The first conversation about starting a company was during dinner with John on 20th August 2018. We were in Alfreton, Derbyshire for a project review meeting with Innovate UK and Rolls-Royce. The project, ARTEMIS, was about to enter its final year, which is the appropriate time for PIs and post-docs to start planning the next grant application.
During dinner, we discussed how wonderful it would be to develop novel instruments outside of a university, in our own company. The more we talked, the more feasible the idea started to sound. Perhaps my looming 30th birthday in September was weighing on my mind but I convinced myself that if I didn’t start a company in the coming months, it would never happen.
The next day after the review meeting, I mentioned the idea of starting a company to a colleague from Rolls-Royce. I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by their enthusiasm and support.
On returning to Bristol, John and I ran the idea past our colleague Dr Dave Megson-Smith who was equally energised about the idea of starting a company.
The evenings and weekends of the following months were spent learning about limited companies, insurance, PAYE, and a dozen other topics that were new to me. We proposed several company names including Bristol Optics, Brigstowe Instruments, Clifton Scientific and Malago Scientific before we finally settled on Clifton Photonics.
Clifton Photonics was incorporated on 10th December 2018. It’s amazing to see how we have developed from a company with £300 in the bank to an established business with our own products, exciting projects, and amazing R&D partners, and clients such as Rolls-Royce, Cavendish Nuclear, NNL and the University of Bristol.
I’m excited to see what 2022 has in store for us and though we won't be together for it this evening, we'll be raising our glasses virtually in celebration of what we've achieved so far.