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Pioneering Sydenham manufacturer visited by Lord Harris speaks of Brexit opportunities

PUBLISHED: 16:14 27 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:24 27 October 2016

Alex Henderson with Lord Harris

Alex Henderson with Lord Harris

Archant

The firm employs four pupils from Harris Academy, including managing director Alex Henderson

Lord Harris and Alex Henderson look through an old school yearbookLord Harris and Alex Henderson look through an old school yearbook

The managing director of a pioneering Sydenham manufacturing firm has spoken of his excitement at being visited by Lord Harris and the opportunities that could be opened up by Brexit.

Alex Henderson, managing director of medical equipment manufacturer MSE, is a former pupil at Harris Academy in Beckenham, and his firm employs a number of staff previously educated at the school.

This week, Lord Harris, who established the academy chain, paid a visit to the company, which has just produced the world’s first intelligent, software-based centrifuge.

Mr Henderson, 34, told the Bromley Times: “It was very inspirational really. For me, he is a fantastic guy. He puts a lot of time and effort and money into his schools; he is a very wealthy man and puts his money into a very worthy cause.

Lord Harris with the Harris Academy ex-students James McCauley, Olivia Henderson, Alex Henderson and Nev Anilkumar.Lord Harris with the Harris Academy ex-students James McCauley, Olivia Henderson, Alex Henderson and Nev Anilkumar.

“I went to his first school back in 1993, so for me to meet him finally was exciting.

“He was pleased to see a fellow family business, because he has one himself. He was pleased to see that and the work that we do with supplying the NHS hospitals, because he is involved in that.

“He was quite interested to learn about the products that we make and understand what we do.”

Mr Henderson’s father, Mark, set up Henderson Biomedical in 1987, later buying MSE from Japanese electronics multinational Sanyo.

The company employs four former pupils from the original Harris Academy among its 23-strong workforce and exports machines to 40 countries across the world.

“I think Harris is a very business-focused school,” Mr Henderson said. “That ethos has been spread out among the other schools of the Harris Federation.

“When I was there, it was run like a business rather than a traditional school. The principal was like a chairman, there to oversee the general vision of the school. In many ways it prepared me for the world of business.

“The results really speak for themselves: the number of students who get A to C passes is very high, and the number who go on to university is very high.

“Lord Harris was very keen to let us know how well Harris Academy in Crystal Palace is doing and also how well his other schools are doing.

“He does a very good job of taking schools that are failing and making them into successful schools.”

MSE’s intelligent centrifuge helps to increase the efficiency of processing blood samples, in turn helping the NHS to save money.

“The centrifuge uses technology known as programmable logic controllers. In essence, it can do very clever things – it is very flexible.

“You can do remote monitoring and diagnose faults remotely - you can connect to an ipad via an app so you can monitor it even if you are miles and miles away.

“It minimises down time - you can remotely find out what is wrong over the phone.

“The NHS is under increasing pressure to process more and more blood samples, and it is very important for centrifuges to be running all the time, so if you can diagnose faults early on you can get it sorted sooner.”

While many have forecast doom and gloom for British manufacturers following the Brexit vote, Mr Henderson is more upbeat about the country’s prospects.

“I am spearheading a manufacturing group with James Bradshaw, who tried to live on British-made goods for a year,” he said. “We are inviting other manufacturers to have a round-table discussion about the future of British manufacturing.

“We think it has been neglected for far too long. Brexit is a really unique opportunity to negotiate a good deal with the EU that would be favourable for British manufacturers.

“The NHS has never encouraged its procurement departments to buy British because the EU says we are not allowed to do that. As we come out, we don’t have to worry so much about that. If we want to support our own interests, we will.

“I think if there was more support to buy British and people in general had a buy-British approach it would be good for everyone. I would have to employ more people, and that helps to lower the unemployment rate, and the government would get more tax.

“Overseas, they view British manufacturing in a much more positive light than we do here. A lot of cars, like Honda and Toyota, are actually made in Britain, but people just don’t see it that way.”

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