Out of the Forest and into a world of opportunity ; Gloucestershire is now home to some of the most forward-thinking firms in the country. Chris... [Western Daily Press (UK)]
(Western Daily Press (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Out of the Forest and into a world of opportunity ; Gloucestershire is now home to some of the most forward-thinking firms in the country. Chris Campbell interviews the man at the helm of one of its most innovative businesses
Charles Curry seems like a man who likes to grab hold of any opportunity he can and tends to get what he wants.
He's an explorer who, when on holiday, isn't keen on returning to the same spot twice, but is continuously on the search for somewhere new.
Chronos Technology is making ground in global markets in similar fashion to the man that founded it.
Based in Lydbrook, in the Forest of Dean, the timing and synchronisation company for telecom networks, which also deals with GPS (global positioning systems), is taking on staff, including engineers, and penetrating further into markets around the world.
Two huge deals, with American engineering company Exelis and Canadian firm Exfo, are set to increase further Chronos' global presence. Exelis is involved in fixing electronics onto satellites, among other activities, while Exfo makes test equipment for fibre networks.
Chronos will provide the former with GPS interference detection technology and the latter with synchronisation test equipment.
To keep up with its success in the UK and current markets overseas - which include the USA, Hong Kong, South America, Scandinavia and the majority of Europe - the firm is looking to recruit a further five staff over the next 12 months.
This includes a sales support engineer with knowledge of GPS, a project manager and a channel manager - the latter a position being created next year to drive export sales.
A new project manager started last month to match the increasing number of deals the company is involved in.
Charles said: "It's a very exciting time for the business, there are a lot of prospects. Staff here are driven, to help the business do more.
"We are really at the cutting edge of new technology and are knocking on the doors of new markets." Charles added it was more of a challenge to recruit engineers now than five years ago, mainly due to the lack of electronics courses now run by local colleges, but said that it often was not a problem to find the type of employee the company was looking for, due to the firm being the only one in the area focusing on its type of business.
Charles told me that one installation engineer he was talking to recently revealed he had been sent to Istanbul, Mumbai and was soon off to Spain.
Chronos has contracts to supply and install GPS timing systems at many locations in the UK and around the world and its engineers are flown off to install and commission the equipment. The company's handful of engineers could be sent anywhere around the world.
Three computer programmers from India have also been recruited in the past few years through an agency and Charles said it was "quite a challenge" to recruit people in the near vicinity.
Simplifying the terms timing and synchronisation and how they fit in with what the business does on a daily basis, Charles uses the example of a telephone.
The speed at which sound travels down the fibre cable at one end would need to match the speed at the other side - otherwise the two would not hear each other, he said.
Chronos works to ensure this timing and synchronisation works and its UK clients include BT, Vodafone, O2, Everything Everywhere and Three UK.
Poor timing also impacts videos, digital uploads and com-puter systems, such as bank-tobank data transfer communications. "Timing is absolutely essential, but it's unseen - you just enjoy the benefit of it," Charles said.
Chronos has been involved in the satellite navigation market for ten years. Five years ago, a phenomenon that disrupts the GPS signal from space became more widespread and the company joined forces with the University of Bath and other organisations on a Pounds 2.2 million project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, to detect these jamming systems and locate them.
Many of these are sold from Chinese websites and affect the weak GPS signals. Chronos has also worked on projects involving the police to prove these jamming systems exist and identify the size of the threat.
Charles founded Chronos after working in the electronics and test equipment market for more than ten years. He graduated from the University of Liverpool with an electronics degree in 1972. He sold electronic test equipment for around eight years and later worked in the North Sea oil industry. This included sourcing and renting out GPS devices to oil companies as they needed to know where they were drilling. A device in 1984 could cost Pounds 50,000; more than Pounds 130,000 today. Most of these devices were from the US. The company he worked for also deployed the first ever laptops to manufacturers as they were small enough for people to take on the oil rigs. A laptop at the time would cost around Pounds 8,000 and have no hard drive, but a floppy drive instead.
Due to the oil industry's contraction in the mid-1980s, with the price of oil collapsing and oil exploration significantly reducing, Charles took voluntary redundancy and set up his own company in 1986.
Working from home, Charles expanded the business over ten years and in 1996 moved to the company's current base in Upper Stowfield, Lydbrook with six staff. The premises, Stowfield House, has an impressive history, having been a hospital, an evacuee home which housed children from Birmingham during the Second World War and the centre of the one-time biggest employer in the area - an electric cable company that employed around 3,000 people. It was built in the 1920s.
Around eight years ago, Chronos started to develop its own timing test equipment. This has included SyncWatch, which measures telecom network timing performance over long periods. The company's aim is to manufacture more products and increase export sales. It currently has more than 80 customers in over 50 countries for equipment support alone.
Charles is an honorary professor at both the University of Bath and the University of Liverpool.
Better connected One of the key goals of improving business life in Gloucestershire has been achieved before the year has barely started. The county is finally due to be fitted with superfast broadband after a deal with BT was struck, in a project thought to boost the county's rural economy by Pounds 32 million a year
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