A cool product is
THE company Versarien and its ground breaking products has burst onto the business scene in recent months. Business Editor Bev Hawes went to meet Versarien's chief executive Neill Ricketts at his Forest of Dean headquarters.
It seems the name Versarien has never been far from the headlines during much of 2013.
Hidden away in a small unit on the Forest Vale Industrial Estate in Cinderford, it is a high technology company which has made the multi-nationals sit up and take notice.
Versarien owns the intellectual property to the manufacturing process for a porous material which the company claims can improve the cooling qualities of electronic components in devices three to ten times more efficiently than traditional cooling systems.
Your chance to win either a Luxury Christmas Hamper or a luxury Christmas Living Bouquet of flowers aswell as a wash, cut and blow dry from Charmed Hair Salon !!!!
Terms: All you have to do to win this great prize this Christmas is like and share The Flower Bowl facebook link or ring us instore with your details !!!
Contact: 01452 227932
Valid until: Monday, December 23 2013
And when you consider that heat is a major issue in the operation of most electronic components from computers to LED lighting you begin to get the picture.
The global market for thermal management technologies in computers alone is worth £7.2 billion. Add in potential use in aerospace, defence, telecoms and renewable energy and the potential is vast.
Little wonder then that Neill Ricketts is bubbling with enthusiasm when we meet at his office and explains the process and applications – and most importantly, potential.
Neill has lived in the Forest of Dean most of his life with over 20 years experience at senior level in manufacturing and engineering companies, often as managing director.
He was general manager – production – at Gloucester surface engineering firm Poeton for six years until 2003 and part of the management team that developed coatings for F1 engines, aerospace and general industry. The process for the production of porous metallic materials was originally developed at the University of Liverpool. Versarien Technologies secured a global exclusive license for the patented process, known as Lost Carbonate Sintering.
These interconnecting pores are like a sponge that allow heat transfer at levels far greater than other methods.
Neill, a former apprentice at Federal Mogul in Lydney, co-founded Versarien in 2010 with engineering materials technologist Will Battrick who has produced specialist products for space science programmes.
"We needed some investment and went to a range of venture capitalists and were offered a significant sum of money to locate to the Midlands. We decided not to take that but to set the factory up here.
"We started telling people what we wanted to do and our dreams and there were some very startled looks. We started putting the kit together and had a very small team."
The company got through to the final of the Conservative Party business start up hub in Manchester in 2011.
"We spent four days speaking to prospective customers and got to meet the Prime Minister. The media coverage was syndicated worldwide. It tipped the balance with our investors because it gave us confidence and credibility.
"In 2012 we went from strength to strength. We secured a Technology Strategy Board grant to develop the product, about a £150,000 project."
But it became obvious that the demand from customers was outstripping the capacity at the small production unit.
Last Christmas Eve it signed a deal to acquire Total Carbide in Buckinghamshire which would enable it to expand production. To do that and raise working capital, it floated on the Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) earlier this year with a market capitalisation of around £11 million.
So in just under 12 months the company has gone from just three employees to 50 employees and a significant turnover.
The company is supporting a new University of Gloucestershire engineering course which will help provide the skills its needs.
Neill has also joined the board of GFirst LEP. "We would like to build a significant research centre in the Forest of Dean and we need those skills," he said. "That is part of our agenda. It is a perfect fit for the regeneration plans for the area."
This is the first month that US inquiries for the firm's products have overtaken those from Europe.
"We see that this is a global product with a global reach. We have a little bit of luck and a lot of support from a lot of people."
There are 11 people at the Forest of Dean headquarters and that is expected to double next year. For the year to March 31, 2014 the company is expected to make a pre-tax profit of £200,000 on revenue of £5.2 million.
Neill sees parallels with the growth of Renishaw, the innovative Wotton-under-Edge based metrology firm founded by former Concorde engineer, Sir David McMurtry.
"I think they are a superb benchmark. We look at them as an example of how to run a business both in terms of ethics and growth. I have learnt a lot from the way they have managed their business over the years."
Versarien continues to work with Liverpool University and other universities. And future acquisitions may be on the horizon.
He believes that confidence is beginning to emerge in the economy and there is "light at the end of the tunnel" after some very tough years.
With one of the highest success rates for start ups in the country, he feels the county and Versarien are well placed for the future.