The past year has seen continuing growth at Sheffield-based Tribosonics – the size of the team has increased by about 30% and revenues look set to double. 

“It’s been an interesting period,” says the understated CEO Glenn Fletcher. “What we provide and what industries need are really coming together.”

That’s because Tribosonics is increasingly at the physical, granular end of digital transformation projects in large-scale process industries, providing an integrated sensing platform that enables critical assets, components and processes  in sectors such as petrochemicals, oil and gas, nuclear, polymers and composites , to be digitised; thus   insightful data can be generated, gathered and analysed to meet performance, quality, sustainability and value creation objectives. 

Export growth continues to be strong, notably in the US. Next year, Fletcher anticipates opening a US base from which to expand. “It’s a market with strong, global mid-sized companies who are very receptive to our technology,” he says. It’s the same in European markets such as Germany, France and Austria. 

The convergence of sensing, electrical and mechanical hardware with data science and software engineering is being reflected in the company’s recruitment and in the growth of its Future Leaders apprenticeship programme. This ambitious scheme, which started by training mechanical engineering apprentices at the AMRC Training Centre, has been expanded. Tribosonics is now training data science apprenticeships with York St John University – “they have the best industrially oriented data science programme by a country mile,” says Fletcher; a commercial apprenticeship strand is run through Aston University; and electronics engineering apprenticeship training is through Sheffield Hallam University.

The Future Leaders programme is absolutely central to the company building up its skills and capacity to grow. It is also expanding into project management. “We are determined to expand and grow the scheme and find the right partners,” says Fletcher. 

From his perspective, the Government’s proposal to make maths education compulsory to the age of 18 is a good idea but it misses the context. “It is not about teaching maths for the sake of it or about people being able to code or write algorithms; it’s about the ability to use mathematics as a means to investigate and to solve problems. We would snap up people who have that mindset. That is gold dust.”

He is optimistic that such talent is gravitating towards Tribosonics and, more broadly, to the region.

A year ago, it was hard to recruit but the market has changed. People want to be more involved in teams, to work together collaboratively, and be involved in a team that is producing something that’s both physical and digital which is going to make a significant impact. Here in Sheffield they have access to a tech community and can learn great skills, as well as live in a beautiful part of the world where they can do their cycling and climbing and hiking and fell running in the adjacent Peak District. That’s a real attraction. It’s far better than working remotely and building an app

“The trick is to find the right investment partner who you know will support you over a period of time.”

Glenn Fletcher, CEO