The Old Vinyl Factory

Originally built in 1904 by the then named Gramophone Company, making…..gramophones, The Old Vinyl Factory became the home of HMV and, latterly, EMI — the world’s largest producer and exporter of vinyl records, manufacturing and pressing records for the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. During the period 1927–29 the company invested in developing research laboratories (the original Central Research Laboratory) on another of their sites, where the invention and production of stereo sound and airborne radar happened. It was one of the world’s most innovative manufacturing companies of the past 100 years; they turned television into a commercial product and developed the CAT scanner.

“Their brief was simple: to invent products that could be commercialised and would revolutionise markets.”

During the First and Second world wars the factories were used to manufacture aircraft, munition and domestic radio receivers before being bombed itself in 1944, killing 37 employees of the 7,500 that worked on the site at the time.

The Old Vinyl Factory’s production peaked in the 1960’s when approximately 20,000 people worked on the sites across Hayes, which was, at the time, a thriving industrial town.

In the 70’s the production of vinyl was moved to another site in Hayes and production turned primarily to defence electronics.

Redeveloping the CRL

After many years the 17 acre site on Blyth Road slowly deteriorated until being purchased by the Cathedral Group (now U+I) in 2011 who after investigating its rich history, resurrected the name of the site to be The Old Vinyl Factory, after a brief stint as London Gate Business Park, and the buildings were named after their former functions. With this amazing history in mind, U+I needed to not just aim for a vibrant, mixed use community that people would want to live and work in, but also create a much needed place where creativity, design and manufacturing innovation could thrive again.

That moment of inspiration was what spawned the CRL incubator programme.

The CRL in 2016

Along with the support of Brunel University London and HEFCE the Central Research Laboratory was reborn. The inspirational history of the site and the expertise from the partners, along with the visionary of Daniel Charny, at From Now On and one of the Fixperts and Makerlibrary co-founders, the workspace, workshops and the incubator programme was created. You can hear more from him on the original proposition here.

Now halfway through our pilot year, the CRL is looking forward to expansion and the commencement of the second cohort in September 2016. Our current startups are progressing with speed; they have designed and created working prototypes on site and are now preparing for further funding, ready to continue to grow and expand once they complete the incubator programme.

Perhaps some of the products created here might just go out and once again change the world!

CRL Today

Last week we held a “Back to the Future” event where 7 former employees of the original CRL came to visit and share some stories of their time here. Supporting the startups with their technical and engineering knowledge and business advice and experience.

“ There are an infinite number of good ideas, only some of which make money”

We were inspired and extremely intrigued by the stories of the projects they worked on, but we don’t want to spoil them for you now.

Have a look at some of the history of EMI in their gallery.

01/03/2016 written by MEGAN BATES