The Duke of Kent praised as “ingenious” an award-winning county company which is helping to bring some fun back into the lives of severely disabled youngsters.
The Duke spent an hour touring TomCat SNI at Gloucester Business Park, Brockworth where the company produces specially adapted trikes to enable disadvantaged children to enjoy riding safely-and gain vital exercise.
The royal visitor had asked to meet Tomcat founder Bob Griffin and his staff after the company won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation last year.
Bob started the company in 1998 because he wanted to provide the freedom of cycle riding for his son Tom who had severe learning difficulties.
He set up Tomcat in his garden shed inventing a carer control system which enable parents to control the steering, braking and speed of special trikes tailor- made for disabled youngsters.
Yesterday afternoon the Duke of Kent met company staff, doctors and charities who have worked with the company and parents and children who use the trikes.
Unveiling a commemorative plaque in a marque at the company the Duke said of the trikes: “I have never seen anything like this. It is a very ingenious design. You have also won a Queen’s Award which was a great achievement.”
Bob Griffin said: “I am very proud of all the work my staff have put into Tomcat.”
The Duke chatted with parents Darren and Melanie Moor from Malvern whose son Haydn, six, is autistic and has muscular dystrophy but gave a riding demonstration on a trike.
Darren said: “We have one on order. He absolutely loves it.”
The Mayor of Gloucester, Chris Chatterton said: “I think it is a fantastic example of how you can change people’s lives in such a marvellous way.
“He (Bob Griffin) is an engineering genius and genuinely inspirational.”
Tomcat has now become the UK’s biggest manufacturer of special needs tricycles and now exports to Norway, Russia, Greece and Italy.
To date the company has made more than 5,000 tricycles, each custom built and with lifetime support.
Earlier, the Duke of Kent made a visit to a 19th century building in Cirencester which is headquarters to a company at the cutting edge of technology.
He toured Neon Play, the mobile game design and development company, to congratulate it on its expansion and in being given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise last year – just three years after setting up.
After arriving by helicopter in Cirencester, the Duke was shown round Neon Play’s offices in the Old Museum, in Tetbury Road, by founder Oli Christie and chief technology officer Mark Allen.
The Duke said: “This is an area which has so far been largely closed to me. “It’s been extremely interesting to see game developers go about their work.
“I want to congratulate you on achieving so much in such a short time, especially winning a Queen’s Award.”
Oli said: “It was really great to have the Duke visit us. “He was amazed at how many different skills you need to have to produce a game.”