St Ives firm saves navies �millions
THE world s most powerful navies are saving millions of pounds every year by keeping their warships in port, thanks to a tiny company on a St Ives industrial estate. And the firm expects its turnover to triple this year after a spate of big contracts from
THE world's most powerful navies are saving millions of pounds every year by keeping their warships in port, thanks to a tiny company on a St Ives industrial estate.
And the firm expects its turnover to triple this year after a spate of big contracts from the Ministry of Defence and a number of smaller but significant orders from Governments around the world.
Until 10 years ago, the only way to train a sonar operator was to fire up a minesweeper or other sonar-equipped warship and sail it onto the high seas.
Then engineer Doug Simpson succeeded in replicating the experience in a piece of kit that would fit comfortably into a military training room.
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Mr Simpson is managing director of Innovative Technology Projects Limited, which he owns and runs jointly with his daughter, Marion Gwynne, who brings the training experience to the corporate party.
After a career on radar in the RAF Mr Simpson ran the UK arm of a Canadian-owned company, Lab-Volt, that specialised in radar training for the armed services. But he identified - and filled - a gap in the market for its sonar equivalent. The ITP sonar training device is, he says, an unique product that is being snapped up by universities and military training schools across the world.
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Conveniently, some of the component production is undertaken by a company called Prima, a neighbour on the St Ives Industrial Estate on the northern edge of the town.
Recent export orders have come from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India and Canada, and the equipment is in use in every major naval academy in the world, its inventor told The Hunts Post.
The company is also involved in equipment for training people in other areas of engineering technology, including telecommunications, pneumatics and hydraulics. But the sonar kit is the jewel in the crown.
"It's a mini-version of the Pacific Ocean," Mr Simpson, who was educated at Cambridge, Washington and Edinburgh, said. "Navies don't need to go to sea any more to train their people since I designed this."
The recent orders from the MoD, beating off competition from international household-names in the defence-supply industry and totalling �450,000 for sonar and radar trainers in the last two months alone, have brought a huge increase in turnover for the company.
"We've been doing around �250,000 a year fairly consistently, but this year it looks as though we shall hit �750,000, which is great news for a small company," Mr Simpson said.
"We're not sure what's driving it. We've never had such good business. For some reason it tends to be affected by unemployment, politics and strife. We're getting a lot of interest from China at the moment, which is even better, because my wife is Chinese.
"We just don't know where the recession is."
INFORMATION: ITP is at Unit 28 Stephenson Road, St Ives PE27 3WJ: telephone 01480 300695: fax: 01480 461654. www.itp101.com