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Marine Innovation Wins Export Award

Marine Innovation Wins High Modulus Trade New Zealand Export Award

Auckland, March 11, 2003 -- A passion for boating is essential for employees at High Modulus Ltd, an Auckland company that has won a Trade New Zealand Export Award for successfully championing the use of composite engineering and technology in the international marine market.

[Note to editors: Media are invited to attend the presentation of High Modulus’ Trade New Zealand Export Award by the Minister for Research, Science & Technology and the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade, the Hon. Pete Hodgson, at 11am on Tuesday 11 March. The presentation will be held at the company’s premises, Unit 11, 9-11 Rothwell Ave, North Harbour. This Export Award is in the Design & Creative category.]

Managing Director and owner Richard Downs-Honey says most High Modulus staff are actively involved in boating – co-owner Brian Jones is an ex-Olympian sailor – and this gives them an intimate knowledge of the market they service.

He says the business is divided into two key areas. The first is the distribution of fibreglass composite materials for the marine industry. Boat building companies combine composite materials with resins to make hightech racing boats, performance craft and pleasurecraft. The other arm is engineering consultancy – telling clients what materials to put together to build the boat they want in terms of performance and price.

Exports account for about 20% of the company’s $17 million annual turnover, but Mr Downs-Honey says the real figure is much higher when you take into account the fact that much of the product it sells to the domestic marine industry ends up in boats destined for export.

He says High Modulus is the only company in the world providing composite engineering and technology exclusively for the marine industry.

“Other companies also sell to other industries such as the aerospace market, or for industrial applications like sewer pipes, truck bodies or trains. By focusing on a very specific niche we’ve ensured we are a big fish in a small pond.

“Our engineering department employs some 15 staff and has one of the world’s largest and most highly qualified team of engineers devoted entirely to marine composite structures. We have proved that greater performance and safety margins can be gained with intelligent structures utilising advanced high tech materials like Kevlar and carbon fibre.”

High Modulus exports all over the world, but is currently focusing on gaining a foothold in the lucrative US market. It is planning to open an office there as part of the Trade New Zealand marine beachhead in Fort Lauderdale.

Mr Downs-Honey says High Modulus has doubled its sales in the past four years. He says in many ways the company’s progress has paralleled that of the New Zealand marine industry.

He says a watershed time for High Modulus, and for the New Zealand marine industry, came with its entry to the America’s Cup in 1986. High Modulus was instrumental in developing composite structures for New Zealand Challenge’s 12 metre yachts – the world’s first fiberglass 12 metres, and with gaining Lloyds Register approval for the structures.

“The conversion from alloy construction to fibreglass was a technological revolution in the America’s Cup and was the beginning of our on-going association with the leading edge composite technology of the America’s Cup yachts.”

Mr Downs Honey says New Zealand’s loss of the America’s Cup won’t impact on the business. “While the Cup has been a good promotional tool for us, clients will still continue to build their boats and draw on our expertise.”

Trade New Zealand Account Manager Murray Greenhalgh congratulated High Modulus on its Export Award. He says the company has established a formidable reputation for innovative thinking and flexibility.

“High Modulus is at the leading edge of composite engineering technology and expertise. It is client focused, travelling extensively to meet face-to-face with its international customers, designers and boat builders.”

Richard Downs-Honey says High Modulus staff constantly seek to push the environment in all respects of its expertise without comprising the structures it designs and specifies.

“One example is construction kitsets for production boats – with all components cut to size and labelled in a “build by numbers” system. Our contract to supply materials for military patrol boats for Malaysia, for example, has seen us develop a kitset for over 2500 individual items for use in a country where boatbuilding expertise is not extensive.”

Mr Downs Honey says High Modulus is on a strong growth curve. Staff numbers have nearly doubled to 44 since the company relocated from Warkworth to high tech premises in Albany five years ago. The company has a target of $25-$30 million sales by 2006 – with most of that in exports.

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