Innovation has always been at the core for one of Gloucestershire’s largest exporters and industry leaders – Prima Dental Group Ltd.
Indeed, without its commitment to research and development, the Quedgeley based business would not be able to claim its title as the world’s largest dental bur manufacturer.
While many of us perhaps do not acknowledge how our trips to the dentist have changed – with fear often clouding our outlook – the industry has evolved quite radically in recent years. Changing technology and regulations along with different customer needs have seen a significant shift in dentistry.
So, for Prima Dental Group, a designer, engineer and producer of top-quality precision dental instruments, keeping ahead of the curve has been critical to its success.
Prima Dental Group has been committed to research and innovation (R&I) since its inception in 1927. The company is market-led and has a clear understanding of the requirements of the dental trade and the dental practitioner. As an example, the company pioneered private label for the US dental bur industry and now enjoys the major share of this segment which makes up almost 40% of the market.
The focus on R&I was brought further into light in 2016, with the creation of a dedicated innovation department and milling tool manufacturing facility, headed up by Dr Marilyn Goh. A former engineering lecturer, Marilyn joined Prima Group from multinational engineering company Sandvik to lead Prima’s new research operation and drive product innovation.
Investment in innovation continued and in 2018 Prima Dental Group unveiled its research and innovation centre, Horizon House, on its base at Waterwells Business Park. This was supported with additional finance to enable a robust testing and independent verification process to ensure optimum quality for its tools.
Today, the team continually explore new product ranges, driving the vision for success, alongside actionable change for dentists around the world.
Recognising the market opportunity for a dynamic digital division, Prima started its first design and development project for unique milling tools used for dental restorations in 2016.
After 18 months, the company launched Prima Digital with its first digital product – Zirconia milling tools – with excellent feedback from the marketplace. In May 2021, the range was extended to include a second digital product, PMMA milling tools. Following extensive and scrutinised review to verify their uniqueness and high-performance applications, both products have been awarded patents in the UK and US.
And then earlier this year a new bur (dental drill) was added to the portfolio. The first of its kind, this tool has been designed to remove the extra material created when dental prostheses, such as crowns, bridges and veneers, are nested in Zirconia discs.
Such is Prima’s focus to innovation that last year the Group was awarded a SMART grant award from Innovate UK to develop a game changing new dental product.
The 14-month project saw Prima Dental Group partner with King’s College London (KCL) to develop the technology to help reduce the risk of virus transmission. This issue has been especially highlighted as a result of Covid-19 where the danger of virus transmission in aerosols, generated during routine dental procedures such as fillings, had an enormous impact on the provision of dental care. According to the British Dental Association (BDA), there were 19 million fewer dental appointments in 2020 leading to a dramatic impact on the nation’s oral health and the economic viability of the sector.
The project is now successfully completed, and the solutions are being thoroughly tested and reviewed. KCL has been granted additional funding from the National Institute for Health and Care research (NIHR) to perform a pre-clinical study on the products developed by Prima, taking the project to the next level. Meanwhile the collaboration between Prima and KCL will continue with plenty of more innovative projects in the pipeline.
Investment in R&I continues for Prima Dental Group, with more new products and projects in the pipeline. These are set not only to help maintain the Group’s world leading position but to have a positive impact on the future of the dental industry. Prima is leaving a legacy.