Innovation rains supreme as entrepreneur reinvents the umbrella

May 10, 2013

An entrepreneur whose Eureka moment came at last year's wet and windy Grand National has reinvented the umbrella with the help of WMG at the University of Warwick.

The Rainshader protects people from the elements while watching major sporting events - crucially it doesn't blow inside out, poke passers-by in the eye or drip on neighbours' shoulders in crowds.

Its cut-away front, based on the design of a motor , lets people see the action while allowing the umbrella to sit low over the head so it doesn't block the view of those behind.

It is specifically designed for major sporting events and other big televised gatherings, and is fully customisable in order to offer firms a significant branding opportunity.

Kenilworth entrepreneur Stephen Collier, owner of Hospitality Umbrellas, got the idea for the Rainshader while attending the Grand National 2012.

He said: "It was pouring with rain, the wind was howling and I was struggling with my umbrella. I thought there had to be a better way.

"Traditional umbrellas have a lot of drawbacks in busy environments as they can blow inside out and make it difficult to navigate through crowds.

"The basic design of the umbrella hasn't changed for centuries, so the time is ripe for to make it more suitable to modern settings."

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Mr Collier approached WMG's SME team at the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI) to access expertise in new product development, particularly in the areas of user-centred design and .

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the University of Warwick, the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI) is a dedicated facility to help West Midlands SMEs access world-leading technology and expertise to develop and services.

Christopher Brown, WMG Specialist, said: "We are very proud to support this initiative and privileged to work with Stephen's company Hospitality Umbrellas Ltd – a company that has had the courage and conviction to get this product to market. Our support ranged from addressing design challenges through to help with protecting IP and developing the manufacturing output."

Dr Xiao Ma, WMG Technology Transfer Specialist, added: "With the Rainshader we applied new and smarter approaches to develop the product, for example allowing for the mass customisation of the umbrella for various customer branding requirements and using additive manufacturing (3D printing) for prototyping purposes."

Mr Collier added: "With the help of WMG, we designed a new product which we believe will soon become a fixture at all major sporting events.

"By producing such a distinctive design we have opened up exciting possibilities for branding and we believe this product offers more viewable advertising space than any other umbrellas on the market, which has become very attractive to corporate advertisers."

The Rainshader consists of a fibre glass frame, an aluminium shaft and a rubber handle. It has been tested up to Gale Force 7 without blowing inside out.

It retails at £24.99 and is available at www.rainshader.com and at selected sporting and track events throughout 2013-14.

The WMG SME Team is running a new product development discovery day on 16 May for West Midlands SMEs with MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service).

It will help SMEs explore a range of technologies and processes that will increase a product's chance of success.

Explore further: Researchers increase the switching contrast of an all-optical flip-flop

More information: To register visit: newproductdevelopmentdiscovery.eventbrite.com/

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User comments : 13

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Milou
1 / 5 (2) May 10, 2013
About time. Thank you Mr. Stephen Collier. I can't believe it took this long.
PJS
1 / 5 (2) May 10, 2013
yeah, thanks for making umbrellas a better vehicle for advertisements and branding. you're a real visionary..
betterexists
1.8 / 5 (4) May 10, 2013
1) MAKE IT 100% SEE THROUGH
2)Also, Stick it through a Transparent Rain Coat.

Rain Coats get Life too, this way.

1000% help to the USER!
chaps
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2013
Interesting concept. But to say that the basic design hasn't "change for centuries" is being pathetically hypocritical. Why not check out the Senz Umbrella before making such a claim? While you are at it, do a you-tube search for "Ariel Atom and the senz storm umbrella". People have no shame just to make a quick $...
betterexists
1.5 / 5 (4) May 10, 2013
I mean Full Length Rain Coat Around Umbrella....Not other way around!

No need to tie buttons in front.....except during Breezy conditions.

Designed correctly......When there is will...there is a way.

I do not mean making the front of the Rain coat ugly..looking.

Just make good use of the Dome shape of the Umbrella!
VendicarE
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2013
Lets see him turn the umbrella the other way in that wind tunell
Neinsense99
2.1 / 5 (7) May 11, 2013
Success met with criticism. So much easier than getting in the game yourself.
betterexists
1 / 5 (2) May 11, 2013
Of Paramount Importance are:1) Low Cost 2)Comfort and 3) Safety 4)Being Fast. Above suggested Integration of Raincoat & Umbrella go against these 3.There are so many Video Clips of Robots doing various amazing feats.So, in this day & age of Robots, Integration should not be an issue at all.When there is will, then there is a way. Putting arms through the sleeves of Raincoat defeats the issue of Comfort. So, some open stiff sleeves to press the arms gently in should help.Then the location of umbrella while not holding it becomes an issue.It can be made to hang on the back like a backpack....but if need to sit for long periods....it will come in the way.The umbrella may be brought to the sides of preferred arm. If it is heavy....no good. At the same time, it may interfere with activities like Driving car.This may be dealt with too....by pulling it away from the body....using some modern, synthetic material with reversible elastic properties and laying it on the side seat.What all I mean is.....in this day & age of Robots.....it can be vastly improved. Fast, No Drenching feature should SELL.
antigoracle
2 / 5 (4) May 11, 2013
A better mouse trap, this ain't.
Since when does the wind blow directly down on you?
As the video shows, even in the best case scenario, he has a hell of a time maintaining control.
freshwaterconch
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2013
Looks like the helmet that Rick Moranis wore in "Spaceballs".
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2013
Looks like the helmet that Rick Moranis wore in "Spaceballs".
That would be an improvement as this thing will not protect his legs and his butt will get wet.

Fail.
JRi
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2013
His left elbow is about to get seriously wet in a minute.
Silverhill
4 / 5 (1) May 12, 2013
@antigoracle
A better mouse trap, this ain't.
Since when does the wind blow directly down on you?
As the video shows, even in the best case scenario, he has a hell of a time maintaining control.
The wind doesn't blow directly down on you -- but in a stadium, which can block the wind, the *rain* can descend directly onto you. It's a rain shelter, not a wind shelter.

And, the wind-tunnel demonstration was not about maintaining control in a strong wind. It was showing that the umbrella does not evert even in a prolonged strong wind. (This was mentioned in the article.)