Women In Innovation Success Stories: Samantha Bunyan, Cecence, South West
As a co-founder of the pioneering composite manufacturing business Cecence, Women In Innovation Award holder Samantha Bunyan is developing next generation, sustainable interiors for the aerospace cabin of the future, aiming to reduce an aircraft’s carbon footprint even further.
The growth journey
Cecence had been established for seven years when Samantha joined Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme in March 2021. The company went from a team of four and a turnover of £221,000 in their first year to £1.5m after five years of trading. Despite Brexit and the pandemic contributing to a loss in revenue during 2019 and 2020 and a reduction in the size of their team, they were back up to 28 employees in June 2021 and their turnover for 2021 is estimated to be between £2.5m – £3m.
The development of sustainable materials and establishing routes to market were key milestones for Cecence. Samantha said: “The aerospace industry is focusing on demonstrating its sustainability as part of its recovery from the pandemic. The discoveries made on our aerospace programme enabled us to achieve milestones for several architectural and interior design products that use a similar chemistry to that developed for the aero tray table. With the aerospace sector having been significantly affected by the pandemic, exploring potential alternative markets is an important strategy in maintaining the future sustainability of the company.”
The grant has enabled Cecence to ring fence funding on the development of a natural fibre aero interiors product and build on previous work developing bio-resin solutions which can be applied to more traditional carbon and glass fibres.
Into the future
Cecence’s ambitions are to increase their customer base over the next 12 months, building on the interest in sustainable materials and sustainable air travel. “We are also focusing on the development of materials for interior commercial and domestic buildings,” Samantha said.
She continued: “Over the next five years there may be a number of more clearly defined strands to the business, building on our company’s core skill of composite problem solving, development and manufacturing.”
Expert on sustainable materials
“Giving talks to new and different audiences on the importance of sustainable materials and manufacturing processes has enabled me to grow as a speaker on a subject that I am passionate about. The award has provided a platform and visibility across multiple industry sectors that might otherwise not have come about so readily,” said Samantha.
She continued: “My personal brand is now more clearly defined and puts the blend of my creative arts background and my research into new sustainable materials at the forefront of a freshly defined professional life. The Women in Innovation award has provided a spotlight on the work we are doing in the sustainable materials space and has enabled us to more clearly define our company vision.”
Key benefits of the programme
Talking of the benefits of the programme, Samantha said: “I am now able to pull on a core team of female innovators who have shared a similar journey. I am even more keen to build on the connections I have with young people and inspire them to think out of the box. My approach has always been to be collaborative and the award has provided me with opportunities outside my usual place of work to encourage others to take a similar path and this has been very rewarding. “
And to future award winners, Samantha adds: “Being part of a cohort where other female innovators all support one another, and having access to Innovate UK EDGE’s Innovation and Growth Specialists who have been on similar journeys, has been massively helpful for all of us and provided a platform for future collaboration that I am looking forward to building on.”
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Women in Innovation
Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme was launched in 2016 to address underrepresentation of women in business innovation and to encourage more of them to apply to Innovate UK’s funding opportunities. Since its inception, the Programme has enabled brilliant women across the UK to fully achieve their vision for their businesses and change the world, while championing and celebrating gender diversity throughout UK innovation.