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Northern Powerhouse European Union
Innovation

New frontiers for Bolton-based business consultancy

Bolton-headquartered Thornton & Lowe has doubled its workforce and seen its client base grow following support from the Hub. 


Established in 2009 by managing director David Thornton, Thornton & Lowe helps businesses grow through formal procurement opportunities and helping clients win tenders. As a result, the business provides its clients with relevant opportunities and associated support services, such as consultancy, bid writing, training and recruitment.  

In this sector, (bids, tenders, proposals and procurement) public sector tenders are advertised and managed through a variety of different online portals; some a lot easier to use than others.  

In the past, the business always relied on clients finding tenders and bringing them forward and asking how the business can best help them respond to it. They were continually asked to quote on tenders which clients needed help with but with hardly any time left to respond. This is because clients found it too late or especially within the SME market, they simply did not know how to manage the process.  

The business saw an opportunity and wanted to get ahead of this to give clients the time required to write a persuasive and winning tender submission.  

Software as a Service (SaaS) driving growth

Following an initial meeting with Innovation AdvisorPaul Halliday, and conduction of an Innovation Canvas Diagnostic an action plan was developed to help support the development of a new AI-enabled solution known as Tender Pipeline. This would allow any business or those interested in business to easily find tender opportunities at an earlier stageproviding additional time to plan and prepare bids far more efficiently and effectively. 

David wanted the solution to be at its core as accessible as possible and therefore the main functionality of the software was designed to be free of charge. With more than 1,000 active users in its early stages, the business realised some clients wanted additional support not only in bid writing or business winning but in the administration required to access the documents beyond the advert. This led to the company’s first chargeable premium service: Search & Selection. 

Working with Paul and the Innovation team, David was able to also secure over £160k of European Funding in 2020, to further develop the Tender Pipeline software in partnership with the University of Manchester. 

This included the firm taking on a qualified computer scientist as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) associate who was guided by an academic from the University of Manchester and Thornton & Lowe's third-party developers. 

The project looked into developing the Pipeline’s search function into a smart tender scan and support product using state of the art information retrieval techniques.

These were enhanced by recent advances in natural language processing and machine learning, incorporating information summarisation and visualisation to improve functionality and usability.  

Speaking about the support provided, David said: “Paul helped us to clarify our thinking, develop our strategy and successfully launch the product into the marketplace generating significant increase in new business coming in and helping us onboard 14 new colleagues.”  

Find out more about how the Innovation team supported Thornton and Lowe to develop and launch Tender Pipeline 

In Conversation with Thornton and Lowe

Hub serving as a one-stop shop for all business needs

Thornton and Lowe have worked with the Hub for the past five years on a range of projects and initiatives from innovation and strategy sessions to reassess their service offer and position in the market, through to training and leadership development for their growing team. 

More recently they engaged with the Hub’s Account Management service which oversees the relationship between the business and the different teams within the Hub acting as a single point of contact helping them to navigate through the wide range of support available to add value to their growth journey.   

David said: “Having access to an account manager saves the business time and provides assurance that you have someone working to find the best and most relevant services to support you”. 

Through its relationship with Hub Account Manager Jonathan Crabtree, the business has moved far beyond consultancy and become a rapidly growing multi-faceted operation. 

Jonathan said: "David certainly has a plan and a vision for Thornton & Lowe and he clearly has the customer and their journey at the centre of his thinking”. 

He added: “The company's move to develop more software that can be used by the industry will open opportunities for the company as a whole. It's something that David has always shown and as we've worked on various projects over the years. He's been able to make the most of the opportunities available. Being able to work positively and grow consistently through the pandemic is testament to his ambition and drive." 

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