Interview: Erik Børgesen, Business Manager of Alphasense

Erik Børgesen of AMETEK MOCON Europe and Alphasense talks about his career to date and his vision of the future.

If you weren’t the Business Manager of Alphasense, what other career path might you have chosen?

As a career I might have considered staying in the Navy – or, possibly, a full-time windsurfer, but that’s more of a passion.

Can you give a brief overview of your career to date:

I started out in the Navy after I finished high school where I got probably the best management training you can get, without having to go onto a specific course.

I then decided to go to university and obtained a degree in Economics at the University of Copenhagen. I now hold a Master of Science degree in Economics.

I then joined a corporation in the agricultural sector and had the opportunity to work across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. Being part of the food industry and then the sales department was a good learning experience.

I was drawn into IT and business development projects for a large Copenhagen-based company, eventually taking on an assignment for AP Møller Mærsk as Director of Headquarter IT systems. After this, I had an opportunity to work for a start-up company as a CFO/COO building up a company delivering NOx filters to the automotive industry. As with many start-ups, we were successful until we weren’t.

This then led me into a company owned by MOCON. We were acquired by AMETEK in 2017. Right now, apart from Alphasense, I’m responsible for the commercial MOCON organisation in Europe and overseeing operations for a factory in Denmark, where I am based. Having had experience in Supply Chain, Production, Product-Development, IT, HR, Marketing and Sales means I have a fairly broad background, which is well suited to running a company.

Are there any specific career highlights you’d like to mention?

Without any hesitation – the start-up experience was fun. It was an extremely exciting time, and we were building something from scratch, eventually landing huge contracts with automotive factories. It was also extremely stressful, particularly towards the end, but I think that my career has taken me to so many places which have given me a solid background for managing a business.

Are there any moments/events during your career so far that you believe have shaped you into the leader you are?

Probably my training in the Navy has had the biggest effect on me in terms of shaping me into who I am today. You learn so much about yourself at a very early stage of your life.

I’d also say that being a father to four children has taught me about the importance of prioritising – a vital skill both inside and outside of work.

Alphasense is now in its 26th year in business. To what does it owe its longevity and success?

Beyond any doubt the long-term knowledge of sensors and their associated technologies. There is no other place in the world where the same knowledge about sensors exists. Alphasense has delivered high-performance, high-quality sensors for over 25 years. It is perceived as the go-to brand for many of our customers in the air quality and gas safety industries. Our Braintree site is called Sensor Technology House for a good reason – and on a global scale – because our facility really is a powerhouse when it comes to understanding gas sensor technologies. Our people and their knowledge are key drivers for the company – they are our biggest asset. The fact they have learned to produce sensors in a fast and efficient way while delivering such high quality has been appreciated by the global market, which regards Alphasense as a reliable, well-respected brand.

In 2022, the Alphasense manufacturing facility in Great Notley was named AMETEK’s Global Gas Safety and Air Quality Sensor Centre of Excellence. How much impact has this had in terms of career opportunities for the local community?

Whenever you are acquired by a larger company there is a fear that everything you have built could change. But that is not how AMETEK works. AMETEK really wants to invest in companies and continue investing in them, and we’re greatly supported in that by retaining the Alphasense brand, technical expertise and production capabilities. This is well demonstrated by the fact that in 2022 alone, we hired 30 more people into our team, which we continue to strengthen. We are boosting our capacity around the science sphere, within engineering and tech support. We’re also expanding in commercial areas and focusing on our supply chain to support existing growth.

We are confident this will attract employees from the local community and continue to provide ongoing opportunities for career development.

And how much impact has it had in terms of the company’s wider reputation in research and development projects?

Historically, Alphasense has been very well connected with universities and other educational institutions. As we continue to support R&D activities in these communities, we will also focus on applying academic studies to real-world products for the benefit of us all. Our long-term connections with universities and academic institutions have given Alphasense a strong reputation in these communities, which is an important factor for us when we are attracting top scientists from around the world. This has really helped to ensure that we are investing in the right people. Our strong position in both the air quality and gas safety industries relies upon our renewed investment in R&D, and to attract the right candidates we need to continue offering opportunities to develop promising new products and technologies.

What are the current strengths of Alphasense, and how do you see the company’s position within the industry as a whole?

Alphasense as a brand is very strong on a global scale. Following the AMETEK acquisition, we have the capability to further grow and develop our brand not only in existing markets but also into markets where we see new opportunities. At the same time, Alphasense will remain dedicated to our core Air Quality and Health and Safety industries.

Are there any particular areas of interest you have in the business that you would like to see more focus on in the coming months/years?

Yes, the importance of clean air initiatives continues to drive our focus on particulate technologies for Air Quality applications. We also see significant opportunities in the Health and Safety market for both new and existing sensor technologies.

What product/technology do you believe really makes Alphasense stand out from its competitors?

It is hard to pick just one product. We have a long history of selling oxygen sensors and will continue to do so, however, these days our existing product portfolio of toxic gas sensors is also growing considerably. We have some ground-breaking changes coming soon that we believe will be disruptive to the market in terms of a sensor’s performance and capabilities. I can’t go into details just yet, but our current R&D projects aim to combine our sensor expertise with a solid commercial approach to ultimately benefit our customers. 

What one product/technology are you currently most excited about?

We have recently introduced five new PID sensors to offer our customers a full range of options for detecting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).  The PID sensor market is growing, and we want to ensure we offer our customers the best possible choice of sensors for their applications.

What is the greatest challenge your industry is facing? How will Alphasense approach this?

Without a doubt, the state of the global economy is a huge challenge for all businesses. When you consider that we’ve been through the pandemic, travel restrictions, component shortages around the world and then the situation in Ukraine, the scale of the challenge is significant.

Building a skilled workforce is also a challenge following the pandemic. There is such high competition for good candidates, and it can be difficult to attract new talent, particularly when the modern-day employee demands more flexibility and perhaps has different aspirations compared to the previous generation. What was motivating people before does not necessarily motivate them in the same way. But being part of AMETEK, a global company, means we can make the most of the advantages that come with that. We have access to highly qualified engineers at our production facilities around the world and we must continue to build and develop our workforce in this regard.

Are there any emerging markets/applications that Alphasense will be targeting?

If you’re looking specifically at emerging markets, India and Korea are certainly areas of interest. China is very interested in the environment and is investing heavily in enforcing regulations to create cleaner air. There is a real need for cost-effective air quality instruments in all key markets – this is a global trend we’re seeing across all regions.

Tell us about Alphasense’s commitment to sustainability.

Air quality is part of the DNA of Alphasense and always has been since the company was founded in 1996. I believe there is a real purpose to working at Alphasense because we are investing in technologies and providing sensors that enable our customers, and their customers, to create cleaner and more efficient towns and cities for communities around the world.

Looking forward, where would you like to see Alphasense in 10/20/50 years’ time?

I believe that Alphasense will continue to be an air quality and gas safety sensor centre of excellence for many years to come. The presence of the Internet of Things (IOT) and other connected technologies will play a big role in helping our customers deliver useful data to end users, with our sensors at the heart of those devices.  It’s a great time to join Alphasense and, for me personally, it’s an exciting challenge to lead this company over the coming months and years.    

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