Reflex Marine

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Reflex Marine's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Reflex Marine is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

CEO Philip Strong
Frog capsule – a safe
alternative to helicopter
Reflex Marine manufacture marine capsules for the
transfer of personnel, a safer alternative to helicopter
extraction or other marine methods. Operating in a
traditional industry, they have embraced new and developing
technologies and have applied these innovations to their
entire business, from their design and engineering software
to their internal communications. They are currently working
to embrace sustainability and call on the government to take
greater measures, such as carbon taxes, to help to protect the
environment. CEO Philip Strong elaborates.
We are a small technology-based business supporting a global market. Our marine
capsules transfer over a million passengers a year, from the Arctic to the tropics.
They provide a safe alternative to helicopters and other marine methods of transfer.
At the time of writing, we have achieved eight years without an injury: a record
of which we are truly proud. Just 20 years ago, injuries and even fatalities in these
activities were commonplace. We’re proud to have raised global standards and
to know that legal codes were revised in many countries to reflect the changes
We have been fortunate to win numerous awards over the years for export,
innovation and staff development, but perhaps the most pertinent was the Seatrade
Safety at Sea Award in 2017, which closely reflected our founding mission.
We are not complacent and know that supporting safety-critical operations in
challenging conditions requires constant vigilance. As the adage goes: “it can
»CEO: Philip Strong
»Established in 1992
»Based in Truro
»Services: Manufacture of
marine capsules
»No. of employees: 30
Reflex Marine
Highlighting best practice
take years to build a reputation and
just a moment to lose it”. We’re also
aware that our market penetration is
still limited, so many sea crew around
the world have yet to benefit from
the improved practices we helped
A business model for a new
When we started over 20 years ago,
we had no idea how much we would
be shaped by the digital revolution.
We were in a traditional industry but in
many ways were ideally suited to take
advantage of the new tools appearing.
We set up a small but dispersed team
with a global reach – laptops and web
conferences became the tools of our
trade. Developments in design and
engineering software allowed us to
develop better products and to shrink
development times. Staying current
with the latest technology is still a key
endeavour. We now use 3D virtual
models to allow the realistic evaluation
of concepts pre-prototype and to aid
visualisation for our clients. We also
use 3D printing to create prototype
components in double-quick time.
Our focus remains on safety
innovation, with a bent toward
human ergonomics and the
marine environment. Our model is
underpinned by the strategic use of
intellectual property to protect our
concepts and investments. Filing and
policing IP are onerous and costly tasks
for a small business, so we also believe
in developing integrated service models
as an effective way to protect our
market position. Copying a product
is easy, but copying a range of high-
quality supporting services is much
harder. A more integrated service
model connects us more deeply to our
clients, creating a positive feedback
loop – with opportunities to learn
more about our clients’ operations
and needs, which in turn allows us to
improve our products and services.
A small business with global
We export to over 70 countries,
so we need to hire staff with the
business skills, geographical location
and language skills to support these
markets. Not every company can shape
the dialogue, but if you see that as
important to your business model,
you must be able to first recognise
and then engage people capable of
leading such a dialogue. For example,
our COO, Sandra Antonovic, previously
held very senior positions in retail and
media as CFO and COO for globally
recognised organisations. To operate in
these spaces, you need to understand
how the corporate mind ticks and to
be able to engage in a meaningful
dialogue. This is not always easy for
a small business to achieve, but you
must keep developing and enriching
your team until you are confident that
they can hold their place at the table
and even show leadership. Until you
can do that, you are a responder and
not a shaper.
WAVE-4 transfer capsule
Businesses can
move from
being at the
root of the
problem to an
important part
of the solution
The European question
Brexit brings huge challenges and cuts
into the very DNA of the company. We
are a UK–EU business with a global
face. We trade with the EU, we employ
EU nationals with unique technical and
linguistic skills and our design office
is based in Spain. Technically, all this
can continue with the UK outside the
EU trading block, but the fundamental
ease with which we were able to build
this structure and operate across EU
borders is now at risk. Every aspect of
our connection to the EU strengthens
our business and increases our global
Offshore wind is perhaps the most
impressive new industry to have risen
in Europe in recent decades, and it
did so entirely on the shoulders of EU
integration. The speed and scale of
its development and its multinational
facet are worthy of note. We aim to
play our part in this sector and assist
with personal access, and we are now
developing a harsh weather cargo
handling system in collaboration with
partners from several EU countries.
We are pinning our hopes on Brexit
not impeding these efforts and the
UK maintaining the closest possible
trading relationship with the EU.
Business ethics and a
sustainable future
We believe that businesses can, and
must, play a leading role in creating
the world we all wish to share. It
can be easy to sell out in business,
but companies that are genuine and
consistently apply their principles can
thrive because they engender trust.
We aim to embrace sustainability and
build our profile in renewable energy.
All the government must do is tilt the
table, and businesses will follow the
gradient. For example, putting a price
on carbon will immediately unleash the
power of the markets and innovators,
who will begin to find ways to operate
in a low-carbon economy. Grants and
tax breaks have their place, but they
are often tinkering around the fringe
and don’t change the overall economic
system. We taxed alcohol and tobacco
to disincentivise individuals, solely to
prevent self-harm. Why then should
we not use the same mechanisms to
discourage activities that do harm to us
all and will impact future generations?
With simple and powerful incentives,
businesses can move from being at the
root of the problem to an important
part of the solution.
Putting a price
on carbon will
unleash the
power of
markets and
Testing at NASA Neutral
Buoyancy Laboratory,
Houston, Texas

This article was sponsored by Reflex Marine. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster