support available. I was fortunate to team up with a highly experienced Business Mentor and a Manufacturing Expert along with friends from University who were a massive help in the development of the business and taking the Mountain Trike to market.
"I would also advise students to have a broader vision of their design's potential. To look beyond the initial design and prototype to think about manufacturing considerations and patentable features so these can be protected at an early stage."