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Business Showcase with Ulster Bank: Meeting a global health crisis head on

Medical grade contactless thermometer business TriMedika has seen demand for its highly accurate products surge amid the global pandemic. And Dr Roisin Molloy and Julie Brien have continued on their journey to success alongside Ulster Bank, with its Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme opening doors each step of the way

When entrepreneurs Dr Roisin Molloy and Julie Brien decided to take the plunge and set up their own medical device business, little did they know demands across the global health sector were about to change immeasurably, almost overnight.

Last year during Covid, demand went through the roof, overnight,” Roisin says.

Belfast-based TriMedika produces smart medical devices, and experienced a huge surge in demand for its contactless thermometers during the pandemic.

“We are a medical device manufacturer and at present make and sell non-contact thermometers,” Roisin says. “You literally point it at someone’s forehead, click a button, and get a reading.”

The TriMedika thermometer is different in that it’s of a medical grade, and designed for use by medical professionals right across the health sectors.

Part of its strength is its accuracy – up there with internal probes – while also removing contact from the process, something which is increasingly becoming an important component amid a global pandemic.

TriMedika designs, develops and manufactures its products for sale in 21 countries, with key markets in the UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It’s also now set its sights on the US.

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But while Covid helped boost demand for its products significantly, TriMedika faced the same issues that many other companies did in terms of getting their products exported. Roisin says shipping costs rose 10-fold.

“However, our numbers escalated and we had to put on more manufacturing runs and build up stock,” Roisin says,

And according to Julie Brien, the company is continuing to expand and look towards ramping automation and the digital element of the product and process in order to meet growing and evolving demands.

“We looked at new software to bring in and automate as much of the process as possible,” Julie says.

“The tracking and tracing of our products is essential. We revised and invested in people, and now have a systems executive to bring everything together. It means we can see dashboards and see where we are.”

Roisin and Julie’s relationship with Ulster Bank has been in works for years, starting out at a personal banking level before expanding into their ongoing key business partnership.

“We then heard about the Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme, and were looked after by John Ferris and Lynsey Cunningham,” Roisin says. “The connection with them was really brilliant. We were also able to network brilliantly and we were often directed towards very helpful people.”

That also opened up access to a range of Ulster Bank and Royal Bank hubs right across the UK.

The Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme has helped the firm secure key connections. In one case during a pitch event, the company was able to speak to a government official face-to-face about helping the firm get on the approved framework in order to be able to tender for key NHS contracts.

TriMedika is continuing to expand its team in order to meet increased demand. A team of 14, it’s set to grow its workforce further still across a range of areas, including its marketing department. That will see it increasing staff numbers to at least 26 this year.

And it’s already looking ahead to prototypes for its new model – which includes a communications module to help centralise and send data wirelessly without the need for additional contact.

You can find out more by visiting the Trimedika website

Playing our role in bringing people together

By Aileen Lagan, director of business banking, Ulster Bank

How can we best serve our customers in the midst of a global pandemic is a question I have asked myself many times during the last 14 months. Throughout each of the lockdowns and subsequent easing of restrictions, our business customers have needed varying levels of support from us at different times.

Managing this has been a true test of our own agility as we have sought to offer help in a way that meets individual customer needs and extends beyond simply providing financial assistance.

As a purpose-driven bank, it’s important to us that we are readying our customers for the road ahead and one of the ways we can do this is by working in partnership with local chamber organisations who are also working hard to help their members adapt and grow. Our new Belfast Talks Business event series is a fitting example of this.

We’ve teamed up with Belfast Chamber of Commerce to deliver a series of talks, panel discussions and one-to-one interview sessions aimed at the city’s business community.

With each event taking on a different theme, the idea is that by profiling business leaders and innovators from across a number of sectors, we can bring fresh, topical and relevant content to other Belfast-based businesses and connect them with the tools and networks they need to get back on track after a challenging year.

Our first session, which took place virtually at the end of April, focused on Belfast’s thriving health tech sector. While health has been to the forefront of everyone’s mind this past year, what some may not fully appreciated is that Belfast has a long tradition of companies producing innovative healthcare technologies and Northern Ireland is recognised around the world as an attractive location for companies in this sector to relocate to.

Attendees heard insightful testimonials from a number of companies and Ulster University’s professor Jim McLaughlin, as together we looked at what impact a global health pandemic has had on this growing sector. Dr Roisin Molloy and Julie Brien from TriMedika also took part in the event and shared how they have experienced a surge in demand for their products this year. While not every company will have a 2020 success story to share, we think it is important to champion those who have and recognise what others can learn from these experiences in terms of their own growth aspirations.

Throughout the series, we want to explore other important areas including tourism and hospitality, green growth, Belfast’s industrial giants and fintech and cyber-security, and plan to time each of the events with significant milestones on our roadmap out of lockdown. For the moment we are hosting virtually but when it is safe to do so, will move to hosting face-to-face events.

We hope the sessions will be the beginning of a productive conversation around what we can all do to work in closer collaboration, and support our city going forward. Ulster Bank is committed to playing its role in this work and it’s encouraging to have partners, such as the team at Belfast Chamber, we can lean on to help us achieve our shared goal.