The multi-million pound business helping to keep our nation safe
Fareham’s Captec is one of the biggest specialist computer manufacturers in the UK. With an enviable balance sheet, a £12 million investment budget and growth strategy of acquisitions, it also has ambitions to become a leading international brand in its field.
The computing platform business provides the engineering, hardware and protection to ensure computers perform in hostile or highly specialised/certified environments including theatres of war, submarines, deserts and the arctic. Nearer home Captec provides the hardware behind much of the running of the London Underground network as well as the Oyster card system
Unsurprisingly reliability is paramount, hence these computers are highly ruggedised, waterproof, shock absorbent and able to withstand extreme temperatures. Customers include major OEMs and systems integrators in defence, transport, marine, automation, communication, and medical; all sectors that require mission critical equipment.
An electronics engineer by trade, Professor Toti founded the company as a one-man-band in 1985, tapping into this niche market when technology moved to low-cost PCs. Last year it received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, an accolade Toti said was a career highlight because of the values it stands for. “There is a lot of pride in what we are doing. We make a contribution to the network that keeps people moving around London, help defend our nation, keep ships’ navigation systems and we are inside computers in oncology equipment saving lives. People count on our product – if there’s a problem all hell breaks loose,” he said.
Now turning over £20m, the company grew organically from its roots in Southampton moving and rebranding twice. It is ranked 89th in The Business Magazine’s Solent SME 100 Growth Index and is currently grooming itself for a key milestone – an IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 2019/20 with a target £100m market cap. “It comes with a huge amount of compliance and scrutiny but I don’t mind because I believe the rigours the City require are best practice,” he added.
The stock market launch will eventually enable access to more substantial projects and acquisitions but Toti has been scaling up investment for a while, taking on an additional 20 staff since October and ensuring the Fareham head office came with an additional 80,000sq ft of growing room. It has operations based in Canada and the USA, however, Brexit is threatening areas of its overseas business model. Toti explained: “The weak pound has had a significant effect on material costs and our plans for further acquisitions in Europe and the US have gone completely off plan. Sterling’s buying power is too low at the moment to acquire abroad. Our strategic acquisition focus has had to be limited to the UK.”
As a visiting electronics and computer science professor and mentor at Southampton University Toti is passionate about supporting entrepreneurship in student engineers but fears Brexit could ‘put the brakes on the technology industry’. “In my opinion Brexit is going to be a big problem. If UK plc continues to send graduates and post graduates back to their home countries after proving training at the highest level, we allow them to become our competitors while starving the UK of desperately needed talent. I am hoping someone will see sense and figure out a better way.” Toti is an advocate of the Canadian points-based system “They are a small country but have done brilliantly by assessing the skill sets they need.”
Looking to the future, Captec is set to invest an initial £1m, with more planned to follow, in The Internet of Things (IoT) but needs partners in this high-volume sector. “The era of technology is shifting towards collaborations. For a serious project you need a complex and connected tech stack of highly technical specialists who can do everything from specialised sensors, data collection to secure comms and analytics, so we are very receptive to other companies who provide solutions around different industries,” Toti concluded.