5 Minutes With… Dr John Duffy

Name:            Dr John Duffy

Job Role:        Managing Director and Founder

Company:     Smart Storm Ltd – https://smartstormgroup.com

Location:       Caernarfon and Halifax

 

How and where does the story of Smart Storm begin?

It all started in 1994 when I decided that after 9 years as a lecturer at Bradford University, leading a research group in medical sensing technology I wanted an entrepreneurial challenge. As I had invented a new type of ultrasonic sensor, I saw this as a means of starting a business. Rather than the obvious, setting up a medical company (another story) I saw an opportunity to set up a flow and level instrumentation business in the wastewater sector which was dominated by German and French companies with the UK not having a manufacturer of this type of technology. So along with two of my recent graduates I established my first company.

What has the journey been like from the beginning of Smart Storm to where you are now?

It’s been a roller coaster as I started the company in a recession and have been through the 2008 recession and then the Pandemic of the last two years.

My biggest challenge was turning what I believed was a very clever product from a university laboratory to working in a hostile industrial environment. As an academic we are great at developing new ideas but turning them into products that work in the real world at temperature extremes, high humidity, rain and snow, heavy handed operators kicking them around etc is something we were not trained to do. So, I learned the hard way and now know that a clever idea does not guarantee a successful product. However, after many burnt fingers we eventually got there and produced a very successful product range.

Smart Storm is my second company and in 2019 following an investment from the Development Bank of Wales and Sunnybarn investments we moved our headquarters, R&D and instrumentation manufacture from Yorkshire to North Wales whilst still retaining the heavy engineering part of the company in Halifax. I did my first degree and Doctorate at Bangor University, and it was always my dream to return to the area where I had some of the best years of my life.

The company has now greatly expanded its product range and have successfully moved into all areas of water and wastewater instrumentation, growing the business both at home and overseas, particularly in Asia, Middle East and Africa.

Tell us about the exciting projects you are working on now. 

There are too many to discuss here but of mention would be a new innovative product for the construction

industry that uses CO2 rather than dangerous chemicals to pH balance concrete wash outs and secondly the improvement of one of our products that removes fats, oils and grease from industrial waste streams to prevent fatbergs in the sewer network. The latter project has been undertaken with the support of CPE and Bangor university and using laser technology has improved the efficacy of our product by 40%.

Do you have any advice for micro or SMEs looking to invest time in research, development, and innovation?

A successful technology needs two things: excellent research and development and good marketing. You must know your markets and customer base before developing new products as what you might regard as a clever idea may have little or no customer base. But you must always have a continuous R&D programme. Product lifetimes in the 90’s when I started could be as much as 10 years but now technology is advancing so fast product lifetimes can be as little as 2-3 years so you can never stand still – always look ahead.

I also think innovation is misunderstood. It is not always about developing something entirely new. Some of the best businesses I have seen have produced innovative products by using old or state-of-the-art technology but in a new marketplace or packaged or utilised in an entirely different way. Innovation is about thinking outside the box rather than in the box.

What are you most proud of?

Growing the business on my own and in particular when I see my products and technologies used in the real world. I get a buzz when I visit a factory and see one of Smart Storm products in use.

However, having 3 wonderful children and 2 Briard dogs tops everything.

Tell us something others would be surprised to know about you or Smart Storm.

30 years ago, I would spend part of my week in a hospital theatre supporting reconstructive surgeons in the use of my university developed technology. Now I am an MD of a company spending my time dealing with water and wastewater projects but both I guess have a human element.

Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” – Earl Nightingale

A big thank you to John for taking the time to speak with us.

Wales Technology Awards 2022

We are very proud to learn that the Centre for Photonics Expertise (CPE) project has been shortlisted for the Best Photonics Application award at the upcoming Wales Technology Awards 2022!

Additionally, the University of South Wales team and CPE enterprise partners, TATA Steel UK, have also been nominated for the Academia and Business Partnership of the Year award.

The winners will be revealed at the prestigious Wales Technology Awards black-tie dinner on 15th September 2022 in Cardiff, where guests can don their suits and gowns to celebrate their industry, clients, colleagues, and peers. The Awards are an established way to connect with other tech leaders, discover innovative organisations, and celebrate the ingenuity of Welsh technologies.

For more information and to book your ticket for the event, visit Wales Technology Awards 2022

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies
Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies

Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws

Case Studies
UVC Tech Ltd: Testimonial
UVC Tech Ltd – UVC surface disinfection
Transcend Packaging – Laser cutting of paper straws
Ebbah Sustainovation – Solar powered lighting and ventilation for tents and parasols
Space Republic – UVC air sanitisation in office pod ventilation system.
Mobilized Construction – Imaging systems for real-time monitoring of road deterioration
The Willows Holistic Therapies: Testimonial
The Willows Holistic Therapies – Evaluation of light therapies for use in holistic practices
AV Optics – Laser-based social distancing aid
Spectrum Technologies Ltd – Laser Marking of Medical Instruments

The work done by the Bangor CPE team has allowed us to redefine our goals and we believe will produce the solution we seek to create a ground-breaking technology in the field of UVC light disinfection which can be used in the presence of humans without damaging them.

UVC Tech Ltd

Peter Rutter, Director

Doing this CPE collaboration was fantastic. I would never have looked at this as a modality for my business until I did this project and with CPE’s expertise it really opened up my eyes to the world of colour and light. I am really excited to take this to the next phase and to see where this could go as I believe this will be one of the most sought-after modalities in the future.

The Willows Holistic Therapies

Sarah Maitland-Price, Owner

CPE team were very proactive in setting up the joint project and managing it. They provided strong communication throughout the 2-month project, and ran it smoothly to its conclusion. We now have a much stronger understanding of what was possible for our optical product concept and have already identified the follow-up opportunity to take advantage of the CPE’s vacuum coating facility.

AVoptics

Malcolm Watson, Principal Research Engineer

The work done by the Bangor CPE team has allowed us to redefine our goals and we believe will produce the solution we seek to create a ground-breaking technology in the field of UVC light disinfection which can be used in the presence of humans without damaging them.

UVC Tech Ltd

Peter Rutter, Director

Doing this CPE collaboration was fantastic. I would never have looked at this as a modality for my business until I did this project and with CPE’s expertise it really opened up my eyes to the world of colour and light. I am really excited to take this to the next phase and to see where this could go as I believe this will be one of the most sought-after modalities in the future.

The Willows Holistic Therapies

Sarah Maitland-Price, Owner

CPE team were very proactive in setting up the joint project and managing it. They provided strong communication throughout the 2-month project, and ran it smoothly to its conclusion. We now have a much stronger understanding of what was possible for our optical product concept and have already identified the follow-up opportunity to take advantage of the CPE’s vacuum coating facility.

AVoptics

Malcolm Watson, Principal Research Engineer

The work done by the Bangor CPE team has allowed us to redefine our goals and we believe will produce the solution we seek to create a ground-breaking technology in the field of UVC light disinfection which can be used in the presence of humans without damaging them.

UVC Tech Ltd

Peter Rutter, Director

Doing this CPE collaboration was fantastic. I would never have looked at this as a modality for my business until I did this project and with CPE’s expertise it really opened up my eyes to the world of colour and light. I am really excited to take this to the next phase and to see where this could go as I believe this will be one of the most sought-after modalities in the future.

The Willows Holistic Therapies

Sarah Maitland-Price, Owner

CPE team were very proactive in setting up the joint project and managing it. They provided strong communication throughout the 2-month project, and ran it smoothly to its conclusion. We now have a much stronger understanding of what was possible for our optical product concept and have already identified the follow-up opportunity to take advantage of the CPE’s vacuum coating facility.

AVoptics

Malcolm Watson, Principal Research Engineer

The work done by the Bangor CPE team has allowed us to redefine our goals and we believe will produce the solution we seek to create a ground-breaking technology in the field of UVC light disinfection which can be used in the presence of humans without damaging them.

UVC Tech Ltd

Peter Rutter, Director

Doing this CPE collaboration was fantastic. I would never have looked at this as a modality for my business until I did this project and with CPE’s expertise it really opened up my eyes to the world of colour and light. I am really excited to take this to the next phase and to see where this could go as I believe this will be one of the most sought-after modalities in the future.

The Willows Holistic Therapies

Sarah Maitland-Price, Owner

CPE team were very proactive in setting up the joint project and managing it. They provided strong communication throughout the 2-month project, and ran it smoothly to its conclusion. We now have a much stronger understanding of what was possible for our optical product concept and have already identified the follow-up opportunity to take advantage of the CPE’s vacuum coating facility.

AVoptics

Malcolm Watson, Principal Research Engineer

The work done by the Bangor CPE team has allowed us to redefine our goals and we believe will produce the solution we seek to create a ground-breaking technology in the field of UVC light disinfection which can be used in the presence of humans without damaging them.

UVC Tech Ltd

Peter Rutter, Director

Doing this CPE collaboration was fantastic. I would never have looked at this as a modality for my business until I did this project and with CPE’s expertise it really opened up my eyes to the world of colour and light. I am really excited to take this to the next phase and to see where this could go as I believe this will be one of the most sought-after modalities in the future.

The Willows Holistic Therapies

Sarah Maitland-Price, Owner

CPE team were very proactive in setting up the joint project and managing it. They provided strong communication throughout the 2-month project, and ran it smoothly to its conclusion. We now have a much stronger understanding of what was possible for our optical product concept and have already identified the follow-up opportunity to take advantage of the CPE’s vacuum coating facility.

AVoptics

Malcolm Watson, Principal Research Engineer

The work done by the Bangor CPE team has allowed us to redefine our goals and we believe will produce the solution we seek to create a ground-breaking technology in the field of UVC light disinfection which can be used in the presence of humans without damaging them.

UVC Tech Ltd

Peter Rutter, Director

Doing this CPE collaboration was fantastic. I would never have looked at this as a modality for my business until I did this project and with CPE’s expertise it really opened up my eyes to the world of colour and light. I am really excited to take this to the next phase and to see where this could go as I believe this will be one of the most sought-after modalities in the future.

The Willows Holistic Therapies

Sarah Maitland-Price, Owner

CPE team were very proactive in setting up the joint project and managing it. They provided strong communication throughout the 2-month project, and ran it smoothly to its conclusion. We now have a much stronger understanding of what was possible for our optical product concept and have already identified the follow-up opportunity to take advantage of the CPE’s vacuum coating facility.

AVoptics

Malcolm Watson, Principal Research Engineer

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