The History of MSE Laboratory Centrifuges
The Birth of MSE
MSE (Measuring and Scientific Equipment) was first formed in 1936 by Dr Ernest Foulkes and was funded with a capital of just £500. At the time, MSE was not a manufacturer of laboratory equipment, but instead specialised in the importation of machine tools into the UK.
The Outbreak of War
At the start of World War Two, the UK Ministry of Supply appointed MSE as lease lend agents for American machine tools. The company was also required to provide servicing facilities and established a small workshop in the heart of Westminster, employing and training about a dozen high precision engineers who later became the nucleus of the MSE production unit.
After the war, the newly formed National Health Service requested MSE to develop a range of hospital microtomes. At the same time the Atomic Energy Authority approached MSE to make centrifuges to replace instruments that up until then were only available as imports from the USA. It was from this point that MSE moved away from importing machine tools and instead reinvented itself as a manufacturer of specialised laboratory equipment, particularly laboratory centrifuges.
The First Production of Centrifuges
Like today, the first centrifuges were developed for research purposes and proved very popular in hospitals and research departments of universities.
The Minor, or 'the Mushroom' as it was affectionately called, was the first centrifuge manufactured by MSE. Production began in the early 1950s and the model became a huge success. The MSE Minor has played an important role in scientific research throughout the years.
Market Domination and International Competition
When the company moved to Crawley in the 1960s, MSE was at its height, employing over 700 people, making it one of the largest centrifuge manufacturers in the world. In 1968, MSE centrifuge sales accounted for nearly 65% of the total market share.
In 1972, MSE was acquired by Fisons and shortly after, took on Kontron OEM products to maintain its ultra centrifuge presence. Some of the manufacturing section was transferred from Crawley to Uxbridge in 1981 and the remainder by 1983, while sales and service remained at Crawley.
MSE regrettably failed to take full advantage of the 1978 Howie Report on infection control in Pathology laboratories which sparked a boom in sales to the NHS to replace equipment that did not conform to the reports recommendations. Overseas competition from German and American companies during the 1980s started reducing MSEs domination of the UK centrifuge market.
From Japanese Ownership to Present Day
In 1990, the company was divested as part of Fisons Scientific Equipment as Gallenkamp manufacturing to Sanyo of Japan following Fison’s withdrawal from the market of low to mid–range centrifuge manufacturing.
From 1990, MSE became the centrifuge arm of the Sanyo Gallenkamp, which manufactured a range of laboratory products. Sanyo of Japan made considerable investment in improving the quality of existing products and consolidated sales and manufacturing to one geographical location in Loughborough in 1998. However, in 2003, a decision was made by Sanyo of Japan to withdraw from all manufacturing in the UK and a buyer for the MSE brand was to be found.
In May 2004, the MSE centrifuge part of Sanyo Gallenkamp was purchased by Henderson Biomedical Ltd, a family business specialising in the service and repair of centrifuges since 1987. Henderson Biomedical formed a new company called MSE MSE Family(UK) Ltd and therefore brought the MSE brand back into UK ownership. The manufacturing of laboratory centrifuges already complimented the business activities of Henderson Biomedical, making the purchase of MSE seem like a natural progression for the company.
Alex, Nerissa, Mark & Jackie
At the time of the purchase of MSE, Henderson Biomedical was located in Beckenham, Kent. The addition of MSE meant that both companies needed to relocate and so in 2005, the company moved a new site in Lower Sydenham, London (above left). Our current home in Lower Sydenham is much larger and contains offices, an assembly area, workshops and a warehouse.
Our objective is to improve existing MSE products as well as introduce new ones, thus re-establishing the company as a leader in the global laboratory equipment market. Export currently makes up around a third of MSE's turnover and the company hopes to increase this figure over the coming years by re-capturing old markets and breaking into new ones.