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Cost of living in St Andrews forces high-tech firm to open central belt base

Ceres Holographics chief executive Andy Travers and the firm's work..
Ceres Holographics chief executive Andy Travers and the firm's work..

A St Andrews firm which specialises in holographic technology has cited difficulties in recruiting workers as it opens a new base.

Ceres Holographics specialises in augmented reality transport displays.

The firm works with a number of car firms.

Chief executive Andy Travers has targeted global expansion to Germany, America and Japan.

But finding staff who are willing to relocate to the firm’s base in St Andrews has proved problematic.

Mr Travers said: “It has been difficult to get people to move to St Andrews.

Ceres Holographics: chief executive Andy Travers.

“Most of the population of Scotland is in the central belt. It’s a long haul commuting every day from Edinburgh to St Andrews.

“People can’t generally afford the housing prices in St Andrews.”

As a result, Ceres Holographics recently opened a new 8,000 sq ft digital mastering and replication facility in Livingston.

Mr Travers said he was committed to retaining the hologram firm’s base in the Fife town.

He said: “We always want to keep two sites in operation in Scotland.

“The plan is to always keep one in St Andrews. Livingston makes it easier for us to recruit.”

Shortage of people taking up tech roles

The chief executive acknowledged recruitment issues may force the business to move elsewhere.

He also lamented a shortage of young people pursuing careers in science and technology.

Ceres Holographics windscreen.

“There is a real shortage on the ground right across the board,” he said.

“It’s massive for us. It is a shame because if I told you the salaries these people earn, it’s phenomenal.”

In 2019, the St Andrews tech firm was awarded more than £1m in funding.

That came from Horizon 2020 – the largest ever European funding programme for research and innovation – and helped to commercialise its printing technology.

Coping with Covid-19

In the meantime, though, Mr Travers and his team has had the pandemic to deal with.

While orders from automotive firms fell away, staff were able to keep working.

Mr Travers said It was a “challenging” time for Ceres.

Ceres Holographics’ new printer at its new base in Livingston.

“The nature of our business is real physical laboratory work.

“We managed to work right through thanks to social distancing and following the guidance.

“We suffered a drop off in orders from some of the big automotive companies in Europe. They were just paralyzed.

“Gradually they came out of that.

“It impacted our plans in terms of revenue and investment and our own investors have been very loyal.

“They’ve put their hands in their considerable pockets for two rounds of funding that have really helped us not just survive, but progress.”

New development for St Andrews tech firm

At its new base in Livingston, the firm has its new industrialised roll-to-roll printer.

The printer has been built at a development cost of £2m over a three-year period.

Mr Travers praised the Ceres staff for completing the project.

“We’ve been working on that for three years so it’s testament to the company that we worked through the pandemic and delivered that.

“Our revenue has been £750,000 each year but that has been doing prototypes for some of the car companies.

Holographic-enabled transparent display offers cost and performance advantages over #HUD and #AR-HUD for line-of-sight…

Posted by Ceres Holographics on Thursday, 4 February 2021

“The goal is to get to recurring revenue where we’re shipping millions of holograms for the car companies.

“The new machine s a really important step. It’s all to do with scale-up

“It is creating quite a stir worldwide.”

The firm also hopes to add more staff to its existing 17-strong team by the end of next year.

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