Portable Jumpack ramp could leap onto shop shelves after award win
A Northern Ireland-designed foldable and portable ramp for extreme sport enthusiasts could hit major retailers' shelves as soon as next summer.
Jumpack was named the overall winner at this year's INVENT Awards at the Waterfront Hall last Thursday night.
The product, designed by Downpatrick man Philip McIntosh - a former Northern Ireland BMX champion and all-Ireland Downhill MTB Master Champion - has already grabbed the attention of camera technology giant GoPro.
And Mr McIntosh says his company also has agreements in place with industry giants Decathalon, Argos, Podium for Sport and Chain Reaction Cycles, which are all to stock the product on a trial basis.
But first the business needs to raise £250,000 to manufacture its first batch of portable ramps.
Mr McIntosh said he hopes to have the funding in place by Christmas.
"We've been approached by a lot of companies and have been offered the money in the past, but we need someone with the right skills - with experience with a global brand."
The Northern Ireland start-up, which is now on its sixth prototype, has even caught the attention of GoPro, which sees potential to strap its cameras on to the ramp so that budding daredevils can capture their gravity-defying feats.
The concept has been in development for almost 10 years and is now patented in Europe and the USA.
Phil came up with the idea in 2005 while he was on holiday with his family.
He had watched three young BMX riders struggle to move a sheet of ply board and a collection of concrete blocks a few hundred yards from a garden to a nearby park.
He recalled doing the same thing himself more than two decades earlier, and got to thinking about how to create a portable ramp.
Jumpack's foldable ramp is designed to be strapped on to the rider's back like a rucksack while they cycle between locations, and will be priced at £129.95.
Mr McIntosh and his business partner Mike Crowe wowed the crowd with their live demonstration of the ramp in front of the 600 guests at the Waterfront Hall during the INVENT final.
Engineering category rival EmBed - a foldable cardboard bed designed to store medical and sanitary supplies and food in an emergency situation - won best elevator pitch, but Jumpack came away with the £13,000 grand prize.
The win marked the first time in the INVENT Awards' 10 years that the judges had come to a unanimous decision on the overall winner.
Mr McIntosh said: "We were too busy texting our friends and family, telling them we had won the Engineering category, that we just heard the name Jumpack for overall winner and didn't hear what it was - it took a moment or two for us to realise that we had won - we really weren't expecting it.
"We were hoping just to win the category. It never even occurred to us that we might win overall."
But he says that the going hasn't all been easy. "Some of the problems we came up against were the kind that if we didn't solve them, it would have been a dead end.
"We knew we wanted it to be portable, so to work out what the target weight should be, we weighed a 12-year-old child's school bag with books inside and it came to 6kg.
"But if you have a rider weighing 12 stone hitting the ramp at 30mph, that's a lot of kinetic energy and the impact will cause the ramp to move. Essentially, we needed to make it light but heavy at the same time.
"It was a huge problem, because the product would have been dangerous if it wasn't solved. To get around it I designed two dash struts underneath to absorb the energy."
Mr McIntosh, who is a trained engineer, said his lateral way of thinking has allowed him to solve many of the product's challenges.
As a result, the product has 93 moving parts, including a hinge system which has been designed specifically for the product.