The boss of a growing Midlands niche technology firm today fired out a defiant message - manufacturing and automotive in the Midlands is far from dead.

Birmingham Post Business Award monthly winner, David Keene (second from right)of Richmond Design and Marketing at the ceremony at Aston Business School, Birmingham with (left-right) Alan Jackson of Intercity Mobile Communications, Prof John Saunders of Aston Business School and David Smith of Churchill Vuntners.

David Keene, managing director of Coventry-based RDM, spoke as his company picked up the December Birmingham Post Business Award after clinching a deal which could be worth more than #10 million.

RDM landed The Post accolade after we highlighted its success in supplying a car tracking and security system lineside to Jaguar and Land Rover.

And Mr Keene said: "Anybody who says design is dead, anybody who says automotive is dead and anybody who say manufacturing is dead, is wrong. It is a fallacy."

* Mr Keene says design, manufacturing and the automotive industry in the Midlands is far from dead - what do you think? Get in touch by email, messageboard or by sending a web letter to the editor *

However he conceded that businesses at the "nuts and bolts" end of automotive manufacturing were likelier to be finding it tough.

Jaguar's new Birmingham-built XK sports car will be the first to have RDM's Auto-txt device fitted as standard.

The system is buried in the infrastructure of the car and includes a way of identifying the driver. It has the means to disable a stolen vehicle remotely from a control centre.

It is is the first security device to be awarded the police supported category 5 award from the Thatcham motor industry research centre.

Mr Keene said his company operated in a niche and handled peaks and troughs by balancing its design capabilities with its manufacturing output.

He set up the business as a one man band in 1993, working from his bedroom, and currently employs 30 people - two more join on Monday - and he aims to have a workforce of 50 by the end of the year.

T he company is also intending to expand into new premises to cope with growing demand.

He said: "For me the most exciting time was setting up the business but this is coming a very close second. It's a job we all enjoy and we work long hours, we're committed to it but it's the job we love."

He said the business had the capacity to respond rapidly to requests from the automotive industry - giving it an edge over larger operators. Mr Keene said: "Depending what it is we can turn it round in a day. It might mean working all night, but we can do it."

The company's development has been boosted by the involvement of two finance firms which have injected #4.75 million into the business.

Catapult Venture Managers and Springboard Corporate Finance organised development capital for the roll-out of its Auto-txt car security product.

Equity funding of #1.75 million was provided by Catapult, its first investment from the Advantage Enterprise & Innovation Fund.

That fund is focused on providing equity investment from #500,000 to #2 million in leading West Midlands companies.

The main sponsors of The Birmingham Post Business Awards are Intercity Mobile Communications and Churchill Vintners in association with Champagne Taittinger.

British Airways and Aston Business School provide further support, along with Biztv, part of Aston Media at Aston University, which produces a business video of each monthly winner worth #2,500.

Aston Science Park is a cosponsor of the annual award luncheon and has also unveiled a #1,000 benefits package for the eventual overall winner.

RDM will go into the final , to be judged at Birmingham's Botanical Gardens on April 25.

* Mr Keene says design, manufacturing and the automotive industry in the Midlands is far from dead - what do you think? Get in touch by email, messageboard or by sending a web letter to the editor *