The current size of Magritek is not really relevant says its chief executive.
The manufacturer and marketer of small scale Nuclear Magnetic Resonance products should rather be judged on the value it provides for its customers says Andrew Coy, based near Victoria University, Wellington.
‘While we are not as large as overseas companies, what we’re really about is a much better service for our customers, and much better products.’
The same logic is behind the company’s .com web address, and its provision of phone numbers in San Francisco and London; both of which connect through to its headquarters.
‘We don’t make a big deal that we’re from New Zealand, rather that we see ourselves as embedded in the global economy, effectively a few hours to the west of California,’ Coy says. In fact, equipment can be shipped to the United States often quicker that it could be from Europe. ‘We want our customers to feel like we’re next door,’ he says.
Magritek’s innovative products grew out of (and continue to be cross-fertilised) by more than 20 years of research carried out by Sir Paul Callaghan’s Victoria University and MacDiarmid Institute teams around NMR.
This technique uses magnetic fields and radio waves, and measures the interaction with an atom’s nucleus, measuring signature frequencies (resonance). By changing the magnetic field, a 3D image can be created, with NMR being particularly useful for portraying liquids and soft tissues.
‘The thing with traditional NMR instruments is that they are very expensive,’ Coy says. ‘You need to create large magnetic fields using very low temperatures and superconducting magnets, along with a large special room to house it all.’ Such machines are often seen in a hospital environment, where they work in conjunction with X-rays and CT scanners.
‘The focus of our company is to make NMR products smaller, using new tricks, innovations and electronics,’ he says. ‘What we provide is NMR and Magnetic Resonance Imaging that you can use outside a dedicated laboratory.’
Its much smaller scale products are (so far) concentrated on four areas: industry solutions, research tools, portable instruments and teaching. It has been operating as a private company since 2004, is now profitable with a positive cashflow.
‘Our aspiration is we want to grow faster, and we want to do it from New Zealand,’ Coy says.
One favourable aspect for Magritek is that because the products have a lot of in-built intellectual property, ‘what we sell our products for is not based on what it costs us to make them,’ he says. ‘The value is in the smarts built into the product. We try tocompete where no one else can do what we do.’
The company does have competition however, though not necessarily directly. A teaching environment for example, with as always limited capital spend, may be choosing between MRI or an X-ray teaching system. ‘In that situation, we need to convince our customers that the best spend they can have is with us,’ he says.
Magritek’s intellectual property protection is diverse. There are some patents, plus trade secrets. Its technology is not easy to reverse engineer, and there is also copyright protection over its software. ‘We use an appropriate mix of methods to make it hard for others to copy,’ Coy says. ‘On top of that, magnetic resonance is not an easy thing to do, and that we have several decades expertise in it.’
The company uses a range of sales channels, and takes advantage of the internet. It also attends conferences, and uses direct marketing, journals and trade publications as means of publicising its products, and has sales agents in some territories.
‘Ours is a complex product, and it’s not a simple sales process,’ he says.
Coy himself has a PhD in physics, and studied under Callaghan a number of years ago, before deciding that academia wasn’t necessarily where he wanted to be.
‘There’s something very exciting about creating and selling products to people who benefit from using them, who in turn tell others about it,’ he says. ‘We enjoy that excitement in the company.’