Reasons to be cheerful

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Alex Wood, chief executive, SRJ Technologies Picture: MATT PORTEOUS
Alex Wood, chief executive, SRJ Technologies Picture: MATT PORTEOUS

2020 is a year many of us would like to forget for all the obvious reasons but it is also the year that SRJ Technologies ‘came of age’.

Ten years ago when I started the business, one thing I could never have predicted was that we would have a successful public listing in the middle of a global pandemic. Perhaps that is one of the main lessons we have all learned this year. Resilience and adaptability are key. I think anyone who has embraced that in 2020 will have a positive future.

Innovation is a winner

SRJ Technologies has never been what you would expect from the traditional oil and gas industry. We set out as disruptors, launching a product that asked the classic innovator’s question – why are you doing it like that? Our weld-free pipe clamps have proven not only to be safer in the high-pressure, highly flammable industry conditions, but they can be installed in a fraction of the time, save costs and are better for our clients and the environment.

Disruption doesn’t mean you cause others discomfort. On the contrary, we have worked in synergy with our customers and our business model has been not only proven to work, but is leading the oil and gas industry’s transition towards leaner and more agile working.

We are not a huge company with multiple teams of staff building and fitting equipment; we work with geo-local manufacturers and installers to service our clients. Many of our clients are able to simply fit components themselves, thus negating the need to bring in external contractors for repairs – a critical issue during these Covid times.

This business model is low footprint for Jersey where the intellectual property and headquarters are based. It also fits in with the narrowing profit margins in the energy production market. Innovation can bring win-wins all round.

The huge acceleration in digital transformation that so many businesses had to take to tackle lockdowns shows that innovating and embracing new ways of doing things is not necessarily expensive or too difficult and certainly not as frightening as some believed. Many of those who have adapted are seeing not only cost savings but also productivity increases. These businesses, like our own, are now on the front foot to make the most of opportunities in the new year.

We have been working on interfaces to understand the vast amounts of data produced by our clients. We are developing a tool in partnership with our pipe-repair products to work with clients to reduce leaks, saving them money and keeping our environment safe from damage.

Global change

The oil and gas industry, like many others, has seen a huge amount of deferred maintenance work. It has also seen a loss of jobs. But I believe the industry will not just pick itself up but see the opportunity to transform itself as governments around the world chase environmental targets.

I’ve noticed a general shift in the energy market. Most global operators are looking at the likes of hydrogen. While most coal fields in Australasia and Brazil still have circa 40 years or more to run, there will be a transition away from coal and the dirtier fuels to cleaner hydrocarbons en route to renewables. SRJ will be at the front of this wave.

Jersey’s opportunities

I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to start SRJ in Jersey. The architecture of support services and the accessibility of knowledgeable investors and mentors has been invaluable. The connectivity of the Island has been critical for us as we run a global business from St Helier, and has meant that we could continue to provide services to our clients during lockdown.

Jersey is in an excellent position to seize the opportunities which a post-Covid world will bring. This includes its sandbox proposition. The Island is indeed an ideal test-bed for digital products and services and for IP-based businesses like ours. I would love to see more outliers like SRJ starting up in the Island, but there are challenges.

One of the issues for small start-ups is the high cost of doing business in Jersey. I understand that regulations are critical for the international finance industry but this overbearing use of rules can be a licence to print money for lawyers and trust companies and a killer to fledgling entrepreneurs. Regulations should be appropriate to industry and risk. You add this to the factor of other jurisdictions offering generous incentives for start-ups to establish in their countries, and there is the danger that we will lose prospective opportunities. Plus who knows what a post-Brexit UK will do to attract revenue to fill its Covid deficit. Jersey has to use its agile independence to keep ahead of its bigger, slower cousin and that means embracing innovation and allowing it to flourish.

At SRJ we are looking forward to another year of growth and building global partnerships. We are debt-free and expanding in a market that is seeing competitors, who still follow an old model of working, shrinking. I am delighted that we have, and will repay, our Jersey investors back for their faith in our start-up ten years ago, and I am looking forward to proving what an excellent base our Island is for innovation and a future way of working and doing business.

About SRJ Technologies

SRJ is a specialised engineering services business, based in Jersey, that focuses on containment management solutions for asset integrity in high pressure situations. SRJ has developed a range of products, including a weld-free coupling and repair clamps for pipes, which are used primarily in the high risk oil and gas industry. Their products have achieved certification with Lloyds of London and the American Bureau of Shipping, and are cheaper and easier to install for both repair and new build. SRJ’s manufacturing is geo-local to operators/asset owners and they currently have accredited partners covering Australasia, America, South America, Middle East and Azerbaijan. In addition, they partner with cutting-edge specialist technology companies, such as Nexxis robotics and Inductosense remote sensors to support clients in refining operational efficiency. See srj-technologies.com for more details.

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