Product designer goes global after sale to US company

One of the top product design and development businesses in Scotland has been bought by a US company in a move that will see the firm tap into new markets and grow its headcount.

The company has won numerous awards for product design including a European Design Award last year for the development of a mobile phone ophthalmoscope. Picture: Contributed

Glasgow-based WideBlue, which was set up as an independent entity in 2006 after a management buyout from Polaroid’s European research and development arm, has been acquired by Kansas-based Pivot International.

While the value of the deal has not been disclosed, it is described as “significant”.

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The US group – founded in 1972 – is buying a majority equity stake in WideBlue and the agreement will also lead to the retirement later in the year of one of the Scots firm’s founding directors, Grant King.

WideBlue has delivered hundreds of projects for a variety of organisations from start-ups and university spin-outs to multinational corporations. It is frequently engaged in collaborative projects working with European research organisations and universities, especially in the areas of imaging, optoelectronics and bio-medical engineering.

The skill set in-house ranges from physics, optics, electronics and software through to mechanical engineering, prototyping, manufacture and supply chain management.

Managing director Russell Overend stressed that it would be “business as usual” following the buyout, including the retention of the brand.

He said: “We have been in discussions with Pivot for the past 12 months and had been working in a couple of areas already.

“They were looking for a strategic partner to have a presence in Europe. Our skill sets, commercial and management capability are very much complementary.

“With Pivot’s contract manufacturing and component sourcing facilities in the US and Far East we can now offer our clients a complete end-to-end solution going from the initial product idea to full-scale production.

“Finding an overseas manufacturing facility can be a hit or miss affair – now we can offer full project management control and complete quality assurance to our growing portfolio of clients.”

At present, the firm has a workforce of 15 engineers, many of whom have multiple degrees in electronics, physics, product design, engineering and production. Overend said the business was “going to be actively recruiting”, with that process already underway.

The company has won numerous awards for product design including a European Design Award last year for the development of a mobile phone ophthalmoscope for client Peek Vision.

The acquisition of WideBlue brings the total headcount at Pivot to 400 across the globe including an engineering team of 50.

Chief executive Mark Dohnalek said: “We are especially interested in WideBlue’s specialist expertise in optical technology which is world-class.”