Sheep, trees and pioneering springs are turning a Yorkshire bed-maker into a world leader – and now they have won the company a prestigious award.

Harrison Spinks of Leeds has picked up the Yorkshire Post Innovation of the Year Award in recognition of its relentless quest to develop and innovate.

The company’s innovative mattress springs are used around the world – and are now finding a new global market in environmentally-friendly car seating.

Business development manager Richard Naylor says the company’s ingenuity sets it apart – and is driving its success.

“A lot of the bed industry could be said to be in the land of the dinosaurs as far as development is concerned – and we are determined to set ourselves apart from that,” he said.

“If you sit still in a market that’s declining, you’re going to decline with it.”

Instead, Harrison Spinks is defying convention in a largely traditional industry to deliver growth amid challenging markets. It sells £25m of beds each year – and aims to quadruple that by 2016.

“In our plans to move ahead, innovation is absolutely everything,” said Richard.

The judges in the Yorkshire Post awards agreed with the strategy, and said Harrison Spinks can “really go places”.

Rather than buying components from overseas suppliers, Yorkshire Bed-Maker owns or controls much of its supply chain, and increasingly makes or grows its components.

The firm’s innovation in springs gathered momentum 15 years ago when the Revolution ®pocket spring devised by managing director Simon Spinks proved a huge hit, and the firm made a substantial sum selling the global rights.

The company now uses computer design to develop its constantly-evolving technology, and about eight of its 300 staff work solely on innovation and new patents.

Five years ago the company developed a low-height pocket spring that can be layered within mattresses, and will be appearing in car seats from 2015 thanks to a tie-up with automotive upholstery giant Johnson Controls.

“We believe this manufacturing advance will appeal to increasingly environmentally-aware consumers, allowing foam cushioning to be replaced with springs,” said Simon.

“Our spring allows Johnson Controls to make a thinner, more comfortable car seat back, which is also lighter in weight.”

In a further innovation, Yorkshire Bed-Maker has expanded into natural fibres for its mattresses, and is even growing the timber for its bed frames in a forest near York.

Department store chain John Lewis prompted the firm to begin making its own mattress fillings.

“They wanted us to go all natural, and we thought we could do even better and grow some of the fibre locally,” said Simon.

“We now rear sheep and grow hemp and flax on our 300-acre farm in North Yorkshire. The Texel, Leicester and Swaledale sheep yield thicker, stronger and more resilient wool, ideal for mattresses.”

Six generations of the Spinks family have been involved in the bed industry since the firm was founded in 1840.

The company produces 57,000 mattresses a year, with sales of £25m, and owns the Harrison, Somnus and Spink & Edgar brands.

“Our growth forecast predicts we will have trebled or quadrupled turnover by 2016,” said Simon. “We will be an £80m-£100m business – and we can put a lot of that down to our relentless innovation.”

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