The Southampton-based company, which develops and supplies wind turbine blade tooling across the world, is seeking to scale up operations and diversify to capitalise on the increasing demand for clean energy as the government cranks up its support for the booming industry.
Three experts who make up the newly-established Advisory Board are wind industry heavy hitter Julian Brown, hugely experienced independent wind turbine generator advisor John Rimmer and experienced pilot and airline industry and business specialist Chris Hope.
Thirteen-strong DFS Composites operates from a 1,000 sq ft office at Ocean Village Innovation Centre following steady growth over six years since its founding in 2015 by Feras Yosef.
Feras said: “The role of the board is to provide independent challenge to the executive thinking and decision-making, sharing experience and coaching and scrutinising some business performances to drive us forward.
The three Advisory Board members are all experts in their own field – for us assuming market, product and general roles. They will help us diversify from just tooling and go into more products and into manufacturing the blades themselves, which is a possible game changer.
The board not only gives us credibility and key contacts, but its guidance and governance will add value and enable us to grow further. In many other countries, such as Germany and Denmark, it is standard practice to utilise people connected with an industry.”
Innovative DFS Composites, which has a portfolio for IPR intellectual property rights (IPR) and five patents already drafted and pending this year, works directly with large wind turbine blade manufacturers Nordex in Scandinavia, General Electric and TPI Composites in the USA, and Germany’s Enercon.
The company, which outsources manufacturing to a sister company in Changzhou, southern China but retains 100 per cent cradle to grave control with DFS staff on site, is currently working 100 per cent in exports, with its projects in global locations – including Brazil, India, Portugal and Turkey.
However, the UK government’s determination to reduce emissions by investing heavily and backing renewables – an industry worth around £50 billion and 225,000 jobs a year – means DFS is anticipating a UK supply chain to be established.
Demand is being driven by the need for clean, reliable and affordable power as countries try to reduce dependence on fossil fuels linked to global warming whilst strengthening energy security with the world wind power market which expected to be worth nearly £76 billion by 2025.
Feras added: “The UK is finally focusing on the supply chain and local content which is timely, possibly as a result of Brexit and global pressure. There is more focus on setting up factories in the UK and the government is strategically and structurally pushing the manufacturers for UK-made content in the next year or so.
“We are trying to pre-empt some of the work so we are ready for this when it changes in the next year or so as there are going to be a lot of opportunities.
“What’s key for us is to diversify. The wind industry is very small with a limited number of customers and that is a big risk. We need to have more of a customer base in the UK and the timing is good as the industry is booming.
“We are responsive, technically excellent, customer-focused, have an exceptional product and punch above our weight in working with the big boys in a relatively young industry.
“We may be small but we have been delivering in the Premier League for five years as a reliable supplier in a very niche market. There aren’t many blade tooling engineers focused on innovation and that is where we hope to score.”
DFS, which is loan-free, uses revenues to innovate, and has grown organically from a one-man band in 2015, is looking double up in terms of financials and head counts, aiming for an annual turnover of £8m to £10m in the next one to two years, while still remaining agile enough to scale up dynamically when necessary.
Investment has been maintained throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with Feras taking the strategic decision to continue to innovate during lockdown rather than attempting to save money.
The company, which has a solid track record for punching above its weight in high value tooling for international big name original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is also seeking its own workshop facility in the Southampton area for prototyping its latest inventions.
Julian, director and former chairman of RenewableUK, the UK’s leading trade association for renewables, non-executive chair of AIM listed Tekmar Group and holder of many other board or advisory roles, has two decades of experience in the wind industry.
He said: “After 20 years, my passion for growing the wind industry remains undimmed. I like what these guys are doing and wanted to contribute in a little way, so being part of the Advisory Board gives an opportunity to bring in the benefit of my experience and my background knowledge of the wider market on a selective basis and offer a different perspective.
“I’m a manufacturing man by career and background. what Feras is doing, particularly with these hinges for the moulds, presses all the buttons for me. It is manufacturing something that is used in manufacturing equipment. I am bringing experience in the supply chain, in making things and in developing businesses from small to large.
“I have close connections with Hampshire and the Isle of Wight so helping to make this business a success in Southampton is really important to me. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing for Feras for just anybody – what absolutely shines through is his entrepreneurialism combined with the engineering depth and substance, a readiness to take risks and working on a truly international platform.
“Members of the advisory board are there as some sort of combination of a mentor or a coach and the same time as bringing quite a lot of challenge – of decisions, direction – and doing that in a way that is constructive.
“As a board you bring different qualities collectively. The most important thing is that you have the diversity of experience, skill and knowledge within the board. For a small business it is really difficult to get access to that so having this advisory board is a unique way of bringing those resources together.
“It is quite astonishing what Feras has achieved in six years. I am a huge admirer and I do not underestimate just how much hard graft and determination it has taken to get this far. DFS has a truly international customer base. What a delight to shake off the parochial thinking that small businesses can suffer from and punch above your weight globally.
“The wind industry such an important cornerstone in our fight to mitigate climate change. This is the future. I been in the business for 20 years and it was originally labelled ‘alternative’ energy – we are now the mainstream and what a fillip finally getting government backing has been.
“The underpinning motive for the whole industry is decarbonisation and the net zero agenda which is the major driver and localising that in the UK has been a personal passion of mine. It is the only way ahead.”
John, who spent two decades in senior roles at Isle of Wight based wind industry giant Vestas before founding his own company Durawind Ltd last summer, is a freelance advisor using his knowledge and experience to support wind farm owners and customers of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
He said: “I believe in what Feras and DFS are trying to accomplish. It is a capable, ambitious, agile and exciting business that has a great future. I would like to share my experience to help guide the path forward to hopefully enable better informed decisions and be part of the more productive and profitable growth.
“The board exists to guide the growth and development of DFS to offer the right products at the right time to the market and to open doors through contacts and networks to business, funding and grant opportunities.
“I see my role on the board primarily to provide technical advice on products and technologies, supporting and challenging the ‘technology road-map’, but I also know the industry quite well, so can also help in that direction.
“I have 25 years of wind industry experience as a leader and engineer, 20 of these in blades working in large OEMs. My knowledge is based around the design and manufacture of blades and in the development of new technologies and products to stay ahead of the pack.
“I am particularly interested in bridging the gap between design and manufacturing, a field known as Design for Manufacture (DfM), which is fast becoming the key differentiator between successful OEMs.
“I understand how blades are designed and how they are manufactured and can share my insight to how these can be improved with the DFS team. I think strategically about developments for the next three-plus years and tactically about increasing value and opportunity six to 18 months ahead.
“I’ve worked with Feras for many of the last 15 or so years, he is a great colleague who has a generous, dynamic spirit. I’m so pleased to see how he has developed over the last five years as a businessperson.
“In that time, he has grown DFS from nothing to become a globally respected brand with multi-million euro turnover, a great core team in UK, an extended team in the remote markets and a vision of the future beyond the current offerings. I’m very happy to be a part of this.
“Everyone wants more energy and as this emerging market matures, the demand will only go up. Wind is leading the change to deliver against the 2030 and 2050 environmental targets. The world needs more energy and less greenhouse gases and the cost of energy for wind is now very competitive. The future is amazingly bright for wind.”
Chris, chief operating officer at Flybe and a business mentor with government-backed business support organisation Be The Business, previously headed operations at Gatwick for easyJet and spent 18 years with Britannia Airways/ThomsonFly.
He said: “I think DFS is a really exciting business with a brilliant team. At the forefront of innovation in their industry, they have a great opportunity for growth and future success in new products and new markets. I am privileged to be able to help in some small way to help guide the business towards even greater success in future.
“I think the role of the board is to challenge the executive and to provide guidance and support to enhance executive decision making. It should also provide scrutiny of business performance and processes to ensure the business is operated in a sound and diligent manner.
“I have an MBA and extensive experience in a range of senior management, executive and non-executive roles in the airline industry. On the Advisory Board I can bring a different perspective and independent challenge.
“I have been working as a mentor with Feras as part of the government’s Be The Business scheme. This is an opportunity to continue to provide mentoring and strategic input through a more structured group.
“There is no doubt this is a growth industry and features significantly in the drive to deliver clean energy generation. The use of new technologies will allow clean energy to be delivered more effectively and efficiently.”