Irish Examiner - July 06 2015
Security forces across the globe are now defending against terrorist attacks with the help of cutting edge, remotely controlled robots manufactured by West Cork start-up ICP NewTech.
Producing Remotely Operated Vehicles ( ROVs) used in bomb disposal, mine clearance and handling hazardous materials, the Kilbrittain company started up operations in October 2013 and now exports to 26 countries across the globe. Employing a staff of 28, it expects to achieve a turnover of €12m in 2015.
Technically, it’s something of a re-start, since in setting up ICP NewTech, the founders — Eamon Jackson (CEO) and Kieran Nolan (COO) — were bringing back an industry which left Kilbrittain in 2008. The robotics division of US-owned Allen–Vanguard then moved to the UK and, in 2013, closed due to rationalisation.
Mr Jackson and Mr Nolan, who had both previously worked at Allen-Vanguard in Kilbrittain, seized the opportunity to buy the assets of the division and the IP for its ROVs, including Defender and Vanguard — a large and a smaller robot, now the company’s main products.
“There is a global demand for remotely-operated vehicles which can be used to remove personnel from roles which are dull, dangerous and dirty. The market for ROVs is now estimated to be worth €200m globally and is growing,” says Mr Jackson, adding that the Kilbrittain operation had been very successful and had achieved 100% growth year-on-year.
In order to purchase the technology from Allen-Vanguard, the founders raised funding from a US venture capital company, but subsequently secured private investment to repay this. They leased the plant at Kilbrittain, where Allen-Vanguard had operated, and were able to recruit the original members of the design team.
“Between the two of us, we had 40 years experience in the industry. We knew where to go and what we needed to do,’’ says Mr Jackson, adding that contacts and experience — as well as the technical skills of the re-recruited engineering staff - have played a key role in the successful relaunch of ROV production in Co Cork.
As it commenced operations in October 2013, ICP NewTech signed an exclusive global agreement with North American distributor Med-Eng/Safariland. It was able to take over an existing customer base and also to begin offering a maintenance service to the owners of 600 existing units. The company found Irish suppliers for components and also contracted out some of the assembly to suppliers.
“Demand exceeded all our expectations and we had to ramp up production on three occasions last year. Against major competition we recently won a large order to supply the Japanese police force with 28 units in preparation for the 2020 Olympics,” says Mr Nolan.
The company now has customers in South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the US. It is a highly competitive market but the founders say that ICP NewTech is now one of the top five companies operating in this space globally. “We have orders in the pipeline for €26m over the next three years. Turnover has grown by 30% this year and we expect the same for the next 12 months,” says Mr Jackson.
The company has been supported by Enterprise Ireland. “We are working on enhancing our products and also on bringing out the next generation,” says Mr Nolan.
As part of its plan to expand into North America, ICP NewTech recently opened a support division in Canada. It also plans to work with channel partners to provide after sales service to countries such as Japan. Embarking on an ambitious growth plan, the business has now begun recruiting skilled engineering staff as well as personnel for manufacturing and administration, and aims to increase its workforce by 10 over the next year.