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Exclusive Interview: Gethin Roberts; Managing Director of ITERATE

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This week, we at Business News Wales were thrilled to interview Gethin Roberts, Managing Director of ITERATE.

With over 12 years’ experience developing new products; Gethin launched the product development business in 2014, now working closely with Welsh Government as a Design Advisor for the SMART Innovation programme.

Talking through his past and future professional endeavours, Gethin provides us with a window into the fascinating space of product design.

Hi Gethin, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

What feels like many years ago, I studied Rapid Product Development at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I then spent a number of years working for manufacturing businesses in South Wales, and had the opportunity to design medical devices, hot tubs and eco-friendly motors for electric vehicles. I now run ITERATE, which is a design consultancy based in Chepstow; we work with clients in Wales and across the UK to develop interesting and varied products such as: healthcare aids, DIY equipment and smart monitoring devices.

On your website it says that you are an advisor to Welsh Government, can you tell us a little bit more about that.

We work on SMART Innovation, which is a Welsh Government programme focussed on encouraging businesses in Wales to invest in the development of new products, innovative processes and technologies. As its part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, we are able to work with Welsh businesses free of charge for up to three days. In the past, we have helped organisations create new product concepts, overcome specific technical challenges and identify alternative materials, markets and suppliers.

You’ve recently been awarded an InnovateUK grant, what does this mean for the brand?

It is fantastic for our brand to be associated with InnovateUK, which champions British technology and innovation. Using this grant, we are working with a consortium of academic and industry partners to develop a new 3D printing technology that is able to build polymer structures that integrate conductive tracks. This potentially removes the need for wires to be used in electro-mechanical assemblies, which can help accelerate the development time of new products.

What types of businesses are Iterate currently working with?

We work with a wide variety of businesses that are involved in new product development but we are finding that many of our current projects are related to the Internet of Things. There is a huge trend at the moment for products to be intelligent and have the ability to connect to the Internet. This trend is evident in the medical sector but also in more obvious areas such as home monitoring, as well as personal healthcare; products like the Fitbit and Amazon Echo are good examples of this. Our knowledge within this area is leading us to discuss opportunities with organisations involved with defence applications, autonomous vehicles and smart factories.

Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?

The impact of Brexit on our industry is really tricky to predict but we are seeing that many companies are deciding to manufacture in the UK rather oversees. I think it’s also forcing British businesses to become more agile in the way they operate. The UK in a knowledge economy, we are fantastic innovators and problem solvers. Longer-term, I think organisations will reinvest in this capacity and be in a stronger position to export some very exciting technologies and products.

What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?

I love being located in Wales. I think we have great transport links to some of the UK’s major cities, which enables us to easily work with clients in London, Bristol and the Midlands. I also believe Welsh businesses are able to offer good value for money to those outside of the country. To be honest, I think lots of Welsh businesses don’t give themselves enough credit; we have a massively talented workforce that is able to compete on an international scale.

Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?

3D printing has been around in various forms for a number of years but it’s only until recently that I’ve felt that it truly could be utilised as a mass manufacturing process. The technologies that are emerging are becoming much faster and the quality of the parts being produced are incredible. New materials are constantly being released that have good temperature resistance and impact strength – in almost every colour imaginable. Welsh manufacturing businesses should seriously start to consider how 3D printing could be leveraged within their organisation before their competitors do.

What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?

This is a question that I often ponder and in my opinion its resilience that is the most important quality for success. I think I am a long way off feeling that I’ve ‘made it’ but running a business is tough – it affects every area of your life but it can be very rewarding. If you’re not determined to work towards achieving a vision, I think you can quite easily become unstuck.

What are ITERATE Design + Innovation’s plans for 2018?

At the moment, we are very focussed on building a quality design team and attracting new clients who share similar values to us. Design consultancy is fast paced and it’s important that we work with businesses who challenge our technical capability. I am passionate about continuous development and it’s critical that we keep learning, exploring and improving the way we work and what we deliver. Our schedule is already pretty hectic for 2018 and we are lining up new projects to start in the second quarter of 2019.

If you would like to learn more about ways in which your business could benefit from ITERATE’s services, visit their website, there you will find a full range of case studies and testimonials; or email Gethin directly.