Posted by Jonny Agnew
Northern Ireland has become synonymous with many technological developments over the past century. Defibrillators, pharmaceuticals and ejector seats for aircraft – to name but a few. Perhaps disproportionately to the size and populace of Northern Ireland, we have always punched above our weight.
Something that is perhaps less widely acknowledged, is that Glen Dimplex, a global “white goods” giant is headquartered and was founded on these shores. It seems strange that this is not widely known; turnover for the Glen Dimplex Group is well over £1 billion, and 30 brands operate under their umbrella. Your Morphy Richards coffee maker? Glen Dimplex. Your Belling Cooker? Glen Dimplex.
We are going to take a look at founder and majority owner, Martin Naughton, and his journey from humble beginnings to riches. Naughton took a chance. Leaving a secure, salaried position, he personally borrowed £60k which was matched by the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation (NIFC), and founded Glen Electric in Newry 1973.
At the time, he described their biggest challenge as “meeting payroll on a Friday afternoon”. It was a gamble – but posting a profit from year one enabled them to buy back the shares from NIFC and wholly own their Company again. Importantly, for Naughton, “the only people we were accountable to, were ourselves”.
In just 4 years, and despite being 8 times smaller, Glen Electric acquired Dimplex, a UK based heating solutions Company, in 1977. This was the beginning of the Glen Dimplex Group, which grew steadily since that seminal moment.
What is most interesting about Mr Naughton, is that his business career has been underpinned by the mantra “innovate or evaporate”. Never content to simply milk existing revenues lines, Naughton stayed right on the innovation curve – displaying foresight and courage in various innovative moves.
Perhaps best typified by the acquisition of Hamilton Beach in 1986. Backed by bank finance, they paid $105M to acquire the heating giant and secured entry into the American market.
It is the sheer commitment to innovation that shines brightest here. The audacity to acquire Dimplex, a Company 8 times larger than Glen Electric. The drive to push the boundaries throughout your business career – dragging entire markets along, revolutionising industries.
The story of James Dyson is possibly a more familiar one. Similarly inspiring – Dyson made 5127 failed prototypes before his innovation bore fruit, with the suction driven vacuum cleaner. Five thousand, one hundred and twenty seven times. Think about that relative to time – the guy iterated his product differently, every day for over 14 years. Just like Naughton starting out in a shed in Newry, he strove for the bigger picture and persevered.
It is MOF Technologies ambition to continue pushing Northern Ireland to a global forefront as a centre of excellent for MOFs.
Naughton and Dyson are certainly at the forefront of our thinking as we promote our Innovation Lab. We have a vision to continue to lead the way in developing new MOF applications and bringing them to market. Be it extended fruit storage, Gas filters, Thermal Heat Pumps, Gas Sensors, Carbon Capture and Sequestration, along with a vast range of other applications we haven’t even thought of yet.
The MOF Technologies Innovation Lab will help us help you to explore these opportunities further. It might not always work in the beginning, but just as Martin Naughton and James Dyson has proven, it is always better to try, and by being smart and innovative enough – we will get there in the end.