Category Archives: Datesand Spotlight

Young innovators in 2018

The UTC project – getting youngsters up to speed and on board with animal research and technology

The story so far….

Tony Davidge unit manager at CRUK Cambridge began the project in 2015. The aim was to invest time and effort into working with 16-17 year old students from the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology to give them a greater understanding of animal research and technology. Tony arranged talks, facility tours to places like Babraham, Genome Campus and CRUK Cambridge working alongside the college staff throughout the project. He first approached Datesand in 2016 after seeing the official Janet Wood Innovation Award competition for industry technicians to discuss potentially incorporating a junior version into the UTC project. We couldn’t have been more impressed and we are absolutely delighted to be involved again this year.

How it works

innovatorsThe JWIA Kids Challenge Project forms a key element of the wider UTC project. It puts the students in business-like scenarios helping them to understand product development, team management, strategic sales pitches and what it takes to make a good product for the market you are working with… cost, availability, efficiency etc. The competition sees students pitch their enrichment product ideas to fellow students and members of staff, with a winner and ‘wild card’ from each group. The winners then present to a group of Dragons in a Dragons’ Den scenario. The panel of Dragons is made up of colleagues from the industry, from unit managers to technicians and even sales representative with myself acting as Chief Dragon.  As reported last time, year 10 students Meriel, Ethan and Kirill came  first, second and third respectively presenting three outstanding ideas for animal enrichment. First prize was a band new iPad.

The 2018 Challenge

I gave 2018’s UTC JWIA competition introduction to 30 of the Academy’s students on Thursday 22nd. I presented our winning JWIA products as great examples of the kind of practical ideas we’re looking for and set up a mini exhibition of our main bedding, nesting and enrichment ranges to provide further inspiration.

The competition differs somewhat from last year. Instead of individual designs, this year the students are split into groups. They’re then assigned roles within that group simulating a real Dragons’ Den scenario. They take on the jobs of sales/presenter, product design/research, team manager and marketing. At the end of the competition the students will again have to present their product idea to a board of “Dragons” who will make that all-important final choice. 

The students were responsive and inquisitive on the night asking a number of questions throughout the presentation and afterwards. My next presentation will be in December where I will be talking to the participants in more detail about the business side of the competition and my expectations of them as individuals and as a team. I will also be reviewing the designs they have come up with so far to give advice wherever possible. 

BioTechnische Dagen Report

dagen-2Not long after recovering from the USA jetlag, I was off again…this time on a much shorter journey to the Netherlands to support our Distributors over there; BioServices.

The Dutch conference, much like the UK ones, is run over 3 days and I attended for 2 of those.  The BioServices stand was, once again, massive – spanning an impressive 18m in length.  It was manned by Tony, Sandra and Kees from BioServices and supported by Peter from Zoonlab, Gordon from Bell Isolation Systems and myself.  The BioServices team had arranged for me to deliver 3, 15 minute mini workshops over the 2 days I was there; showcasing the JWIA products to groups of 5-10 delegates at a time.  This went down really well and got a lot of interest.  Another great opportunity to show some brand new enrichment!

BioServices enthusiastically promote the Datesand products on their booth and have a large display shelving unit of our items.  Kees has some great ideas on how to make these more prominent in future which is fantastic.  

The gala dinner was a typically Dutch affair with plenty of beer, wine an enthusiastic disco!

It was great to be there to support our distributors at their national congress once again.

LASA 2018

lasa-1This year’s LASA meeting in Birmingham seemed somehow bigger and better than ever as did the brand new Datesand stand. Once the team had completed the set-up, Datesand was suited and booted and ready for the first session. The first afternoon was steady as always and the all-important trade reception on Tuesday evening went really well.

At various times during the exhibition days and evening sessions Nicky, Nilgun, Jonathon and I were busily engaged in great conversations with friends from the industry, old and new. Lasa is always a wonderful opportunity to catch up with people we haven’t seen for a while, hear from them about their lives, as well as their work of course and let them know about new developments at Datesand. The days flew by as always but the meeting was really informative and we thoroughly enjoyed the great conversations and the company.

Our new stand, full as it was of exclusive products, samples, literature and Datesand representatives of course, proved to be an attractive hub for fellow attendees. This year we were joined for by Theo Feldmann thelasa-2 Managing Director of our German Distributor Zoonlab. For Theo, relatively new to the industry, it was an ideal introduction to our UK scene and a really good opportunity for him to meet with UK industry professionals as well as other suppliers.

The Janet Wood Innovation Awards products were most certainly the stars of the show on our stand. These great examples of good, practical enrichment ideas put forward by industry professionals and turned into highly saleable products really caught the eye. They sparked interest and conversation as well as orders and requests for samples and no doubt will have inspired others to come forward with their own innovative ideas for this year’s ongoing global competition

The trade stands were particularly impressive this year. The commercial exhibition seemed literally to have taken over the conference centre looking bigger, brighter and more professional than ever. This seemed to us an excellent showcase for just how far we have come as an industry. lasa-3

As the second day came to a close, people hurried to get ready for the gala dinner night! Upon entry to the dining area we were greeted with a glass of prosecco. The Datesand table was hosted by Nicky, Jonathon and I and we were joined by colleagues from Imperial College London, Liverpool University, Manchester University and Oxford University. It was a fantastic group of people who together made the night even better and at one point had Nicky crying with laughter!

After dinner the award ceremony took place recognising individuals’ accomplishments and their positive impact on the industry. With the awards over, the band appeared and set about raising everyone’s spirits even further. Nicky and I put our dancing shoes to good use as usual whilst Jonathon watched in despair from a distance. The night sadly came to a close and we slowly moved from the bar to our rooms, ready and raring to go for an early rise and the comings and goings of the final day.


AALAS – Baltimore 2018

aalas-1This year’s AALAS meeting was the most successful yet for Datesand and took place in Baltimore back in October.  Jonathon and I headed out with a jam packed schedule for the week.  After a long flight from Manchester and a lengthy layover at JFK (which included some VERY hot Hot Wings!) we landed into a cold and rainy Baltimore.

Saturday was spent setting up the booth and hitting the local CVS for bits we had forgotten. We then met with Andrea for dinner and to discuss our exciting progress with potential US Distribution partners. Sunday started with aaalas-2 new venture for Datesand – a distributor and key customer brunch meeting.  This gave us an opportunity ahead of the meeting to discuss the key products in more detail and deliver some training on the new JWIA products.  With around 15-20 attendees over the 2 hour session which included distributors and their invited key customers, he session was a great success.  It was then straight on to prepare for my Technical Trade Presentation that afternoon.

There are 2 streams of Technical Trade Presentations on the Sunday afternoon at AALAS which allow exhibitors the opportunity to present to the delegates.  It can’t be a direct sales pitch but should be about the technical nature or development of products or services.  Years ago I had done one on the welfare enhancements on the Mini Thermacage and this year we submitted to present on the Janet Wood Award.  With aalas-3over 100 people in attendance, my 15 minutes of fame on the stage was really well received and 2 people even rated me as their “favourite presenter of the week”!  Preben from Scanbur reliably informed me that I used the word “amazing” 7 times so I need to take a look at a thesaurus for future presentations!  Straight after the presentation it was off to meet with one of the new US Distributors and then into a working dinner with Angie, our new contact at the Andersons.

On Monday, the trade exhibition opened and over the next 2 ½ days, the nearly 5000 registered delegates made their way around the trade hall to see the 400+ exhibition stands.   This was by far our most successful show in terms of people visiting the stand and being really excited by the products.  In fact we returned with over 300 leads and orders from 3 of our newly appointed distribution partners!

The formalities rounded off with the International Luncheon on the Wednesday where Allan Thornhill was deservedly awarded with the AAALAC Fellowship which is co-sponsored by Datesand and Priority One Services.

aalas-4Wednesday evening saw the, now traditional, Brit’s Night take place at a local (but pretty dubious) Irish Bar.  The numbers of UK trade and delegates was very low this year, probably due to a combination of location and funding available but we had a very entertaining evening nonetheless…Alan Graham and Jonathon got pretty competitive playing pool with some locals and their oponent’s jacket really didn’t need to be scratch and sniff!

Thursday saw the long journey home start and we arrived back to the UK early on Friday morning full of enthusiasm and excitement for the opportunities ahead.


City of Salford 10k-

Datesand determination wins the day

10k-run-1It was an incredibly cold morning as the Datesand squad prepared themselves physically and certainly mentally for the race start. The conditions weren’t at all what you’d expect from a balmy Salford morning but this just served to make our chums even more determined.

Shivering alongside the Datesand hopefuls were lots of family and friends from work and elsewhere. Special mention has to go to Keeley, Linsey and Jonathon who showed almost as much steely determination as the runners themselves (although they at least could nip into the café to escape from the icy conditions when required!)

A number of the Datesand crew hadn’t done much running, if any at all before this. Some experienced a few health challenges on the way round but despite this, everyone persevered and all our colleagues finished the race. Even better than that, everyone finished in under an hour and a half. Quite simply a fantastic achievement especially for those new to distance running.

It was really noticeable on the run that each person was overcoming his or her own obstacles and everyone was so determined. It made for a really heartfelt and emotional event for the runners themselves and also for the supporters cheering them on. There was also a genuinely great team spirit which reflected the way we are I think in day to day life.


The route took us past some great Salford “landmarks” i.e. Coronation Street studios, The Imperial War Museum (where they now have the poppies from the Tower of London), the Lowry and many more

The local wits were out and about as they always are on such occasions. Just as many of us were hitting the notorious 3km mark, one ‘supporter’ in the crowd was heard to shout “ Don’t worry guys only 7km left to go……”. How very droll!

Rick, our warehouse supervisor was so fast darting in and out of the crowd. Claire mentioned he was like a Gazelle, so I think we should now call him Rick “ The Gazelle” Gordon. Not sure whether he’ll be
that keen but let’s go for it.

There was a couple running in front of Helen, our esteemed Customer Support Manager and me. Her t shirt said “ I thought you said rum!” and his t shirt said “ Pain is momentary, pride is forever!”. Both Helen and I thought this was brilliant and summed things up rather perfectly.