Case Study

Tribosonics: on a mission to save the planet

Tribosonics is a high-tech scale-up which uses unique sensing technologies to find, measure and improve energy efficiencies in industrial processes. Active in a number of industrial sectors, including polymers and plastics, nuclear, energy, aerospace and automotive, the company enables its customers to improve operational efficiencies, reduce energy wastage and reduce production waste.

We spoke to Glenn Fletcher, CEO at Tribosonics, about the company's growth plans and why being based in the North of England has proved crucial to its success.

What does your company do?

A recent report by the International Energy Forum said that 35% of all of the needs to meet the Paris Accord's cumulative CO2 reductions by 2050 could be met by being more efficient in the way that we use energy.

Our technology at Tribosonics is all about energy efficiency. We develop sensors for industry to help improve operational efficiency and reduce energy wastage and waste production. We embed our sensors into components or machines so we can continuously generate data to inform what is happening to the machine or component so companies can make the right operating decisions, increase energy efficiency, increase the up time and really add value to what they are doing as an operator.

We generate a significant amount of raw sensing data but process it using proprietary algorithms to provide our customers with only the analysed engineering and operating metrics that are relevant. The age of big data is over. We are all about smart data.

Tell us about your UK and global operations.

We are based in Sheffield in Yorkshire. The founder of the business Dr. Phil Harper did a PhD in ultrasonics at Sheffield University, won an award from the Royal Academy of Engineering, and developed technology to enable him to start the business in Sheffield.

We now have over 30 people and we are still recruiting. The business started as an engineering company and has developed into a business that connects the physical world to the digital world to be able to produce data for our customers through IIOT ('industrial internet of things') solutions. We are growing all aspects of the business: engineering, electronics, software, data science, and with our technologists who drive innovation and scientific discovery through expertise in core physics and apply such innovation to solve customers’ problems. We are also building our technology commercialisation team to take our productised technology to market to meet customers’ needs.

We have a number of overseas companies in our customer portfolio. There is a strong chance that the next location we open will either be in the US or continental Europe so we can get closer to our customer base. We also continue to expand in the UK and are looking at increasing our footprint in Sheffield to facilitate growth in our technical and commercial operations.

There is an excellent attitude in the North of England. We are a friendly bunch up here and we are very collaborative. As a company and a region we embrace this open, collaborative, inclusive approach. The North has this state of mind.

What are the main benefits to being based in the UK?

There is an excellent attitude in the North of England. We are a friendly bunch up here and we are very collaborative. As a company and a region, we embrace this open, collaborative, inclusive approach. We firmly believe that not one person, not one company, not one area has got all the ideas. The North has this state of mind.

In the North we have got the right facilities, the talent and skills, the investment structures, great transport links and ambition. This is where innovation and tech happens. International customers value the engineering heritage and the hardware and software engineering skills in the UK, especially when used to drive innovation and enable digital transformation.

We have been supported very well by our primary investor, Mercia Asset Management, via the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) which provides commercially focussed growth finance. This support is really valuable to tech businesses as it gives you the fuel to scale.

We have been supported very well by our primary investor, Mercia Asset Management, via the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) which provides commercially focussed growth finance. This support is really valuable to tech businesses as it gives you the fuel to scale

Tell us about your company's growth ambitions.

Our mission is to save the planet. It really is. The way we will do that is by introducing our energy efficiency technology to a wider market and becoming the world leader in providing sensing solutions for smarter and more sustainable industrial applications.

Our ambition is to get to the point where we have scaled the business and conquered our targetted sectors such as polymers and plastics, nuclear, automotive, and marine. The next step will involve technology becoming industrial market agnostic so that we can apply our technology and bring energy efficiency and sustainability to any industry. The good thing about our technology is that it is widely applicable to other sectors allowing us to translate our skills into adjacent markets, such as medical, agriculture, food and beverage or chemicals.

To continue our growth journey and to increase access to our energy efficiency technology we are embarking on a major drive to offer our technology on a service basis to wider markets, to allow more customers to achieve the energy efficiencies and sustainability gains captured by our current customers. By providing our industrial measurement and monitoring sensing technology on a service basis we are effectively fast becoming a SaaS business, which in our case is 'Sensing as a Service'.

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