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  • by Nicky Godding, Editor
  • 13 Apr, 2017

The phenomenal growth of Advanced Insulation proves that success is all in the chemistry

From Kazakhstan to Korea, clever chemistry developed and engineered by Gloucester-based Advanced Insulation is being applied to new products which are keeping oil and gas pipelines, ships and oilrigs protected from the heat, cold — and attack by sledgehammer (of which more later).

Nothing can stop a new business thriving if it hits the market at the right time, with the right products driven by decisive leadership, even during a global recession.  

The men who’ve steered Advanced Insulation from zero to superhero in less than ten years (annual turnover is now £58 million), are managing director Andrew Bennion and technical director, Simon Shepherd. Andrew and Simon met at Alderley Plc, another globally successful Gloucestershire company in the oil and gas sector headed up by Simon’s father Tony.  

I met Andrew at Advanced Insulation’s factory at Quedgeley, Gloucester to find out more about the man behind the business.  

Andrew graduated from Birmingham University as a chemical engineer. He took his first job at Monsanto’s Aspirin plant, North Wales so he could slalom canoe on the River Dee in his spare time. A move to the Laporte chemical company in Widnes saw him running several of the company’s sulphuric acid and effluent treatment plants. This sounds unenviable, but I clearly don’t appreciate the scientific achievements behind the processes. He also ran its power distribution plant and worked on processing edible oils and copier paper.

He moved to Alderley Plc and into general management. Here he completed an MBA at Henley Business School and became Alderley’s group finance director. In 2008 he and Simon completed a management buyout of the company subsidiary Alderley Materials and named the new company Advanced Insulation.

Investing to grow

The new company’s growth strategy was based on a commitment to research and development. “We’ve always invested around 10% of turnover in R&D,” explains Andrew. That’s a lot, and unusual for an industrial company where annual R&D investment usually averages around 2-3% of turnover.  

Advanced Insulation’s core products are based on phenolic chemical compounds. A breakthrough in the company’s development came through collaboration with multinational energy company Statoil. Advanced Insulation adapted its formula for application on subsea structures at the oil producer’s North Sea Kristin plant. This opened up a rich new seam of business.

New grades of phenolic products were developed to meet the increasingly technical demands of the oil and gas sectors. Advanced Insulation then developed a new range of industrial insulation and protection jackets for large and complicated-shaped equipment such as valves. These removable fire protection covers are as efficient as bonded insulation materials.  

Manufacturing across the globe

While the design and engineering of compounds and products is done largely at Advanced Insulation’s factory in Gloucester, the application of insulating material happens at the client’s site, and takes a great deal of skill.  

“We do a lot of training because every skilled engineer must perform at their best in front of the client,” explains Andrew.

The manufacture of fire protection covers is also best done close to the end user, so the company established a manufacturing facility in Dubai. The facility now has around 75 employees and Advanced Insulation has since opened jacket manufacturing facilities in Kazakhstan, Korea, Brazil and closer to home, Nottingham (which supplies the company’s North Sea business).

Technology drives oil and gas development

It’s no secret that the oil and gas industry is having a tough time, so can Advanced Insulation’s success continue? “We believe the oil and gas market will come back,” says Andrew.

“Traditionally we focussed on upstream oil and gas because there were so many opportunities. Now we are diversifying into other areas such as sustainable energy, where our technology can be adapted to fit.”

And don’t write off the oil and gas industry yet, he warns. “There is less capital expenditure in oil and gas at the moment but we’ve lived through a number of cycles, though this is the longest. As technology evolves, oil fields can be developed in more hostile environments. Many of these fields are operating in extreme temperatures: hotter or sub-zero, so our new product innovations are ideal.”

Advanced Insulation’s MS400 innovation has won many awards. Half the weight of other insulation products, it can be applied to the underdeck of an oilrig. “Weight is a massive issue on oilrigs and MS400 is much more robust than a standard system of fibrous insulation held on by a stainless steel shell,” says Andrew. “Our product is bonded using the same glue used on A380 wings.”

Advanced Insulation’s MS400 innovation was so radical that one client, not believing its properties, took a sledgehammer to it.

That didn’t work. He had to resort to a hammer and chisel on the bonded product before he could chip anything off.

Where there’s a need, there’s a solution

Advanced Insulation’s growth through innovation is complemented by strategic acquisitions. In 2014 the company acquired Plymouth-based Manuplas, which develops polymers for the marine, offshore, renewable and leisure markets.

The following year the company purchased Nottingham-based Covertherm to manufacture insulating jackets for use in the North Sea.

From £3 million turnover in 2009 to £58 million in 2017, what continues to motivate him? “I get huge satisfaction when a decision goes well. When I see our success, I see the individuals involved and how they’ve developed and taken ownership of projects.”

Andrew has an unshakeable belief that if his sales team can identify a need, Advanced Insulation can provide the solution. “We are best at adapting core chemistries to solve new and existing problems.”

Advanced Insulation is going to need a bigger awards cabinet. Added to its Queen’s Awards for Innovation and International Trade, it’s won many awards from respected engineering and manufacturing support organisations and was ranked 30th in the seventh annual Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200. Track 200 ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales.

Quick Facts on Advanced Insulation

Advanced Insulation is one of the region’s fastest growing companies. It designs and engineers insulation and fire protection products and systems. The company has worked primarily in the offshore oil and gas subsea sector, but is expanding fast into sectors such as marine and wind energy. Operating globally, the company has recently secured its first contract in China.

Established:                 2009

Head Office:               Gloucester

Group Revenue:         £58 million

Employees:                 430

4 Facts on Andrew Bennion

1.      Studied chemical engineering at university (little known fact: so did Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Bob Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex)

2.      Former slalom canoeist. Now a cyclist

3.      Has competed in the world’s largest cycle race, the Argus Cycle Tour, in South Africa

4.      Has no excuse for being late for work. He lives 10 minutes away from Advanced Insulation HQ, Gloucester


LATEST NEWS

Business & Innovation Magazine

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 15 Dec, 2017

A new university survey has revealed Blenheim Palace contributes nearly £90m to the economy annually.

 The study, which was carried out by Oxford Brookes University, is part of a commitment by the Oxfordshire Estate to triple its economic impact within 10 years.

 The survey also found Blenheim Palace is responsible for supporting more than 4,900 jobs. A total of 527 of those jobs are either directly employed by Blenheim (307) or via their in-house caterers Searcys (220).

 The new report forms part of a radical 10-year plan devised by the team now led by CEO Dominic Hare which maps out the Estate’s priorities going forward.

 “We’ve created an ambitious 10-year plan which underpins everything we are doing at Blenheim and involves everyone and every area of the Estate,” said Dominic.

 “One of the key goals is a commitment to triple our contribution to the local economy and the work carried out by Oxford Brookes University will be invaluable in both measuring our achievements and also making informed choices about the positive impact of our businesses on the local area.

 “Other targets include housing 300 families in truly affordable homes, becoming one of the UK’s top 100 employers, training over 100 apprentices, becoming a net generator of green energy, increasing paying visitor numbers to 750,000 and doubling our charitable contributions,” he added.

 The survey looked at every aspect of the Estate and included; Visitor business, Conferences and Hospitality, Construction and Property, Farming and Game, In-house Catering, Industrial, Mineral Water and Renewable Energy Trusts.

 It will be repeated annually to gauge progress towards the ultimate goal of trebling their economic impact within a decade.

 Other key findings showed Blenheim spends £17m annually with UK suppliers. More than a third (36%) of which is spent within a 20-mile radius of Blenheim Palace supporting over 1,000 jobs locally.

Of the 600,000 annual paying visitors to Blenheim Palace, nearly 14% stay in the area for more than a day and contribute an average of £336 to the local economy through a combination of accommodation, food and drinks, gifts, transport costs and other expenditure.

If the long-term target of attracting 750,000 paying visitors per annum is achieved it would mean the total local spend would increase to £23m.

Events like the International Horse Trials and Countryfile Live made significant contributions with a combined direct GVA (Gross Value Added) of £12.8m - before taking into account the spend of all those visitors.

 Other significant contributors to the overall GVA figure of £89,166,603 included construction investment (£9,514,691).

 Blenheim Palace also helped raise £1m for charity between May 2016 and April 2017.

 “We’re working hard to do more than ever for our local communities, and this economic impact survey is the first step to measuring how well we are doing on our journey,” said Dominic.

 “We’re proud to be part of the local communities and invest in the economic, social and cultural life of those who share it for generations to come,” he added.

 A full version of the report will be available to downloadfrom blenheimpalace.com/impact in January

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 15 Dec, 2017

Coventry and Warwickshire’s automotive excellence has been shown off to key figures from the industry from across Europe.

Delegations from France, Catalonia and Sweden visited the Manufacturing Technology Centre to find out about the work being undertaken across the city and the county.

They met Coventry City Council, London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), Aston Martin and Penso and heard about the innovation and developments taking place by the businesses and others in the area.

The delegation also gave presentations on their work and how they could potentially tie-in with the sector in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Delegates from CCI International Hauts-de-France – a body from the north of France – also visited MIRA, the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering and Jaguar Land Rover and have already written to Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce in a bid to develop long-term relationships.

James Ahearne, the International Trade Commercial Executive at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This was an extremely positive couple of days and really helped to raise the profile of Coventry and Warwickshire’s automotive expertise with some key regions across Europe.

“The Automotive Summit gave companies from our patch the chance to find out more about the capabilities and potential partnerships they could strike with the organisations who visited from France, Sweden and Catalonia.

“They were also very keen to hear more about our businesses too.

“It really showed that, despite Brexit, there is a very positive outlook towards Coventry and Warwickshire and there is still huge potential for growth and investment here.

“Within just a couple of days of the visit, we received a note from CCI International Hauts-de-France saying how impressed they were with what they had seen in Coventry and Warwickshire and the real depth we have here.

“They are very keen to strike up new partnerships and relationships with companies here in the city and the county and that is extremely encouraging for us.”

He added: “We have a great story to tell when it comes to the automotive sector in our region and the Summit provided a great opportunity to hear about some of the investments taking place in Coventry & Warwickshire and the fantastic innovative work going on here.

“We’re now looking at how we can take this forward and plan future trade missions and events in 2018 and beyond.”

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 13 Dec, 2017

Llanthony Secunda Priory Trust is looking for new Trustees and a new Chair to join its Board as it moves into the next exciting phase of the Priory’s Reformation.

 

Its focus is changing from the rescue role of the last ten years to actively running a heritage venue, utilising its cultural value and working to co-develop a project with funders and stakeholders that has a 21st century purpose. The building, conservation and restoration  work as part of this £4 million project is successfully underway, and due for completion in summer 2018, when it will be open as an exciting heritage venue in Gloucester.

New trustees will bring the skill sets relevant to operating an exciting heritage venue, extending and complementing our current trustees, knowing the main restoration work has been completed.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Jeremy Williamson says: “To date the Trust has been on a “rescue” mission and I and fellow trustees have had skills that matched that requirement but, as we move forward, we recognise that new skill sets are required.  It is for this reason that, after 10 years we are putting in train this recruitment exercise”.

Find out more about these opportunities and receive an information pack please contact the Trust Secretary, Liz Griffiths – by e-mail at liz.griffiths@llanthonysecunda.org or by phone on 01453 844203.

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 13 Dec, 2017


The Ivy Collection’s first brasserie in Gloucestershire, The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie; a stylish all-day dining destination in the heart of Cheltenham’s bustling Montpellier district has opened.

Sitting in the old Lloyds Bank building, an iconic Grade I listed Rotunda building, The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie is open seven days a week and the restaurant menu consist of British inspired classics that span breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, weekend brunch and dinner, plus an impressive cocktail and wine menu.

The interior was created by the acclaimed Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, designed to complement the heritage of the building. Sleek marble floors, bronzed antiques and burnt orange leather banquettes sit against The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie’s signature Ivy green colour palette, with an eclectic collection of artwork curated by Adam Ellis Design Studio, featuring everything from vibrant pop-art to Victorian sketches of historic Cheltenham, adorns the walls at every turn.

The  centrepiece of the restaurant is the brasserie’s  circular bar, sat directly beneath the domed ceiling that gives the Rotunda building its name. Acting as the heart of the restaurant, the bar is the central point of the main dining room.

With space for up to 200 guests across the main restaurant, bar and terrace, the brasserie also has a private dining room for up to 24 guests. Walk-ins are encouraged at The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie, with a proportion of tables held back each day to allow passers-by to drop in at a time.

The Ivy Collection is a group of restaurants, brasseries and cafés, originally established in London with sites now open in a variety of select locations across the UK. Offering accessible all-day dining, each location is carefully handpicked to value, reflect and add to the local area.

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 07 Dec, 2017

An £86 million Government investment in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA’s) nuclear fusion research programme at Culham Science Centre has been announced. This investment will fund the building and operation of a National Fusion Technology Platform at Culham, expected to open in 2020.

The new facilities will support British industry and help to secure around £1 billion in contracts from the key international fusion research experiment ITER, now being built in France, and other global fusion projects. Looking further ahead, they will enable UKAEA to develop technology for the first nuclear fusion power plants and put UK industry in a strong position to exploit the commercialisation of this highly promising low-carbon energy source.

The National Fusion Technology Platform comprises two new centres of excellence: * Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology (H3AT) will research how to process and store tritium, one of the fuels that will power commercial fusion reactors; * Fusion Technology Facilities (FTF) will carry out thermal, mechanical, hydraulic and electromagnetic tests on prototype components under the conditions experienced inside fusion reactors.

The National Fusion Technology Platform will enhance the UK’s expertise in critical areas of fusion research, with significant benefits to the economy as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. It will also provide a powerful signal of the UK’s intent to continue its participation in international science collaboration after leaving the European Union.

So far, 38 UK companies have won contracts totalling over €500 million on the €14 billion ITER experiment – the stepping stone to fusion power stations. H3AT and FTF will work closely with the industrial supply chain to create knowledge to position them for the next phase of ITER procurements in areas including the tritium plant, Hot Cell, measurement systems, assembly, maintenance and reactor materials.

The National Fusion Technology Platform is expected to create around 100 jobs at Culham Science Centre and many more in the wider nuclear industry supply chain.

UKAEA’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Ian Chapman, said: "Fusion is entering the delivery era, with an increasing focus on the key technologies that will be needed for the first power stations. The National Fusion Technology Platform will help British industry to maximise growth from opportunities provided by ITER. In the longer term it means the UK will be at the forefront of developing fusion and bringing cleaner energy to the world.”

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 05 Dec, 2017

Regional & City Airports (RCA), the airports management division of Rigby Group plc, has completed its fourth regional UK airport acquisition with the purchase of Bournemouth Airport for an undisclosed sum – underlining the group's ongoing intent to being a significant player in the UK’s vital regional airports market.

Adding another operation to a portfolio that already includes Norwich, Exeter, and Coventry Airports, as well as contracts to operate Solent (formerly Daedalus Airfield), City of Derry and Blackpool Airports, today’s purchase of Bournemouth Airport from Manchester Airports Group further expands a network of growing passenger and commercial aviation facilities across the South of England, creating a combined entity capable of offering passengers throughout the South a highly credible alternative to the major London airports.

Chairman and Founder of the Stratford-upon-Avon based group, Sir Peter Rigby said: “The acquisition of Bournemouth Airport represents an important landmark in our strategy to create a robust and credible group of regional airport assets and services across the UK. Not only does it expand our catchment to include the major regions of South England, but also focuses operations on a core market poorly serviced by the major aviation players.”

Already employing more than 600 people across the UK, RCA has built a reputation as efficient, safe and commercially-astute airport operator, driving improvements to route development, commercial revenues, operating costs and capital investment in order to deliver a consistently sound commercial return, leveraging significant buying power and shared expertise to deliver tangible benefits to small airports across the UK.

RCA Chief Executive Andrew Bell said: “I am delighted to welcome everyone at Bournemouth Airport to our fast-growing team. It is already one of the South’s flagship aviation hubs, and I am very much looking forward to working with the staff and management as we continue to expand its operations and build on that success.”

Day-to-day management of the adjacent 200-acre Aviation Business Park will be handled by Rigby Real Estate – the parent group’s specialist property management division.

Bournemouth Airport currently offers flights to 22 destinations across Europe, with 700,000 passengers using the airport in 2016.

A base for Ryanair and TUI, the facility has undergone a £45m investment – providing air travellers to and from the South Coast region with a new and greatly improved passenger experience – and supports 900 full time equivalent jobs contributing more than £24 million to the local economy.

With the takeover complete, RCA now plans to help grow both commercial and passenger activity at the airport, leveraging the group’s scale, contacts, and expertise to power continued progression. The group recently recorded its best ever year in the year to March, handling 1.7 million passengers with 189,000 flight movements connecting directly to over 60 destinations across its operations.

 

Steve Rigby, Rigby Group COO, commented: “While already a well-run and robust operation, Bournemouth Airport is ripe for growth. Growing demand for both UK and International flights in nearby Southampton offers significant scope to increase passenger numbers, while the site’s potential as a regional business hub also represents a clear opportunity for expansion. We’re here to do business, and have already reached out to key regional stakeholders with a view to driving forward to growth of the airport.

“As part of RCA, the airport will benefit from the economies of scale and sharing of best practice normally only available to larger hub airports – providing job security for existing staff and opening up a range of exciting new opportunities for both the facility itself and the region as a whole.”

Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of MAG, added: “Bournemouth Airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time.

"RCA has a detailed integration plan in place to ensure a seamless transition of ownership and operations at Bournemouth which will maintain business as usual for passengers and customers.

“We wish the new owners every success and are confident that the airport will continue to flourish as we continue to focus on improving Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports."

 

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 27 Nov, 2017

Business Secretary Greg Clark has launched an ambitious Industrial Strategy, setting out how Britain can build on its economic strengths, address its productivity problem, embrace technological change and boost earnings.

With the aim of making the UK the world’s most innovative nation by 2030, the government will invest a further £725 million over the next 3 years in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF)  to respond to some of the greatest global challenges and the opportunities faced by the UK. This will include £170 million to transform the UK's construction sector and help create affordable places to live and work and up to £210 million to improve early diagnosis of illnesses and develop precision medicine for patients across the UK.

The government has previously committed £1 billion to the first wave of Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund projects , including investing £246 million in next generation battery technology and £86 million in robotics hubs across the UK.

Last week the Prime Minister announced an ambition to increase the level of investment in research and development (R&D) , rising from 1.7% to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. This could mean around £80 billion of additional investment in advanced technology in the next decade, helping to transform whole sectors, create new industries, and support innovation across the country.

The white paper also confirms government will be pressing ahead with a series of Sector Deals , with construction, life sciences, automotive and AI the first to benefit from these new strategic and long-term partnerships with government, backed by private sector co-investment. Work will continue with other sectors on transformative sector deals.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "Our modern Industrial Strategy will shape a stronger and fairer economy for decades to come. It will help create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and support these businesses in seizing the big opportunities of our time, such as artificial intelligence and big data, whilst also making sure our young people have the skills to take on the high-paid, high-skilled jobs this creates.

As we leave the European Union and forge a new path for ourselves, we need to focus on building a better future for our country and all the people who live in it."

The government has identified 4 Grand Challenges : global trends that will shape our rapidly changing future and which the UK must embrace to ensure we harness all the opportunities they bring. The 4 are:

  • artificial intelligence, putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution
  • clean growth, maximising the advantages for UK industry from the global shift to clean growth
  • ageing society to help meet the needs of an ageing society
  • future of mobility to become a world leader in the way people, goods and services move

Each Grand Challenge represents an open invitation to business, academia and civil society to work and engage with the government to innovate, develop new technologies and ensure the UK seizes these global opportunities.

Business Secretary Greg Clark added: "The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies. The UK is well-placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength. We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries. The Industrial Strategy is an unashamedly ambitious vision for the future of our country, laying out how we tackle our productivity challenge, earn our way in the future, and improve living standards across the country."

The white paper follows extensive engagement by government with industry, academia and business bodies who submitted almost 2,000 responses to the green paper consultation  earlier in 2017.

 



by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 23 Nov, 2017
Hazlewoods take a look at the Chancellor’s first Autumn Budget. The gloomy downgrading of the UK’s growth forecasts was offset, during his speech, by some positive announcements about increased spending for education, housing, the NHS and to improve productivity. However, with a distinct lack of tax raising measures, you have to question where the money is going to come from.

On top of the £3.5 billion previously scheduled increase in funding for the NHS, Mr Hammond announced an additional, exceptional £2.8 billion with £350 million available immediately to help improve A&E waiting times.

In an attempt to assist the next generation with the new digital economy, investment is to be made into education or, more specifically, into maths. Schools and colleges, who support their students to study Maths, will be rewarded by giving them £600 for every extra pupil who decides to take Maths or Further Maths A Levels, or Core Maths.

It was widely predicted that housing would be at the heart of this Budget and the Chancellor didn’t disappoint, with wide ranging plans aimed at achieving 300,000 new homes per year, but only by the mid 2020s.

One of his major tax announcements also related to the housing market, where first time buyers of houses worth up to £300,000 will be exempt from Stamp Duty Land Tax. Those acquiring higher valued properties of up to £500,000 will receive a nil rate band on the first £300,000, the aim being to assist 95% of first time buyers and help turn their dreams of home ownership into a reality.

The Chancellor announced that there is to be an increase in the tax free personal allowance in 2018/19 to £11,850 and for the higher rate band to £46,350.

Companies took a hit with the announcement that ‘indexation allowance’ will be frozen from 1 January 2018, meaning companies will no longer benefit from relief for inflationary rises when selling chargeable assets, which individuals lost back in 2008.

There was relief that the VAT threshold was not reduced, as had been talked about in advance of the Budget, although the registration threshold of £85,000 is to be frozen for the next two years.

It is perhaps of no surprise that there were no controversial measures announced from the Chancellor of a minority Government. The last thing they need at the moment is a Finance Bill that is not passed by the House.

It remains to be seen as to whether the measures announced appeal to the youth that appear to have deserted the Conservatives in droves. Regardless, the Government appears to be committed to giving them every opportunity of watching the next election from their own home.

www.hazlewoods.co.uk
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