Tees Valley Twenty: Animmersion

Tees Valley Twenty: Animmersion

The Innovate Tees Valley Festival has been launched in a bid to connect businesses with the networks they need to innovate and continue growing. Animmersion is one of the businesses showcasing at the event. Managing director Dominic Lusardi caught up with BQ to tell us more...

Describe your business in no more than 100 words

Animmersion specialises in innovative visualisation through 3D animation, data visualisation and technology solutions for the offshore, energy, process, engineering, construction, automotive and defence industries as well as retail. Working with these industries, we focus on delivering eye-catching, innovative and inspiring content allowing traditional businesses to showcase their stories, concepts, designs and products.  We are an accelerator; we allow other businesses to grow.

 

Which particular products and/or services make your business innovative?

A number of companies in the region provide digital visualisations such as animations, but absolutely none have our across-the-board range. We are a long way ahead of the curve, already able to do virtual reality, augmented reality and – uniquely – 3D hologram visualisations.

We have recently developed a platform “Podium” which allows our clients to create interactive content across a wide range if devices - without the need for expensive, multiple developments. This again is quite unique – it has allowed us to break into the US market, secure a number of blue-chip UK and European clients and further enhance our position as the North-East’s leader in interactive digital technologies.

 

What proportion of your service offer comprises new (under 3 years old) products, materials, technologies etc?

The pace of change in our industry ensures the development of new technology platforms is a fundamental element to our market position. In the last three years we have seen the design and implementation of virtual reality, augmented reality and holographic displays within our business. We have used User Interface design at the heart of everything we do and more recently we have developed and designed a comprehensive platform aptly named Podium. We have seen these have grown from being a small portion of our overall turnover to now be at least 80% in this year alone.

  • Our hologram visualisation capability is less than 2 years old and will contribute around 20% of our income this year.
  • User interface (UI/UX) design is at the heart of what we do, including presenting designing intuitive designs that present real-time data in ways that can be easily understood and acted upon by users (such as visual controls and warning systems for industrial processes). This has not just led to an income stream 20% of this year’s income but a full-blown partnering agreement to provide outsourced services to a client placing passenger flow systems in international airports. 
  • The prototype of our Podium multi-platform system will contribute around 35% of this year’s income.
  • VR and AR capability, already secured and completed a number of orders in the construction, health and retail sectors.

 

To what extent have the innovations enhanced the sales of your other products/services or led to future opportunities?

We are totally reliant on being innovative. In terms of enhancing sales, this serves us well in three main ways:

  • Geographically: our UK success has allowed us to break into new markets in the US, Canada and Europe
  • Sectorally: some years ago, we were heavily involved in the construction and offshore sectors. We still are – but the skills we developed allowed us to spread into other sectors like energy, defence and most recently automotive. Looking ahead, our VR and AR services have already proven that they have cross-sectoral reach, with new customers coming from health, retail and other sectors.
  • Added customer value: the key point about 3D digital material (such as that created in an animation) is that it can be re-used and up-cycled into many other things, whether apps, holograms, VR, training simulations or digital product manuals – deepening and broadening our relationship with existing customers.

 

What new skills have been acquired by (and retained within) your company as a result of the innovations?

We have developed from a service-led agency primarily providing animations into a knowledge-led company, able to guide clients through the digital minefield on an unbiased, platform-agnostic and utterly impartial basis. We have also studied, research and tested our own approach to Virtual and Augmented reality and have a working methodology on how to best deliver unique experiences. To support this, we have also increased and improved our User Experience design that can then be used throughout our interactive solutions.

Our people are our strength; our original members have grown into management positions and not a single one has left, which - in a fast-moving and competitive sector like ours – is a considerable achievement. We have been told, that we are one of those hidden gems, with deep knowledge, service capability and global clients, but not necessarily known well in our own region. 

 

How do you innovate in the way you run your business?

We invest heavily in continuous development and set aside a substantial amount of time for staff to explore and understand new and developing technologies – and use this knowledge to develop products and services that we can sell (recent examples being, holograms, VR/AR and Podium).

This ensures that our staff are at the forefront of innovative practice. It also gives them the opportunity to bring new ideas into the company. We have, as said earlier, driven into new sectors and new geographic markets. We also encourage our staff to come up with ideas that can be turned into new services, or even new company spin-offs and subsidiaries.

Our clients would also agree that we are innovative, enabling them to present their products and services in new and more powerful ways.

 

What are your biggest professional achievements to date?

Over recent years, we are very proud of:

  • Successfully growing from a few people to 18, through one of the deepest recessions in living memory; of securing private investment to develop new technologies and services; of securing as clients some of the world’s leading technology, scientific and engineering organisations. We are particularly proud that we have also helped our clients to grow and to thrive, for example:
  • working with St John Ambulance to digitise their training material for first aid for delivery to over 100,000 users; creating an immensely successful app with the largest download count they had encountered and featured in the top apps of the year by the Guardian; and knowing that we may have saved lives along the way
  • created a showpiece interactive system (“The Interactive City”) which uses 3D visualisation and built-in animations to describe a city's interconnecting utility system and our client’s range of valve products carrying out different functions within the city – with a huge launch which was a great success and is now available in five languages.
  • creating hologram and award-winning animations to describe the function of a new product – before it even existed – to interest and educate potential customers for Tracerco, a great local company
  • To create innovative digital systems (user interfaces) for a partner company that uses real-time data to optimise the flow of passengers through major infrastructure points such as international airports.

 

Where do you see your company in five years time?

We will continue to offer our existing services but also develop new products, as before. We anticipate that we may, by then, be based in a number of geographic locations and are likely to have a number of new subsidiaries, spin-offs and partnership arrangements (all being considered at present, but confidential). It will be an exciting time.  

 

What advice would you give to aspiring innovators?

Understanding the market you are operating in and the changing landscape.  Look ahead and be innovative. Persist in the hard times. Try to be broad-based (geographically and sectorally) for stability. Be relevant - make sure that the innovation has a practical application in the real world that adds value, saves time/money or increases reach. And enjoy it!