UK optical fibre specialist enjoys export boost thanks to rising Asia demand

UK optical fibre specialist enjoys export boost thanks to rising Asia demand

A Cambridge-based firm that designs and supplies equipment for the optical fibre manufacturing sector is set to double its export volume thanks to a surge in demand across Asia.

SG Controls, which operates sites in Newton, Cambridgeshire, and Heysham, Lancashire, is a global leader in the development, design and supply of machines that make optical fibre, a material used within the telecoms sector to transmit and receive data.

Increasing demand for the material in India, China and Japan has resulted in new orders for the firm’s fibre-making towers. Each tower costs up to £2m, is 45m high and is capable of making more than two million km of optical fibre a year.

40 new jobs created in the last 18 months

A total of 40 new jobs have been created at the business’ Cambridgshire site in the last 18 months as a result. The Department for International Trade (DIT) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) are both working with the company to support its overseas growth.

Ian McNulty, managing director at SG Controls, said: “Optical fibre is the backbone of the internet and it was invented in the UK. At the moment, half of the world’s optical fibre is going into China, where they are installing cables across the country. In India, optical fibre is progressively replacing the old telephone wire network. Research and new product development, coupled with this emerging demand overseas has driven our business growth massively.

“Because our projects, often involving the design and supply of multiple towers, take a long time to deliver and utilise considerable volumes of cash until completion, funding growth is particularly challenging. Previously, this limited our capacity to take on new contracts.

“Working with the DIT enabled us to find a funding mechanism to satisfy our requirements and those of our customers, as DIT trade advisers work directly with UK Export Finance to provide support to our banks to allow them to issue guarantees to customers. Being able to offer these partial guarantees was crucial to us securing new projects and to our overseas growth.”

SG Controls' optical fibre tower under construction. Funding supported by UKEF. © SG Controls
SG Controls’ optical fibre tower under construction. Funding supported by UKEF. (c) SG Controls

SG Controls’ optical fibre tower under construction. Funding supported by UKEF. (c) SG Controls

Alan Pain, head of exports for DIT East of England, added: “SG Controls is a fantastic example of a British business that is a leader in its field. It has found a ready market for its innovative machinery, which is providing the infrastructure that is connecting the world and helping drive prosperity in emerging markets.

“Our team has worked alongside UKEF to support the business with access to crucial financial tools and introductions to potential new customers, which is all part of our focus to convert more of the region’s companies into successful exporters. Exporting is already a significant driver of growth for the region’s economy and we’re encouraging even more businesses to tap into this opportunity.”

Main image: SG Controls optical fibre manufacturing equipment, supplied with UKEF support. ©SG Controls

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