SMD Founder made a MBE

SMD Founder made a MBE

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05 January 2017

Dr Tony Trapp, executive chairman of Osbit and leading figure in the north east England offshore industry, has been awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year’s Honors.

Trapp has been instrumental in the formation and success of the subsea technology industry in North East England having been a co-founder of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), and the founder of IHC Engineering Business and, more recently, Osbit.

Having been awarded the MBE for services to the engineering and energy industries, Trapp has praised the ingenuity and innovation of engineers from the North East that have been the foundation of the region’s success in the offshore market.

Trapp said: "I am extremely honored to have been awarded the MBE.It is a tribute to the many brilliant engineers that have created technical and financial success at SMD, IHC Engineering Business and Osbit, generating high quality employment and a positive economic contribution for north east England.

"The story started at Newcastle University and is proof that when engineering and enterprise are combined success can follow. For 38 years I have been involved in a range of businesses that are owned and run by engineers creating new technology to solve complex challenges, while creating significant wealth for many and providing business for the north east of England supply chain.

"The success of these businesses has been possible through the endeavors of many wonderful engineers and I have been privileged to be a part of these successful teams.”

He added: "The region has established a global reputation for technical excellence, particularly in the offshore industry, where companies have been pacesetters for the creation of technology-led solutions for sectors such as oil & gas, offshore renewables and telecommunications.”

"The innovations we have delivered have changed the way these sectors operate in offshore environments and ensured the region continues to be at the forefront of industry developments.”

Tony Trapp originally came to the north east in 1966, gaining a BSc and PhD from Newcastle University. After a period lecturing in Thermodynamics at Edinburgh University, he returned to Newcastle University to join Dr Alan Reece and Dr Tim Grinsted to develop underwater earthmoving technology, which could be applied to the emerging oil sector and trans-oceanic fibre optic cable markets and led to the formation of SMD.

After a period growing the business, alongside researching and developing new technologies at the university, SMD secured a £1.1 million contract in 1984, which enabled it to establish a base in the Tyne Valley. The business also purchased Pearson Engineering, which many years later was owned entirely by Alan Reece and achieved exceptional success.

SMD, which is still based in the North East, has gone on to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of remote intervention equipment and the premier independent designer and manufacturer of subsea remotely operation vehicles.
After Tony left SMD he established The Engineering Business (EB) in 1997, which he sold, as planned, to Dutch shipbuilder, IHC Merwede, 11 years later, remaining as Managing Director and then Chairman until 2011. 20% of the EB sale value was distributed to 70 members of staff through an EMI scheme, with each receiving an average of £75,000 with only ten percent tax to pay.

In 2010 Tony founded Osbit, which in keeping with all of the businesses he has been involved with, is owned and run by engineers. He was joined by two colleagues who had worked at SMD and Pearson Engineering and, subsequently a colleague from EB to complete a quartet of owner directors. The business also operates an EMI scheme where 20% of the value of Osbit is allocated to its staff.

Tony is also chairman and a shareholder in a north east-based engineering business established in 2015, OpenWorks Engineering (OWE).Another example of a business that has evolved out of the North East’s rich pool of highly talented entrepreneurial engineers, OWE has developed new technology to counter threats from unauthorized drones becoming an international market leader after only 18 months.