St Ives innovation winner surges ahead

WORD, it seems, spreads quickly. The winner of this year s Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Innovation Award, presented just a fortnight ago, has already won two new six-figure contracts from the Ministry of Defence since then. iTp (Intelligent Technology Produ

WORD, it seems, spreads quickly. The winner of this year's Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Innovation Award, presented just a fortnight ago, has already won two new six-figure contracts from the Ministry of Defence since then.

iTp (Intelligent Technology Products) Limited, of St Ives, which designs and maintains sonar and radar training equipment for armed forces, just last week learned it had won one new contract to supply equipment and another five-year maintenance deal for sonar trainers it had already supplied.

The great beauty of the St Ives company's equipment, said managing director Doug Simpson, is that client navies do not have to set to sea at huge costs for their sonar operators to get realistic experience of the sound-detection systems.

Systems already supplied mean the world's most powerful navies are saving millions of pounds every year by keeping their vessels in port.


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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 Mr 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 owns and runs the company 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.

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.

Now Mr Simpson hopes to land some more big fish for his company, with hoped-for further orders in the new year and contracts from Pakistan, India and the Chilean Navy.

He is also working on four new products that he hopes to launch soon - but he is remaining tight-lipped about the details for the time being.

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