Eco fuel signals growth for Midlands business after Minister’s visit


Former Nottingham executive Ian Brown believes a visit by junior Minister Robert Jenrick MP to his company’s Newark showroom and demonstration unit could open up new markets for his expanding company, International Woodworking Machines Ltd.

Mr Brown, 62, was MD of Bulwell-based SCM Group UK Ltd until he set up his own business 10 years ago and has spent a lifetime in the woodworking industry. After opening the Newark showroom last year, he is looking to new markets such as farming and manufacturing to fuel expansion at his own company

IWM sells Woodworking Machines used by manufacturers of wooden windows, doors and timber-frame panels to new build houses, but Mr Brown was particularly keen to get the Newark and Bingham MP’s reaction to a machine that turns waste wood shavings, sawdust and even farm waste into briquettes that supply clean, renewable fuel.

“The government’s New Clean Air Strategy means that owners of wood-burning stoves can’t use wood with a moisture content of more than 20%, because burning wet wood increases the polluting emissions.

“We import machines that convert wood waste and other waste material into renewable energy, producing briquettes that are carbon-neutral and dry, and burn three times hotter than coal.”

More unusual fuel sources include finely chopped straw, hay, part-dried grass cuttings  (“It’s got to be less than 15% moisture”) and even waste from making toilet rolls: “We’ve been approached by a large manufacturer of toilet rolls , because making them produces a dust that goes to landfill. They wanted us to see if we could use the dust to make briquettes, and the test was successful,” said Mr Brown, who lives in Farndon.

Mr Jenrick is MP for Newark and Bingham and is the youngest Minister in Theresa May’s government. He is currently Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and was previously Parliamentary Private Secretary to Home Secretary Amber Rudd and also to Michael Gove as both Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary.

Mr Brown set up the visit to help the company form a strategy to open up new markets. Early signs are that Mr Jenrick’s contacts could have a big impact on the company’s continued growth.

“He was very enthusiastic and very impressed, said Mr Brown. “He said he would help us to get in touch with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, because they make furniture in prisons, and he would help us talk to Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to see if we can get some of the briquettes tested for emissions, so we will see what develops.

“A lot of our clients have a wood waste problem because it costs money to send the waste to landfill. With these machines, they can use the fuel to heat their factory or they can sell the fuel to customers with wood-burning stoves, turning what was a cost into a revenue stream. We’re all trying to save the planet, and this process converts waste into renewable energy.”

After the visit, Mr Jenrick said: “It was a pleasure to meet the owners and staff of IWM and to see in action machines which turn off-products from the joinery and farming sectors, just to name a couple, into briquettes.  With the increased awareness of air quality, these machines allow businesses, farmers and members of the public to recycle waste otherwise destined for landfill and turn it into carbon-neutral fuel. It’s great to see another Newark business prospering.”

IWM, which also has branches in Bicester and Leeds, currently employs around 20 people. “We’ve sold nearly 300 of the briquette machines in the UK already and we are getting more enquiries every day,” said Mr Brown.

“Brexit has not affected us – our customers are in the UK and the whole woodworking industry including the house-building industry is busy, so that’s good news for us.”

The briquette machines range from £6,000 to £15,000 and over. The company also sells more conventional woodworking machinery including, crosscuts, band saws and lathes.

Mr Brown has held senior positions with major woodworking machinery manufacturers from Italy and Germany as well spending several years working in Singapore for Wadkin, at one time the world’s biggest manufacturer of woodworking machines, rising from apprentice to become MD of their Singapore operation.

The MP’s visit also revealed an unexpected link with the woodworking industry. “His family is in woodworking,“ said Mr Brown. “His father runs Charlton and Jenrick, now based in the North East, which makes fireplace surrounds, so we had a common denominator there.”

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