Demopad find Chinese partner to develop new product

UK Partner: Demopad Software

Demopad Software, based at InfoLab21, was established in 1999 and relocated its research and development activity to Lancaster University campus two years ago to further develop its leading software tools which effectively turns a tablet or mobile into a smart building controller. Demopad has sponsored several research projects at Lancaster including an award-winning collaboration with the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation and has just commenced a three-year cloud computing study.

Chinese Partner: HDL

HDL, established in 1985, is a global company that manufactures customised building automation products, and professional stage lighting equipment. HDL has offices in over 80 countries and has also invested in a state of the art customer experience centre in China to showcase the latest technologies.

The Challenge

Demopad wanted to identify and build a relationship with a key supplier in China and work with them to design and manufacture new products to purchase and distribute. They wanted a manufacturer of home automation products with strengths in product design and manufacture and requiring help with software technology.

Expertise Sought

  • Software technology
  • Project management
  • Production manufacturing/engineering

The Solution

Students are working with Demopad and their partner in China, HDL, to create a Wi-Fi Remote controller with hard buttons for Demopad’s Centro 8 hardware to operate a home’s entertainment, lighting and heating, all from one place.

The Centro 8 acts as a connecting hub for a vast array of sophisticated high-end home entertainment systems. It is also able to automatically control heating and lighting in homes, helping to reduce energy use, bills and carbon consumption.


Companies pay either £2,000, £5,000, £10,000 in staged payments over two years according to their level of commitment/nature of objectives in China, and go on either one, two, or three trips to China depending on what stages of the Lancaster China Catalyst Programme they wish to engage in. The £5.1 million Lancaster China Catalyst Programme was created by Lancaster University and is part-funded by the Higher Education Funding Council’s Catalyst Fund, the University and Lancashire County Council. Key partners in the project are the Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, UK Trade and Investment, China-Britain Business Council, and the Technology Strategy Board.


The Centro 8 could provide environmental benefits and boost UK exports, and the remote created as part of this collaboration will help that. The extension of Demopad’s research and development resources have increased their output and could potentially increase their turnover by a factor of 10.

Benefits to the company

  • Expansion of company onto a new continent
  • Development of new product
  • Potential increase in turnover by factor of 6-10 times current level

Benefits to the university

  • Fostered collaboration between UK and Chinese contacts which provide experience for students

Benefits to society

  • Four full-time jobs created
  • Environmental benefits due to reduced carbon consumption
  • Reduced energy bills

Company Feedback

“Our original objective with Catalyst was quite limited: to have a Wi-Fi remote controller sourced with our China partner. However due to the input from the Catalyst team and exploring opportunities with potential China partners we are now benefiting from more wide-ranging and larger scale cooperations.

"With HDL, for example, we have developed an App which has the potential to dramatically improve the sales of HDL products and we are looking to jointly develop many more products.

"With Joinmax we are writing software for their new hardware range which takes them into a new market and again look forward to a long-term relationship.

"The publicity around our partnership with HDL has also led to a serious enquiry from a North American company wishing to have a similar relationship with us. So our key message for anyone joining Catalyst is to have a focus on what you would like to achieve but also keep an open mind as to the many unforeseen opportunities that will develop and also the increased exposure for your business outside Catalyst.”

Mike Cain, Demopad.

Student Feedback

“The best thing about the project for me was that I learnt how the home automation industry actually works while integrating hardware’s for different platforms, for instance, iPad, smartphones, tablets etc. I also designed and implemented the user interface for iOS (iPad) using DemoPad’s own demo designer software and tested its working with the HDL’s demo case Buspro product range.”

Amish Trivedi, MSc International Innovation.

Future Plans

Demopad is based at Lancaster University and continue a collaborative relationship with the University. They have also secured Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology (GDST) funding for a project with Joinmax with a value of RMB 1 million (around £100,000).

Under the framework of Memorandum of Understanding signed by the GDST and Lancaster University, GDST provides match funding to companies or research institutes who are collaborating with the catalyst companies to jointly develop products, processes and services for the global market on the basis of new technologies.