Randox redefines success in the lab
Peter Fitzgerald is just getting started with Randox Laboratories
Managing director Dr Peter Fitzgerald, pictured with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, founded Randox in 1982 with six people. It now employs 1,200, chiefly in Antrim and Donegal, but also across a growing network of sales offices in such places as Brazil and China. Photograph: Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Timing is everything in business. For some companies it creates the line that stands between success and failure. But for Dr Peter Fitzgerald, it is much more important because getting the timing right can mean the difference between life and death.
The Antrim-born entrepreneur has spent 31 years discovering new ways to help save lives by developing groundbreaking diagnostic tests. His company, Randox Laboratories, has pioneered a range of products that provide more accurate and rapid diagnoses for a number of diseases and conditions.
As well as helping to save lives, high-tech Randox products are used in forensics and drug testing. Fitzgerald founded Randox in 1982 with six people. It now employs 1,200, chiefly in Antrim and Donegal, but also across a growing network of sales offices in such places as Brazil and China.
For Fitzgerald, however, this is just the beginning and he feels the company is “nothing compared to what it could be”.
It is a medium-sized business that could employ thousands more if “we get our act together,” he says. He is being tongue in cheek. No one could accuse the award-winning team at Randox Laboratories of not having its act together. But it is Fitzgerald’s way of saying he is considering expansion.
Earlier this year Randox invested €500,000 in its facility in Donegal, which Fitzgerald intends to become “a world-class diagnostic research and development centre”. He said that facility will grow independently of the existing Randox operation in Antrim.
Fitzgerald’s long-term aim is for the facility to become a centre of excellence in manufacturing and that Randox will bring new products, such as bio-chips manufactured in Donegal, to market from this base. The facility employs about 50 people but Fitzgerald plans to more than double this in two years’ time.Expansion will continue at Randox’s headquarters in Crumlin, Co Antrim, which focuses heavily on R&D, which accounts for 30 per cent of the company’s annual revenue.
Fitzgerald says staying ahead of the competition is vital and revolutionary technology developed by his team is the key to realising his vision. But he does not intend to restrict his vision to manufacturing in Ireland only.
The company is investigating the possibility of manufacturing in the US; it has had a presence in West Virgina for the past three years. Given the importance of the American market to Randox, it would be logical for it to consider establishing a manufacturing operation there, says Fitzgerald.
Randox is privately owned by Fitzgerald and his family, though it has had no shortage of commercial suitors who recognise its success to date and the potential the business may have in the future.
For the moment, Fitzgerald says he is happy to be in a position not to have to answer to shareholders.
“We take a very long-term view at Randox, our research tends to have long life cycles. I think one of our advantages is that we have no outside shareholders to answer to.
“We’ve done fine on our own without shareholders. We’ve used our own resources and we had supportive bank finance but I have an open mind and I would, for example, never restrict the development of the company just because of money. But I do like what we are today,” he says.
He is particularly excited about Randox’s prospects over the next two years because some very innovative research is coming to the end of its cycle. What that could mean for Randox is further expansion once potential new products hit the market.
In the meantime, Fitzgerald has another more pressing task – finding room in the boardroom for his latest award.
Later this month he is going to be presented with the Innovation Founder of the Year award by NISP Connect. The award highlights the efforts of entrepreneurs “whose unique ideas and positive contribution to the community have helped to put Northern Ireland innovation on the map”.
As far as Fitzgerald is concerned the award is not just for him, it is for the whole team and it will help to remind them what the future could hold.