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Technology firm sees profits soar
IT sounds like science fiction but tiny particles have turned into huge profits for an Oxfordshire engineering firm.
Oxford Instruments, based at Tubney Woods, near Abingdon, has seen its pre-tax profits rocket more than 60 per cent to £42m in the last year.
That’s up from £26m from the year before, according to figures released yesterday.
It’s a huge turnaround for a firm which previously made heavy losses and hundreds of redundancies.
The company specialises in making nanotechnology – equipment that can analyse and manipulate matter at atomic and molecular level, far too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Customers include the medical industry and aerospace industries.
Chief executive Jonathan Flint, pictured, believes the firm will continue to grow.
He said: “We employ 360 people in Oxfordshire. We expect that to rise slowly, perhaps by 10, over the coming year or so.
“We shall be looking for highly-qualified, high-quality scientists.”
He added that worldwide the company now employs 1,900 people, up 336 on last year. In the UK alone it employs 670 people at its Oxfordshire headquarters and in High Wycombe and East Grinstead.
Mr Flint said the huge surge in business was down to buying up other firms.
He said: “We have a healthy cash balance and have therefore been able to make sensible acquisitions.
“Our performance in developed markets benefited from sales of products and services from our new acquisitions.”
Mr Flint became chief executive seven years ago and since then the firm has been transformed.
He moved it away from its original core business of manufacturing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems and into nanotechnology.
As a result, share values have soared from about 400p then to 1,150p yesterday.
The company this year won its 13th Queen’s Award for Innovation and Enterprise.
The award was for developing an x-ray detector to measure an object 1,000 times finer than a human hair, a process used by police forces to detect gunshot residue.
Europe accounts for about 37 per cent of business, North America 30 per cent, and Asia 14 per cent – with the rest of the world making up the rest.
Mr Flint said: “We anticipate Asia will be our fastest-growing area over the medium to longer term.”
But he said that the expertise needed for research and development would remain in the UK and, to some extent, in the US.
The firm was founded by Sir Martin Wood in 1959 with help from his wife Audrey. They started commercialising MRI technology in the garden shed of their Oxford home.
The firm was the first commercial spin-out company from the University of Oxford and was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1983.