2016 marks the tenth anniversary of LSP. To mark this, we are delighted to showcase some of the diverse and amazing companies who comprise Liverpool Science Park’s tenant community as we head into an exciting new decade.
Through a series of interviews, these ten amazing creatives fill us in on how they started out, why Liverpool is the place to be and, last but not least, what’s next for their company. Our interviews will be published each Friday over ten weeks so keep your eyes peeled for the next amazing creative interview.
This week’s interview is with Ultamation who are based at Innovation Centre 2. Here, we learn more about their amazing story…
Who makes up the Ultamation team?
Ultamation was formed in 2007 by Oliver Hall, and has quickly become one of the leading custom integration companies in the UK. We deliver projects predominantly across the UK but we have health spas and super yachts across the globe under our belts too. We position ourselves as the glue between the numerous facets of home automation and the Internet of Things bringing everything from whole house audio and video distribution to security and energy management together under a seamless, integrated and, importantly, easy-to-use system.
We’re proud of having a small, lean, team and everyone has particular skills they bring to our business. Oliver Hall is the managing director and as well as overseeing our projects, also takes an active role in development of our core products and research and development into new technology. Emma Hall manages the business’ finances and marketing efforts. Andy Tatton is responsible for delivering programming projects and spends a lot of time abroad working on super yachts. Matt Chapman is also responsible for complex programming projects, having recently completed a 15 bedroom home automation project. Mike Flannery divides his time between user interface development – the crucial element where simplicity belies the complexity of the technology being commanded – and project management.
How did it all start and how did you finance the initial stages?
I worked for Sony Computer Entertainment (PlayStation) after graduating in 1992 with a degree in Computer Science from Exeter University which eventually took me to the head office in London. In 2007, I made the decision to come back to my home of the Wirral and strike out for myself. I attended the Wirralbiz enterprise scheme and started Ultamation with the £500 that was awarded on completion of the course. Other than that, Ultamation has remained entirely self-funded and continues to grow turnover each year. In 2010, as the company started to grow, we moved to Liverpool Science Park and never looked back!
Describe your workspace essentials.
Building technology solutions requires a flexible workspace with easy access for the constant flow of the, sometimes, large items of equipment we integrate into our designs. LSP provides all the essentials that allow us to do business without the distraction of managing telephony services, security, Internet connectivity, 24hr access whilst still allowing us to manage our own IT infrastructure, which is essential for our development areas. The added benefit of sharing a space with companies that employ intelligent, technology focused, people means there’s always the chance of an interesting conversation in the communal kitchen too.
What is your proudest achievement?
Each proudest moment keeps getting trumped by the next, and at the start of 2016, we won two awards for one of our projects, and we’ve also been recognised by one of our key solutions partners – Crestron Electronics, the billion dollar, world leader in residential and commercial technology integration – for the development work we’ve recently completed on integration of Apple products, previously considered to be in the “too hard” basket. Each achievement gets us all the more excited for the next challenge and we’re now looking forward to an exciting future in natural human interaction with intelligent systems and the opportunities that the Sensor City initiative might bring.
Why is Liverpool city centre the place for business?
Liverpool, as well as being my home town, has the ideal mass for innovation. It’s big enough to support two world leading Universities with all of the research and knowledge capital that comes with them, but compact enough for small firms like ours to thrive without being dominated by bigger, but less agile, organisations found in larger cities. As well as having everything a business needs on its door step, we’re also well situated to cover anywhere in the UK. Business aside, the quality-of-life offered by the North West, with North Wales, the Lakes and Derbyshire all within easy reach and without the gridlock of the South East makes Liverpool the perfect place for any technology business. Manchester’s close by too… but you can’t have everything 😉
Do you currently have any active links with the Universities?
Although we’re fairly self-reliant, we have worked with the University of Liverpool and were very fortunate to have the assistance of the school of Electrical Engineering & Electronics in developing a piece of hardware for LED lighting control. The recent European award for the Sensor City initiative is another area where we hope to strengthen the relationship with departments such as John Moores’ Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Research Institute. The new Sensor City development will be a short stone’s throw away from Liverpool Science Park, on the site previously occupied by the Royal Mail sorting office on Cooperas Hill, so we couldn’t be better placed.
Are there any projects you’ve particularly enjoyed working on?
One of our most recent projects has also been one of the most enjoyable. As well as having a thoroughly engaged client – which helps enormously when you’re providing a highly bespoke service – the client also wanted to push the boat out, and the result was an amazing subterranean den complete with wine cellar, fully kitted out games room, and the centre piece, an turntable, enclosed in glass and leather where the client’s super car is parked. Not only does it provide an incredible focal point for the basement, but it has some practical application as well – the client never has to use reverse gear. As well as being a cool project to work on, we had to give a lot of consideration to the safety aspects but we were also able to go to town with the in-wall touch panels too, giving the space a real “Iron Man” look. We have another project pencilled in for next year which will include a room cantilevered over a disused quarry… so that might easily become the next “favourite” project!
What do you think it takes to be successful in your industry?
It’s easy to look at the custom installation business and assume that because the final product often looks incredible, it’s an easy business to be successful in. Unfortunately, the reality is really about considered design, product knowledge, suitable application of experience and meticulous planning. Handling the relationship with clients is also one of the most important aspects of our work as we have to be acutely aware of their priorities and respect the fact that, even though we’re providing a service, we are, more often than not, guests in their family home. The upside is that we tend to be the people that the clients turn to when then need help, and that’s extremely satisfying. Since most of our work is via referral, we wouldn’t have lasted this long if were weren’t getting it right.
What’s next for Ultamation?
We have a very healthy order book for 2016, which – given the fact that we work in a luxury market – can only be good news for the British, and in particular the North West economy. On top of these projects, we’re also doing research into ‘natural’ human interaction with the intelligent home which is very exciting, plus we’ll see what develops with Sensor City. I think we’re going to be busy.
For further information about Ultamation, visit their website.