Innovative POWIS makeover leaves Swansea company sitting pretty

Posted on 23 August 2011

Roger and Pauline Pownall with PhD Scholar Nigel Jones

How many seats have you sat on today? Consider it for a moment. In the office, in your car, on the bus, perhaps on your bike – despite the intimate comfort and support they provide, most people give little or no thought to the story behind their seat’s making. Perhaps one of the seats you sat on today was a seat designed by Cogent Passenger Seating.

Cogent, a Swansea-based company, was recently approved for a Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship (POWIS).

Founded in 1996, the company may at first glance not seem to be a classic example of a POWIS company, given that it is already very well established within its field and is one of the leading suppliers specialising in minibus and coach seating. However, a strong desire by its owners, Roger and Pauline Pownall, to successfully innovate for the future brought Cogent and its PhD scholar, Nigel Jones, together through the POWIS Programme in October of last year.

Nor is Nigel your classic example of a PhD student. He illustrates how employee experience is often a key factor when a company wants to start to think outside of the box. A mature student with a Masters degree in Rapid Product Development, Nigel brings with him a wealth of experience in different areas of research and development (R&D) and shares the same enthusiasm and motivation as Roger and Pauline to move Cogent to the forefront of the automotive seating industry.

Nigel describes POWIS as “the perfect answer to the missing link that exists between the student and industry for it has been designed to capture the experienced and innovative minds of individuals and then marry those skills to Welsh companies in order to promote commercial opportunities.”

Cogent was carefully matched with the most relevant scholar according to the company’s needs. Nigel’s experience was a deciding factor in his recruitment as this research and development project aims to bring innovation to Cogent’s current product range. This required someone with a concrete background in industry. To date, Nigel has brought computer aided design (CAD) to the company and has conducted reverse engineering on the existing product range, thus improving manufacturing efficiencies whilst applying cutting edge methodologies to the existing design. His goal is to provide Cogent with advanced products at a reduced cost which will allow the company to successfully compete in their marketplace. Over the coming years Nigel hopes to firmly embed his innovative ideas within the brand.

The business was delighted to have been approved for a Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship (POWIS) last year and Roger believes that “with the enthusiastic support of the University of Wales Global Academy, and with access to the latest technologies and equipment at Swansea Metropolitan University (SMU), Cogent can look forward to exciting new, innovative products and processes.”

Roger Pownall and his wife Pauline acquired Cogent in a management buy-out in 2005 and have nurtured and developed the company to where it stands today.

POWIS is not just about recruiting bright PhD students to undertake R&D in Welsh companies. It’s also about creating a highly skilled team around the company and the PhD student to ensure the innovation idea is brought successfully to market as quickly as possible. In the case of Cogent, this team includes Dr. Will Krawszik - a POWIS Innovation Fellow who has a background in automotive engineering having worked with TVR, and on Bloodhound (a project intending to take the land speed record above 1000mph). Academic supervision is provided by a team from SMU - Dr. Owen Williams (composites), Dr. Ian Walsh (automotive design), Chris Wyatt (finite element analysis). The project is overseen by Professor Kelvin Donne who was appointed the University of Wales’s first Research Chair in March of last year.


Notes to Editors:

The University of Wales Global Academy has specifically designed POWIS to bring the private sector together with bright graduates from around the world and academic expertise from both within Wales and around the globe.

For more information about the Residential and the Global Academy please email: or visit:

For more information on The University of Wales please visit: 

For press and media information, please contact Tom Barrett, Communications Officer, University of Wales:


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