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£237,500 in Government Grants Light the Way for Welsh Optoelectronic Pioneers

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
Caerphilly, Wales

UK government grants were critical to company's progress

Speaking to Ron Yandle, CEO of small business, Cymtec Ltd., reveals a relatively compact company team, including three PhDs 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 companyís 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 Cymtecís work involves new developments in endoscopy -- the practice of examining the human bodyís 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 itís expensive to replace. But our LED systems work continuously -- theyíre sealed for life, so the bulbs last far longer -- and their thermal management technology means the equipment doesnít get so hot."

The benefits offered by Cymtecís 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 companyís 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.

Multiple government grants are approved for research and development

All in all, it seems apparent Cymtecís work is both cutting-edge and costly, so obtaining UK government grants must be a challenge. Fortunately, theyíve had some help along the way since the companyís 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 government grants and additional investment.

Cymtec has secured several important grant money awards over its lifetime. Among these were a £10,000 business grant from Merthyr Tydfil Council for capital equipment; three Single Investment Fund (SIF) grant funds to help with patent costs, financial planning, and specialist jigs and fixtures (mechanical items), respectively, totalling £13,000; a Local Investment Fund (LIF) govt grant administered by Caerphilly Council, with a value of £3,500, for website work and IT hardware; and a further SIF research and development grant to the tune of £180,000 (which is fundamental to the development of the companyís main product line.)

Along with one or two other awards, the company has thus far enjoyed financial assistance 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 grant applications with Imperial College London.

Ronís 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. Heís also served as a manager for what was, at the time, one of the worldís 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 heís been on both sides of the fence when it comes to finding and allocating government support. That, together with his many years of director-level management experience, means his appreciation of government financing is unequivocal, particularly in the light of Cymtecís government funding successes.

Private and government funding programs require patience and preparation

"Without them [funding programmes], it would have been impossible for us," Ron asserts, before praising the funding sources Cymtec has dealt with. "Theyíve been very helpful, no question, but you mustnít forget, from a funderís point of view, theyíre very much on your side."

He also has some sound advice for those looking for grants and other financial support from governments.

"Itís not easy to gain grant funding. Most people probably think itís only a matter of completing a form, and then they canít 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. Whatís needed, in terms of back-up evidence, in terms of financial forecasts and business plans, people need to make sure theyíve got all that in place. Itíll take time, and some people canít be bothered, but whatís not always understood is that funding has to be audited, so if itís proved that a body didnít ask the right questions, or get evidence, that could have serious repercussions for their department. So, from my point of view, Iíve never found it an onerous task, and we tend to have the right data to hand anyway -- we have to!"

Cymtecís emergence in their hi-tech arena is a welcome riposte to anyone pessimistic about the UKís capacity to excel as an entrepreneurial base in testing economic times. Their illuminating work seems proof that, with the right know-how and support, business brilliance need not be a pipe dream.

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Please note our Centre is not affiliated to programs profiled in the above article and no claim is made that funding is due to our Centre unless stated.

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