Jersey has always had a reputation for innovation and one of Jersey’s latest start-up successes is proving that the Island isn’t just all about financial services.
Around ten years ago Alex Wood launched SRJ Technologies in Jersey. It was primarily an engineering start-up trying to break into the massive oil and gas industry with an innovative product. Fast forward to 2020 and despite the pandemic, SRJ has recently completed a successful listing on the Australian securities exchange and is forging some serious deals and partnerships globally. Channel Eye talked to founder and CEO Alex Wood.
How did it all begin?
Innovation is often brought about by simply asking the questions of why is something done that way, and what if we did it this way instead? That’s exactly what myself and engineer John Manning did. The oil and gas industry is risky, you’re talking highly flammable substances being pumped at high pressure through pipes, so why wasn’t there a weld-free pipe coupling that could be used for repairs and new build? That led to us developing our first product.
It felt like a marathon at times. Oil and gas is probably one of the highest barriers to entry because of all the safety-critical testing required. It took us years, but we secured our Lloyds of London and American Bureau of Shipping certification and started production in 2017.
Why Jersey, it doesn’t seem the natural home for an engineering business?
Our product isn’t made in the Island, but all the intellectual property rights are held here and our head office runs our global operation from St Helier. The actual products are produced geo-local to the client. We find suitable manufacturers in each location which not only saves on costs and time, but also cuts down massively on the environmental footprint because it negates long distance shipping.
I came to Jersey for several reasons. Firstly, there are several natural resources and renewable energy companies here already, as well as a thriving digital industry. Critical for us was that our initial investor is based in Jersey and there is a ready supply of highly skilled support services such as lawyers and accountants. Personally, I also have a young family and the lifestyle and community feel of the Island was also appealing.
We are so glad we did set up here. Virtually all our investors, until the public listing, were local, we were able to benefit from the vibrant entrepreneurial community here and the connectivity has been critical. Even during the first Covid lockdown, we were able to continue our business with minimum disruption, due to the gigabit wifi connectivity.
How has SRJ developed?
From that initial idea of a weld-free coupling, we now offer other weld-free products and provide containment management solutions with a range of asset integrity consulting. We are also developing technologies which can interface with a client’s systems to assist in analysing their data and highlighting how they can prevent leaks, manage repair programmes and much more. This all benefits not just our clients, but also the environment as well.
Who is on the team?
We’ve brought together a really different group of bright individuals who are doing some great stuff. It’s not about going into a sterile office wearing a suit, we have a team who are creative, experienced and can see the possibilities of what we can achieve.
Our technical team lead is Dr Paul Eastwood who spent 17 years at global energy services giant, Petrofac. Working with him are senior consultants, David Capeling, who spent eight and a half years with Petrofac and Bill Skailes, one of the world’s experts in vibration fatigue. Most recently Tom Wilson joined in Jersey as a recent graduate consultant. Our financial management comes from Stefan McGreevy, a former senior audit manager at PwC in Jersey. Roger Smith is our Managing Director of Middle East and America who has built and sold multiple companies in the industry to Bureau Veritas and Petrofac.
Rob Pinchbeck is our Chairman and he brings over 40 years of international experience in the oil and gas industry, principally from BP and Petrofac; and recently Dr Andrew Mitchell the Jersey based consultant cardiologist and digital investor joined the board. We have also attracted Australian businessman and former motorsport champion, Mick Doohan, as an Ambassador.
Big expansion plans. We’ve recently signed a strategic alliance with Japanese conglomerate, Mitsui which means we can promote our range of services to their huge global portfolio of infrastructural assets. For example, they’re a majority owner of the world’s largest floating platform solutions for the oil and gas industry. We are expanding into the Middle East with the help of an agency agreement with Zamil Operations and Maintenance in Saudi Arabia.
Plus we have just joined forces with John Crane to help tackle fugitive methane emissions from plants and pipelines. This will help governments around the world to tackle their greenhouse gas emissions targets.
We’re also working on several other exciting deals which we’ll be announcing in the coming months and we’re continuing to innovate with technology to support our services. I’m really pleased that we can now be Ambassadors ourselves for Jersey as a home-grown start-up business going out into the world. We built a business here we didn’t bring it here and we’re looking to take on more staff in 2021.
Any advice to new entrepreneurs in Jersey?
There were times I thought I was insane to have started this journey, but getting to where we are today has been incredibly validating. If you believe in your product/service, keep going. I also advise you to seek advice. In Jersey we are incredibly lucky to have some highly successful and experienced entrepreneurs, who are generous with their time and advice. Anywhere else in the world you wouldn’t get near to people like that. Ask those questions and find innovative solutions to problems that you understand.