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Front End Talking up success in the face of ‘Austerity Britain’

Bad news about the economy is constantly being voiced in the media; you can therefore be forgiven for thinking that business is universally bleak with company directors having their heads in the sand waiting for better times to return. Nick How, the CEO of GPEG, explains to CIE how the company is looking to buck that trend and is investing heavily in the future. “With so much bad news being voiced in the media what is rarely stated is the massive creation of jobs in the private sector, as many as 400,000 in the last year according to some statistics. Part of the UK’s electronic technology sector GPEG International is the UK’s largest display developer and, according to the Sunday Times Techtrack 100, was the fastest growing hardware company in the UK in 2010. The company’s head office is in Woolwich, South East London, on the re-developed Royal Arsenal estate. The company has developed a strong

international presence and we’ve recently opened an office in Milan Italy, complementing successful operations in both Germany and Taiwan. With manufacturing taking place in our dedicated facilities in China and South Korea group turnover is currently running at over $40mn. With a customer base in the consumer, gaming and professional markets GPEG is already a significant exporter sending more than 50% of our output to Europe. We’ve achieved a lot in a short period of time but unlike many companies in this period of austerity who are cautiously maintaining and consolidating their position we think differently.

Starting early in 2010 we could see that our rapid growth was slowing and that market conditions were beginning to make it much harder to expand our current operations. Our existing customer base while robust was nevertheless being cautious about new product introductions, so we had to find ways to exploit the situation in order to create new opportunities.

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impact on us it will on our customers, for anyone using tungsten, gold, tin or tantalum in their designs. The US legislation demands that companies make a ‘reasonable effort’ to identify where they source content. There are certainly going to be financial implications but it also adds yet another layer of regulation for companies to address - it will be a massive data collecting task and a real burden for struggling businesses.“

We found within our existing business that our engineering expertise could be put to work not only on our traditional customer programs but also on developing exciting new products that would open up new markets for us. To underpin these product

developments we took a bold decision and hired additional engineers to add software expertise to our existing portfolio of skills. Additionally we recruited a dedicated commercial management team to bring these new products to market. Penetration into these new markets has been achieved by investing heavily in exhibitions, marketing, test and approvals alongside the increased headcount. Since this initiative started we have

registered two patent applications and continue to grow our core touch and display technology to the benefit of our major customers as well as helping to consolidate our own position”. At its heart GPEG is a service orientated company that customers view as an extension to their own engineering teams. We focus on the design, development and manufacture of electronic solutions that are easy to use. This process relies on the closest possible

relationship between our clients and the development teams based in London, Southern China and Seoul, South Korea. We have found that the nearer we are to the end client the more successful the relationship is, resulting in better control of the development programme. Alessio Nori, a seasoned electronics

professional, is responsible for our Italian operation and is working to exploit opportunities in Italy as we did in the UK back in 2005. Through a combination of our design expertise and comprehensive skills and sheer hard work our Italian operation is on course to build up to 20% of our European business in Italy on the back of this investment over the next three to five years.

Closer to home GPEG is continuing to recruit. In fact we’re looking to find

Companies are looking to set up their own traceability schemes. AVX Corporation has developed the "Solutions for Hope Project," which is a pilot program established to demonstrate a process to deliver conflict-free tantalum material from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines. The process' basis is a "closed pipe" principle in which tantalite ore mined from a single site within the Katanga Province of the DRC is traced along its secure closed supply chain to the end customer's equipment in the form of tantalum capacitors supplied by AVX. AVX will buy the ore from the

DRC regional government licensed mine area concession holder at the current market price as published in Metal Pages and transport the ore to the smelter who is a participant in the EICC and GeSI Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS) program. The smelter will convert the ore to capacitor grade powder and wire which will

6 July/August 2011 Components in Electronics

Nick How outside No.10

Spin-off: EASii IC SAS, a French microelectronics consulting company, has announced the creation of X-REL Semiconductor (X-REL), a spin-off which will specialise in designing, manufacturing and commercialising integrated circuits (ICs) for high reliability and high temperature applications. The new company will look to serve a wide range of application fields such as Aeronautics & Space, Transportation & Automotive, Harsh Environments, Oil & Gas, Industrial and Geothermal.

Acquisitions: Microsemi has announced that it has acquired the millimeterwave technology and related assets of privately-held Brijot Imaging Systems, and is also looking to acquire Zarlink Semiconductor, a company that designs mixed-signal semiconductor products for a range of communications and medical applications. Zarlink has over 900 active products, and shipped around 100 million ICs last year to over 400 customers.

someone to help cover the north of England to enhance the support we can give to clients, whatever their industry. While many industrial and innovative businesses are operating in the north of England from London we can’t support them as well as we would like to, so placing a commercially astute engineer at the heart of this area is crucial. For such a small firm GPEG is punching well above its weight and is contributing to the private sector job creation that the UK economy needs to see. We want to double the size of the business in the near term future – but that does not happen by chance alone. Opportunity does not just come to you, you have to seek it out and make your own luck. Our recent hard cash investments and belief in our business will create an environment where that can and will happen, creating an exciting future for our employees, customers and shareholders alike.” In recognition of that success Nick How

was recently invited to attend a reception at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. This event was organised to celebrate the importance of the role that Britain’s entrepreneurs and fast growing businesses play in contributing to the growth of the UK’s economy.

be shipped to AVX, who will manufacture the capacitors and ship them to participating customers for incorporation into end market products.

By minimising the steps and companies involved, AVX believes it can ensure a validated "closed pipe" system and that the value of the DRC raw materials are not diluted and remain in the DRC for the benefit of the local peoples through the concession holders' commitment to fund social services. "We thank the various parties involved for their participation, especially the audit and assessment members that include an ex-member of the UN panel of experts who provided independent assessment of the traceability mechanisms, storage and transportation referenced within the OECD guidance on artisanal and small scale mining within regions of weak governance" said Bill Millman AVX Tantalum Divisional Director of Quality and Technology.

While it is still early in the process to

address these problems solutions are available but they will take time to evolve and be implemented successfully. ■

On the acquisition of Brijot Microsemi believes that its existing millimeterwave technology, coupled with the technology just acquired, will enable it to assume a leadership position in passive millimeter wave imaging solutions with an offering of products that will a play a leading role in detection of weapons and contraband in airports, military branches, and government and law enforcement agencies.

Profits: Mouser Electronics has reported a 24% increase in global sales in the second quarter. The design-fulfillment distributor said that it would be looking to continue to expand worldwide and that it would remain focused on delivering a highly personalised service as well as technical support to design engineers.

Commenting on the company’s strong performance, Glenn Smith, Mouser Electronics' President and CEO said that, "After growing 70% last year, we were prepared for a slower 2011. But, the Q2 global sales growth of 24% made it another record quarter. Mouser has seen a 27% sales increase in the first half of 2011. We're excited about what we're seeing again this year. With the continuing advancement of technology, the demand for semiconductors and electronic components remains very high."

Job losses: Blackberry

manufacturer Research in Motion is cutting 2,000 jobs as part of a shake-up of its operations which it hopes will increase the speed at which it can bring new products to the market. The job losses amount to 11% of the Canadian firm's workforce. The firm also announced that its chief operating officer (COO) Don Morrison is to retire and be replaced by Thorsten Heins, currently COO of products at the firm. The news comes after RIM announced in June that it had missed its lowered profit forecasts and reduced its predictions for the full year. RIM made a net profit of $695m (£430m) in the three months to 28 May, down from $769m in the same period last year. The company is struggling in the face of competition in the smartphone market from the likes of Apple and Google Android operating systems.

Billionth PSoC: Cypress Semiconductor has shipped the billionth unit of its fast-growing PSoC programmable system-on-chip. The billionth unit went to General Electric for a medical application that uses the PSoC’s programmable analogue and digital resources for multiple functions. PSoC is the only programmable analogue and digital embedded design platform currently available. It combines analogue and digital peripheral controllers with memory on a single piece of silicon. The PSoC ramp is among the fastest in the history of embedded systems, and continues to accelerate. Commercial-scale shipments began in 2002, and Cypress shipped its 100-millionth unit in 2006. Cypress reached 250 million units in 2007, 500 million units in 2009, and 750 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

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