A Solihull company which designs and develops innovative solar products has won its first order in Africa.

Interplex Solar Technology (UK), of Vulcan Road Industrial Estate, started up in September 2009 and exports already account for 60 per cent of its £150,000 turnover.

The company, which now employs three people, secured the trading boost with help from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

Realising the international potential of the business, managing director Mark Thompson contacted UKTI for help when he first established the company, and enrolled on the Passport to Export scheme.

With advice and support from UKTI, he has spent the last eight months designing and developing new solar products specifically for overseas markets, especially Africa, India and Pakistan.

Mr Thompson said the solar kits could be of use to African youngsters with their studies.

He explained: “We’ve just achieved our biggest order yet – worth about £55,000 – for solar panels to go to Kenya.

“This is exactly the breakthrough we are looking for as I see our easy-to-install products as ideal for charities working to provide energy to distant villages, for example.

“With our DIY kit, village children would be able to do their homework at night for an outlay of about £60.”

Interplex has been working with international trade adviser Jonathan Webber through the Passport to Export scheme.

Mr Thompson said it had proven a useful experience in “pointing us in the right direction”.

UKTI has also provided financial support for the company, which allowed it to exhibit at the International Traffic Show in Amsterdam in spring.

Mr Thompson added: “We showcased products such as our solar powered Belisha Beacon and roadside traffic cones to a global marketplace resulting in interest from companies in Germany, Finland and Spain.”

Interplex Solar’s DIY kit Solar 2 GO that consists of five, 10, 20, and 50 watt panel lighting and charging kits in a box, designed for sheds, workshops and portable buildings.

Interplex has also added a new range of 240v Solar 2 GO Free Electricity Kits to power devices where there is no power connection.

UKTI’s Passport to Export programme provides a package of support for new or novice exporters, including a free export health check, attendance at an export workshop, assistance in formulating an international trade strategy and funding towards implementing this strategy, quality training and mentoring advice and access to the full range of UKTI services.

Jonathan Webber, UKTI’s director of international trade for Birmingham, said: “Interplex Solar has a brilliant range from solar-powered traffic products to the new DIY kit that can provide power to garden sheds or homes in the African or Indian continents.”