Innovation, award-winning, and results are three themes that come to mind when you think of New Brunswick’s LuminUltra Technologies. The company is changing the way we think and deal with the safe treatment and delivery of drinking water.
ONB works to support companies with high growth potential, like LuminUltra, in diversifying their markets and expanding their sales worldwide, creating high-skilled jobs for New Brunswickers in the process. LuminUltra currently exports over 99 per cent of its products, contributing greatly to New Brunswick’s GDP.
“The support provided by Opportunities NB and its predecessors has been instrumental in getting LuminUltra to where it is today.” says company President and CEO, Pat Whalen.
We spoke to Mr Whalen to learn more about this innovative New Brunswick business.
ONB: First, tell us about LuminUltra.
Whalen: LuminUltra is in the business of revolutionizing the way the water sector thinks about microbiological control. We do this by providing water system operators—including those responsible for the safe treatment and delivery of drinking water, treatment of wastewater, and sectors like oil & gas—with a test that provides on-the-spot results in five minutes, whereas the traditional ‘state of the art’ tests must be done in the lab, and require days or weeks to provide results.
The product, an ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) testing kit, provides the hard facts and is complemented by our expert knowledge and software solutions that help customers get the most out of their data.
While the first five years were a tough slog trying to build the required market interest, since 2008 we have been growing by 40% per year on average. This has led to accolades such as being on the Progress Magazine fastest-growing company list for several years, as well as a Top 101 Atlantic Canada Company. In addition, we have won numerous provincial and national awards for innovation, bioscience excellence, and export achievement.
New Brunswick has a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem with great startups and mature companies with innovative solutions like LuminUltra. What is it about NB that fosters this kind of enthusiasm and innovation?
I think the growth in innovative entrepreneurship here is born out of necessity. Whereas we have an existing strong export-driven economy, much of the mature economy is based on older industries that rely on natural resources. Therefore, people have to look to innovation in order to sustain economic growth and maintain the evolution of our quality of life. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have a strong education system and a curious, creative culture producing people capable of that innovation, and we have that in spades.
You’re from New Brunswick. What keeps you here?
As a life-long New Brunswicker with the luxury of doing a lot of travel, I am lucky to have seen what New Brunswick has to offer from both perspectives. When I am in big cities and foreign countries, I can see the great quality of life that we have here from a multitude of perspectives — security, stability, and peacefulness. That exceptional quality of life, which we experience here for a relatively low cost, is extremely appealing to many people outside our province.
Tell us about your R&D and what’s important to you.
R&D has been and always will be central to our business. We re-invest nominally 20 per cent of our annual sales back into R&D so that we can improve our products and develop new solutions that keep us ahead of the pack. We are not so naïve to think that we have a solution that cannot be matched by others. We operate under the principle that if you truly have a great idea, you can be certain that someone will try to copy it and take some of your market share. Sometimes, the best ideas are small tweaks that enhance existing products. In short, we operate under the philosophy that if you aren’t growing, you’re falling behind — so we always want to be the former.
Finally, let’s talk about LuminUltra’s NB team and its commitment to customer service.
LuminUltra would have never achieved its success nor would it be able to continue to grow without our people. Rarely have we had to look beyond New Brunswick to find the people we need to maintain our position as a global leader. We employ engineers, scientists, computer scientists, business majors, and technologists, and we all share in a culture in which our customers are the most important part of our business.
We base all of our research and product enhancements on what our customers want, and we recognize that our brand isn’t a reflection of what we want to convey, it is based on what our customers perceive us to be. We work hard to make sure that once you become a customer, you are a customer for life.
Cover image via LuminUltra
Written by Heather MacLean