PA boosts innovation and product design arm with US acquisition

01 November 2018 4 min. read
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Global professional services firm PA Consulting Group has completed a deal to acquire Boston-based innovation strategy company Essential Design for an undisclosed fee. The move comes on the heels of a succession of purchases by the British origin PA, on the back of a major private equity investment in the firm.

Until late in 2017, PA Consulting had gone five years without completing a major acquisition; an increasingly rare feat in the consulting industry, with many competitors in a saturated market looking to leverage inorganic growth to outflank their rivals. That would all change rather quickly, however, as PA set about putting a major investment from private equity firm Carlyle to use.

Completing its first deal since 2012, PA signed Nyras at the turn of the year, expanding the firm’s aviation consulting offering in the process. PA would not wait a further five years for its next purchase, either, and followed this up with the acquisition of digital consultancy Sparkler in mid-2018. The additions significantly boosted PA’s fee income, and as the firm looks to maintain its momentum, it has completed its third deal in the space of 12 months.

PA boosts innovation and product design arm with US acquisition

Formed in 2001, US professional services firm Essential Design has flagship clients in the consumer, life science and healthcare sectors. The Boston-based firm boasts a diverse team of researchers, designers and engineers who inform and translate innovation strategy to create breakthrough physical and digital products. Essential’s work has won international recognition and received numerous industry awards for excellence in design research, design strategy and design development.

The deal for Essential is aimed at complementing PA’s global capabilities in strategy, innovation, product design and engineering and manufacturing process improvement. Recently, PA’s team has worked to support world-leading innovations such as Virgin Hyperloop One, Skipping Rocks Lab’s sustainable plastic alternatives research, and Monica Healthcare’s monitoring of unborn babies, among others. In order to support this growing demand, the combination of PA’s and Essential’s capabilities is geared toward enabling organisations to transform the way they bring new products and experiences to market, and hands PA access to a new centre of excellence for innovation and product design in the United States, which will work in partnership with PA’s long established Global Innovation and Technology Centre in Cambridge, UK.

Commenting on the deal, Frazer Bennett, PA Consulting’s Chief Innovation Officer, said, “[Essential] fits perfectly with PA Consulting’s Purpose: ‘We believe in the power of ingenuity to build a positive human future in a technology-driven world’. As well as enhancing our US presence, the brilliant Essential team will extend our capabilities at the front-end of design, bringing our clients’ customers a world of ingenuous opportunities.”

Essential Design’s founding Partners Scott Stropkay and Richard Watson added, “We’re very much looking forward to joining PA Consulting. Their range of expertise, commitment to client success and unique ability to deliver innovative physical and digital solutions, building the futures we both imagine, is awesome. Becoming part of PA Consulting allows us to design more comprehensively, affecting more positive change for our clients.”


M&A specialist consultancy Equiteq advised Essential Design on its sale to PA. As the US firm's M&A and strategic advisory provider, Equiteq represented Essential Design throughout the process.

Regarding Equiteq’s role in the transaction, Stropkay and Watson added, “The team, led by Adam Tindall, took the time to truly understand every aspect of our business and listen to our objectives. They demonstrated a deep understanding of the transaction process and guided us through myriad complex issues.”

Tindall, Managing Director of Equiteq’s North America practice, remarked, “It has been a pleasure working with the Essential Design team... The combined capabilities and extended geographical reach create an even more powerful client proposition.”