Gloucester businessman, Simon Rothwell, was invited to Buckingham Palace after his firm received a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation.
Mr Rothwell, managing director of Roftek Ltd (trading as Flexmort), chatted with the Queen and other members of the royal family during a champagne reception.
At the reception for winners of Britain’s most coveted commercial prize, he also spoke to Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Princess Eugenie and the Duke of Gloucester.
Mr Rothwell, whose company designs and manufactures innovative mobile mortuary cooling systems and accessories used across the world, attended the event with his wife Michelle.
He said: “It was just superb. The Queen gave a bit of a smile when she described my business as ‘very different.’
“Prince Philip also had a great sense of humour. My line of business is always a bit difficult to explain to people, especially at parties. When I was chatting to Princess Anne, Prince Philip came past and told her ‘he’s the one who deals with dead people’ and they both had a laugh.
“My wife and I had a fantastic day. It was very relaxed, with canapes and lots of champagne.”
Flexmort also supplies temporary mortuary facilities for use by governments when dealing with mass fatalities.
The Queen’s Award recognises commercial success as a result of innovation. Since the business was established in 2010 turnover has doubled year-on-year.
Mr Rothwell lives in Warwick and is a former Warwick Business School graduate. He received a Law degree and an MBA with distinction from Warwick University. In 2013 his company won the University’s Big Ideas Award for innovation. Flexmort’s main offices are based in Gloucester and its products are widely used by the funeral industry and the NHS.
One of the company’s most successful products was developed due to Mr Rothwell’s experience as a former police officer. He witnessed the trauma suffered by bereaved parents having to see their child in the clinical setting of a mortuary.
His company came up with the CuddleCot, a gentler and more dignified solution. It is now used on maternity wards and has been featured in national newspapers, on radio, and even on EastEnders during a storyline about a stillbirth.
A cooling pad is placed in a crib, allowing a baby to be kept in a room with the parents for longer, rather than having to be moved to a mortuary. Midwives and other experts say giving a family this time is crucial because it enables them to form a bond. This helps them come to terms with the death of their baby, for example by taking photographs, dressing the infant, or simply staying close.
Another recent innovation is DNA Memorial, which allows families of the deceased to preserve the DNA of their loved one through funeral homes. This has significant medical uses and is already helping families due to the increasing use of familial DNA in modern medicine.