A new partnership agreement could open the doors to the Saudi market for Norwegian gasket producer Pipeotech.

Headquartered in Oslo, with branches in Risør and Norwich, Pipeotech is a subsidiary of Green Transition Holding, of which GCE NODE participant Otechos is a co-owner.

“We are thrilled to sign a partnership agreement with leading pipeline products and services supplier Safari Oil & Gas Company. Our joint ambition is to deliver our leak-proof DeltaV-Seal gaskets to enterprises all across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” says Henrik Sollie, CEO of Pipeotech.

“The agreement is important for us as part of our new growth strategy. Going forward, we are looking to expand our business not only through direct sales, but also through distribution partners,” says Sollie.

The company has identified and negotiated with a number of large distributers. A plan for 2021 includes connecting with and training 15 exclusive and non-exclusive distribution partners.

In January, Pipeotech landed an agreement with Spanish industrial supplier Esinsa. This was followed by a new deal in February with Safari Oil & Gas Company (SOG), a major supplier to the Saudi Arabian oil producers.

“The deal provides us with an opportunity to expand our reach within Saudi Arabia through SOG’s diversified services and supply network, not only in the oil and gas industry, but also within the water and petrochemical industries. Our introduction to the Saudi market includes plans for future local manufacturing,” says Sollie.

He took over as CEO of Pipeotech in 2018. Since then, the company has focused on raising capital and taking the necessary steps to reach its ambitions.

“We are committed to helping our customers stop leakages caused by inadequate sealing technology and have spent half a decade testing our technology to back up the unique claims of the DeltaV-Seal. As a result of this, we can now offer our customers the sealing industry’s first and only 10-year gas-tight warranty. We believe this technology can revolutionize the sealing industry, helping companies significantly reduce emissions, accidents, and piping OPEX,” says Sollie.

Pipeotech had a turnover of NOK 3.5 million in 2020, but Sollie predicts turnover to double in 2021. He emphasizes that it will probably take some time before the cooperation agreements with Esinsa, SOG and other new distribution partners get off to a good start.

“It is definitely not a lab anymore, I guess it hasn’t been a lab for quite some time. It is so much more. An arena for innovation. That's what it is. An arena for innovation.”

On his first day as former CEO of Mechatronics Innovation Lab (Svein Inge Ringstad was appointed interim CEO as of March 1), Bernt Inge Øhrn reflects on the evolution of the facility that opened only three and a half years ago, but still seems to have been with us much longer.

When it opened in 2017, MIL was a long-awaited lab facility specializing in mechatronics. The major companies in the Agder region had committed to using the lab, but following the 2014 crash in oil prices, uncertainty was part of the climate in which MIL was introduced to the market.

Raising NOK 143 million in private capital, mainly from companies within GCE NODE – MHWirth, Nymo, Cameron Sense (Schlumberger) and also National Oilwell Varco, in addition to Ugland Eiendom – was a great achievement, and necessary to match and release public funding.

“The government provided NOK 106 million, of which NOK 50 million has yet to be spent”, says Øhrn.

“What? You didn’t spend all the money?”

“Well, we did purchase all the equipment that we were given money to purchase. But by teaming up with the supplier industry, we were able to bargain prices down to approximately half of the actual market price. After we opened and people got to know what MIL was all about, we achieved even better prices, as suppliers were keen to have their equipment showcased in our facilities,” says Øhrn.

“MIL’s goal is to never ever again ask for funding. If we remain relevant and attractive, we will be self-sufficient. Going forward, I believe companies will line up to do projects at MIL and to have equipment displayed and in operation at MIL,” says Øhrn.

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Bernt Inge Øhrn presenting Mechatronics Innovation Lab at the GCE NODE Top Leader Forum in April 2017.

MIL is often described as an amusement park for engineers. So far 5,400 people have visited MIL in some capacity, mainly to attend seminars, workshops or to run projects. The number of customer relationships is close to 500, the majority based in the Agder region, but MIL has an increasingly national foothold.

“We have customers from all over Norway. We approach them with what we call inverted innovation, which is us encouraging them to be open to learn about new technology before they form an idea of how to approach a problem. When we opened, we had 50 different technologies represented at MIL, of which 80 per cent had never before been seen in Norway. People should come to MIL with an open and curious mind to look for solutions they never knew existed,” says Øhrn.

The original idea was for MIL to function as a tool for building a stronger offshore supplier industry in Agder. But already on its opening day, MIL was a more generic facility, relevant for various industries.

“MIL is an innovation partner. We soon realized that equipment alone is not enough. Equipment must be coupled with competence. MIL provides both, which is why we should stop referring to MIL as a lab and start talking about MIL as an arena for innovation,” says Øhrn.

It didn’t take long for MIL to show all the signs of a success. Financially, an ambition to be in the black within five years, was achieved in half the time. An annual growth rate of 30 per cent is still the pace that characterizes the development of MIL.

“2020 results are very strong, and we enjoy a 100 per cent increase in order backlog for 2021 compared to 2020,” says Øhrn.

After four years, Øhrn is both saddened and excited to leave MIL. Saddened because he would have liked to continue the journey, but still excited because he found something which, right now, is more appealing.

“MIL is also a strong muscle, a driver for innovation, for value creation, for strengthening the industry in Agder, in Southern Norway and beyond. I would have liked to continue to be part of MIL, but there is a time for everything,” says Øhrn.

And right now, it is time to take over as CEO of Survitec Maritime Protection, a GCE NODE participant with 45 employees in Kristiansand, and a subsidiary of London-based Survitec.

“I am very much looking forward to it. I will make sure to let fellow GCE NODE participants learn more about this exciting company in months to come,” says Øhrn.

Tom Fidjeland, CEO of GCE NODE commends Øhrn for his work at MIL.

“Bernt Inge has done a fantastic job. MIL has developed to become a national center for bringing new technologies to Norwegian companies. Going forward I hope that MIL will build on what has been achieved and further develop this innovation arena. Innovation and research projects involving the University of Agder, MIL and the technology-oriented companies in Norway, will bring new knowledge and competencies which is much needed in years to come,” says Fidjeland.

From the opening ceremony of MIL August 2017: Rector Frank Reichert of the University of Agder, Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland and CEO of GCE NODE Anne-Grete Ellingsen.

“Building an increasingly diversified portfolio has served us well. 2020 ended far better than expected,” says Bent-Ståle Johansen.

A long-standing CEO of Tratec Norcon, Johansen recently took over as CEO of the entire Tratec Group, which also includes Tratec Halvorsen, Tratec Teknikken, Tratec AS Elektrisk and Tratec Solutions.

The companies are mainly located in the Agder region, and can be summarized as suppliers of electrical, piping, automation and mechanical disciplines to the industry sector, offshore, infrastructure, construction and also households.

“Serving several industries and markets has been a good strategy, especially in 2020, which proved to be such a difficult year for many. I think we handled the corona crisis in a good way, both with regards to human resources and financials. Our 2020 figures are positive, and all of our companies have a solid order backlog for 2021,” says Johansen.

For many years, some of the Tratec companies were major suppliers to the oil and gas industry. However, following the oil price collapse in 2014, just about the same time that Johansen joined Tratec Norcon, oil and gas became a marginal market. This sudden change necessitated a strategical turnaround for parts of the group, including Tratec Norcon.

“In Tratec Norcon we embarked on a journey to transform the company from a major oil and gas supplier to become a strong supplier of automation systems to the road infrastructure sector. We have been successful in doing this, and today road infrastructure is a larger market for Tratec Norcon than the oil and gas sector ever was,” says Johansen.

He took over as CEO of Tratec when founder and majority owner William Willumsen stepped down. Willumsen is still active as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.

“We were very pleased to recruit internally. Bent-Ståle has done a great job in our restructuring process. He knows the Tratec group very well and we know him, says Willumsen.

Bent-Ståle Johansen has lived most of his life in Kristiansand. He has a master’s degree in material technology and another one in technology management. Prior to joining Tratec Norcon, Johansen was CEO of Schibsted Trykk Kristiansand and Schibsted Trykk Stavanger.

“I thrive at Tratec, in large thanks to good colleagues who have invaluable experience and strong expertise. Going forward, we will continue to promote management and employees in each company, and constantly look for new collaboration opportunities,” says Johansen.

Since its inception in 1996, Tratec has made several strategic acquisitions. The latest came in August when Roxel Energy in Stavanger was acquired and merged with Tratec Agdermaskin under the company name Tratec Solutions.

“Roxel Energy has a good foothold in two exciting segments of the logistics market, namely parcel handling in post terminals and baggage handling systems at airports,” says Johansen.

“Logostics is an exciting market for Tratec Solutions, but also for Tratec Norcon which complements the mechanical logistics solutions we design at Forus by delivering control and monitoring systems. This enables us to offer complete product packages. We recently established an automation department in Stavanger, and we have already hired our first engineer here,” says Johansen.

Tratec Solutions is also a leading third-party supplier within overhaul, parts and service of offshore rigs and drilling equipment, and is currently experiencing increased demand. In addition, Tratec Halvorsen is heavily involved in the giant project Jotun FPSO, the production ship that is now being refurbished at the Rosenberg shipyard in Stavanger.

“The offshore market is important for the Tratec Group today and will be for several years”, says Johansen.