Suresense. A case study

5 minutes with Ian Hambly of Suresense

Tell us how you got involved with energy technology?

After 25 years in Technology sales, principally in IT, I was looking for a career change. After seeing the unbelievable opportunities in energy saving technologies I invested in acquiring and developing intellectual property which has been used as the foundation to start a new company Suresense Technologies. Suresense was launched in March 2012, and during the last two years we have advanced our solutions into three robust and innovative technologies which have already had international interest and success.

What kind of interest have you had?

These technologies are amongst the easiest things I have ever had to sell. The positive impacts are so easy to demonstrate and understand that they are a no brainer once businesses have seen the products at work. Businesses are always interested in making profits and more and more are interested in reducing their carbon footprint. The interest over the last 12 months has seen our revenues increase by 35%, our gross profit by 65% and bottom line profitability by nearly 3000%. Because of this we are now embarking on a major growth phase, and are just about to initiate an investment round for growth capital.

This is where SWMAS have stepped in with their advisor Martyn?

Sort of, we have been working with Martyn Pearson of SWMAS on a number of fronts including financial support that is available for small businesses.  Because of the SWMAS grant that we have received, we have been able to fund product design, marketing and IP expertise that we may not have been able to do, or at least not in the timeframe we have. As a ‘start-up’ business Martyn saw our structured approach to growing our products and business generally and has really helped develop our thinking and methods.

Working with SWMAS has also been fantastic in helping us engage with other local manufacturers and we derive a lot of value in collaborating with the Cornwall Manufacturers Group that was introduced to us by Martyn. 

Already the marketing has helped pull off a bit of a scoop for Suresense?

You could say that! From the partner marketing materials we have developed, we have been successful in striking a partnership with a number of new partners, one of which is the global electronics giant Hitachi and they are now in partnership with us to provide a bespoke product called ‘ProHestar’ to the energy saving market based on our technology.  This is a phenomenal endorsement of our technology and British manufacturing, and something we are very proud of here at Suresense.  I think it’s important to note that in addition to our innovative smart product portfolio, our growth has been driven by our decision to partner with distributors, resellers and agents rather than direct sell to market ourselves.  This is a far more scalable approach to developing our footprint globally. 

Let’s talk about the products, Suresense have three unique ideas currently on sale and coming to market…

To put it simply our products intelligently reduce energy usage in lighting and motors, which between them as applications draw 64% of the world’s energy. From using our products businesses can control their energy consumption and improve their profitability thanks to our intelligent systems. It really is so exciting, who would not want more profit?

Let’s take these energy saving ideas one by one, to see how they achieve this…

Our first product is Eluma. The Eluma lighting system has been installed by some of the world’s most forward thinking companies, they are currently installed in 14 Coca Cola sites, 11 Bunzl sites, GSK, Nestle, GKN, Unilever to name but a few, as well as the Concorde visitor centre in Manchester which is a fantastic showcase for the product.  Essentially Eluma is a high performance lighting technology which on average provides 74% energy savings with customer’s average payback being  16 months. Whilst 90% of our overall business is international, some local companies use the Eluma, such as Arcol, Spiral Construction, Stralfors and A&P Falmouth; in addition we are preferred technology partners for the Mark Group’s lighting division. So anywhere that has high bay lighting requirements and need intelligent lighting, we’re the guys for the job.

Your next product has interesting links with Cornwall’s mining heritage…

Yes, indeed, every motor produced is innately dumb, it spins around when turned on and that’s about it.  Some applications however have the need for variable speed and there are motor controllers known as VSD’s or VFD’s that help control the speeds of a motor.  However with a fixed speed application, the only real control you can have is soft starting and soft braking, until Integra that is. Integra is smart, it is a soft starter fundamentally, but can recognise the load the motor is under and dynamically senses when it is under a no load or low load condition, whereby it automatically adjusts the input voltage to reduce energy used, for example a travelator in an airport will be moving at a constant speed regardless if it is full of people or empty. Integra allows the drive to assess the load it holds and drop the power consumption accordingly. Our work with SWMAS allowed us to look into where we could apply this technology and the world wide mining industry is a major sector. Our new partner materials have helped us to land new partnerships with Hitachi and also major players in the huge South African mining industry. So yes, as a Cornishman, with a Cornish business I am very proud our product is continuing our mining pedigree and heritage across the world.

So, like any SME you are very busy, how did you even start applying for European funding?

What I have found with European and other UK grants available to businesses is the process is very onerous. As a member of the Cornish Manufacturing Forum I speak with other businesses that just don't have the time to do the applications to funding bodies, that’s why meeting SWMAS has been a revelation. People like Martyn understand Manufacturing, understand business and what it is like to be a SME’s. You might be a couple of people working 60-80 hours a week without the time to produce a 3 year business plan or a 4 year cash flow forecast, so you just bin the idea of funding, because you cannot afford the time on something that may not happen.

However, by talking to SWMAS and understanding their real world manufacturing and engineering background and that they are generally interested in working with us was surprising to me. I admit I was pretty sceptical, but the knowledge they brought to the table has been a bonus. Martyn stuck with me and navigated me through the process which was incredibly simple, quick and rewarding. It is fair to say Martyn is now very much a trusted adviser and friend to Suresense who adds value in a number of ways.

 

So the year ahead is going to be busy, so let’s talk about your third product and future plans around Zensor…

Zensor will be launched in the next few months, and we are kicking off on a world tour soon to launch the product to market with trade shows in Chicago, Amsterdam and Indonesia. This product has the makings of a world game changer based here in Cornwall.  Zensor is a lighting sensor designed to work with other commercial light fittings, so it’s not proprietary to our own Eluma anymore. This means any company can fit our Zensor regardless of whether their lights are analogue or digital by utilising its universal fixings. The Zensor communicates with other sensors through a wireless lighting network and also includes its own power management chip to record the lights usage patterns.  Just think of that! Every light fitting can talk and has its own smart meter on it.  We will not only be able to provide very precise views on energy usage but also remotely control the fittings through a Cloud based energy management software application.

We have invested quite heavily in the R&D of this sensor and are now investing further in the development of the web based management application which will enable our clients lighting networks around the world to send that all information back to their Head office or us right here in Cornwall. Within the year factories and warehouses across the world will have these sensors in their lighting systems, if the light fitting goes faulty it will prompt us or their preferred electricians of a failure, Often before the customer will even notice.

So from right here in Cornwall we can manage all of this remotely, the lights will also get remote upgrades very much like a mobile phone does, without the need for works involving scaffolding and disruption, this future proofs our customers faith and investment in us.

This is major expansion…

Yes, we plan to upgrade our headquarters here in Cornwall and take on around 6 new people within the year. We also are looking forward to working with other ERDF projects such as Unlocking Potential to help us source a graduate interested in a green energy career.


Monday 14 July 2014