Speaking to Ron Yandle, CEO of Cymtec Ltd, reveals a relatively compact company team, including three full-time PhD students and a CTO, Professor Nigel Copner, who is also Chair of Optoelectronics at the University of Glamorgan. The impression given is of a very bright business – an appropriate conclusion, given its speciality. Based in South Wales, around fifteen miles north of Cardiff, Cymtec are pioneers in the field of LED multiplexers, light engine and light pipe technology. LED (light-emitting diode) may be a fairly familiar acronym to many people these days, but the kind that Cymtec deal in are not the common variety found in torches and car sidelights. Theirs are state-of-the-art optoelectronic devices that produce very powerful light (and heat). The company’s expertise is focussed on harnessing this hi-tech wizardry for a number of interesting applications.
“One of the markets for our technology is biosciences, especially medical instrumentation,” says Ron.
Indeed, part of Cymtec’s work involves new developments in endoscopy – the practice of examining the human body’s interior, via the insertion of tube-like apparatus. “There are drawbacks with current systems,” Ron continues. “Existing unit boxes contain large bulbs and the tip of the endoscope can get very hot, which can be a hazard. Also, the bulbs have a limited lifespan, so when one blows it’s expensive to replace. But our LED systems work continuously – they’re sealed for life, so the bulbs last far longer – and their thermal management technology means the equipment doesn’t get so hot.”
The benefits offered by Cymtec’s product are numerous. There are costs savings, but the quality of light is important and theirs is a superior form, providing improved illumination, plus flexibility in terms of the characteristics of the light that can be used by medical staff. Their system is also easier to operate and allows for faster diagnosis, curtailing the need to resort to invasive surgery for a biopsy. It’s an exciting area of progress, one the company is working on with the likes of Imperial College London, with clinical trials scheduled. Other major projects for the company’s work concern digital projectors – the high-end kind used to show HD films – and terrestrial and air simulators, as used by the US Air Force and Marine Corps.
All in all, it seems apparent Cymtec’s work is both cutting-edge and costly, so financing the business must be a challenge. Fortunately, they’ve had some help along the way, since the company’s inception in early 2007. “Originally, the business was reliant on my own funds, plus we received some match funding from HSBC near the start,” states Ron. But real impetus came from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) in the form of various grants and investment.
Cymtec has secured several important grant awards over its lifetime. Among these were: a £10,000 grant from Merthyr Tydfil Council for capital equipment; three Single Investment Fund (SIF) grants to help with patent costs, financial planning, and specialist jigs and fixtures (mechanical items) respectively, totalling £13,000; a Local Investment Fund (LIF) grant administered by Caerphilly Council, with a value of £3,500, for website work and IT hardware; and a further SIF grant for R&D to the tune of £180,000 (which is fundamental to the development of the company’s main product line). Along with one or two other awards, the company has thus far enjoyed grant funding worth a total of £237,500. In short, this has been vital to its work, and such revenue streams continue to be mined, including joint funding applications with Imperial College London.
Ron’s career has involved a varied network of paths and positions, with a background as a chemist that led to work as an industrial engineer for British Steel. He’s also served as a manager for what was, at the time, one of the world’s largest computer companies, before a stint as a profit coordinator for a European company. However, his understanding of the business funding landscape was surely enhanced most by the three years he spent with the Welsh Development Agency. During that time, his team encouraged hi-tech companies to locate in Wales, project managing their moves, so he’s been on both sides of the fence when it comes to finding and allocating funding and support. That, together with his many years of director-level management experience, means his appreciation of government funding is unequivocal, particularly in the light of Cymtec’s grant successes.
“Without them it would have been impossible for us,” Ron asserts, before praising the Cymtec has dealt with. “They’ve been very helpful, no question, but you mustn’t forget, from a funder’s point of view, they’re very much on your side.” He also has some sound advice for those looking for grants and other financial support from governments. “It’s not easy to gain grant funding. Most people probably think it’s only a matter of completing a form, and then they can’t understand why it gets turned down. But you must think six months ahead, because it can take anywhere between two and nine months to get a grant approved. What’s needed, in terms of back-up evidence, in terms of financial forecasts and business plans, people need to make sure they’ve got all that in place. It’ll take time, and some people can’t be bothered, but what’s not always understood is that funding has to be audited, so if it’s proved that a body didn’t ask the right questions, or get evidence, that could have serious repercussions for their department. So, from my point of view, I’ve never found it an onerous task, and we tend to have the right data to hand anyway – we have to!”
Cymtec’s emergence in their hi-tech arena is a welcome riposte to anyone pessimistic about the UK’s capacity to excel as an entrepreneurial base in testing economic times. Their illuminating work seems proof that, with the right knowhow and support, business brilliance need not be a pipe dream.
Would you like to get funding for your small business, too? There's money available now for qualified existing and start-up businesses. Call Freephone 0800 082 3445.
Recipients discuss their success
and give you tips to get funding.
Phone 0800 082 3445 or email us