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Larne Grammar Year 9 Pupils taking part in the Yelo STEM Workshop on Photonics

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We had a brilliant day at Larne Grammar School delivering a STEM Workshop on Photonics on Friday 31 May 2024. As part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Activate Your Curiosity incentive.


Year 9s had the opportunity to chat with Yelo's Optical Physicist, Dr Katie Cavanagh about her role/career and the R&D project she is involved with Smart Nano NI.  The pupils had a quick overview of the photonics they use every day without knowing and an insight into future technologies. 


The three groups had the opportunity to participate in:


  • Laser Target - the most popular and competitive activity. A steady hand and good eye coordination were needed for this activity... Mr Wylie (Headmaster) and Mrs Hill(Bursar) were very serious when trying this activity.. lucky we didn’t have a prize for the best shot for this workshop
  • Laser Maze – pupils had to guide a laser around a maze using mirrors and optics – precision was key to achieving success 
  • Look at how prisms transfer light using LED pointers and mini-torches
  • Object recognition - how the face scanner works on your mobile device
  • Using a microscope to look at nanostructures. 

huge thank you to Larne Grammar School for allowing us to come in and deliver a Photonics workshop to their Year 9s. Hopefully, we have inspired some of them to look at engineering is a great career option and also think about what photonics they each use everyday and the impact they have. 


Yelo Celebrates 40 Years in Business

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Overview of Yelo over 40 Years


In the beginning...

In the shadows of a city reeling from violence, the loss of 1,500 jobs during the notorious demise of the Delorean factory, and an unemployment rate of 20% – just five points less than that during the Great Depression – two local businessmen were launching one of the country’s most promising enterprises.  Richard Furey and Alan Watts met when they worked together as engineers for a business that folded at the same time as the Delorean factory.  With £100 and huge aspirations for more despite the political backdrop, the business partners launched Systems Solutions Limited in January 1983.  Today that firm is known as Yelo.

“We began as a consultancy business with £100 and an old Apple computer, going around companies showing them how they could use technology.  It was a dark time. Unemployment was high, no-one wanted to invest here.  It was pretty dead,” says Richard.

Impressively the business attracted custom from Tayto, Papermill, and Swan in its early days, the latter of which was renowned at the time for its kettles and Teasmades. Nortel in Monkstown also beckoned the duo’s services and then Swan enlisted them for testing its products, setting the business on a new path.  

“Over two to five years after that, we started turning our advice into practical projects,” Richard continues.  “We did lots of weird and wonderful things, all of which were very much one-off products and our team grew to eight people in five years.”


Growth of the business...

The company consolidated the mastery behind those bespoke products to create a solution of building blocks that could be used more universally, with an investment of £250,000.  That move set the wheels in motion for fast growth.  In 1991 it sold almost 50% of the business to angel investors.  That partial buyout coupled with fresh funding saw the company go on to launch its product at a trade show and by 1992 its turnover sat at £1.2m.

“We increased our staff to 30 and 95% of our business was in the mainland UK.  We grew so quickly that it nearly broke us when the recession set in and costs went up. Our income fell and we nearly went bust in 1993,” Richard says.

With support from the bank and a management consultancy, the company came back stronger after that blip, and at the turn of the millennium, Yelo was sold to a Canadian firm.  Ten years later a management buyout put it back in Richard’s hands to “turn it into what it is now”.

That move also saw Lynn Good, finance and administration director, join the business from Canada helping the 21st-century Yelo thrive alongside fellow director David Sinclair and a team of 40 staff.

Alan Watts departed the business in 2005.

Describing Yelo’s inner workings and services today, Richard explains: “The product we developed at the beginning of the ‘90s became the entry to what we do now. That was general-purpose test equipment that tested many things, for example, Heartsine defibrillators, a cluster of products for medical companies in Galway including foetal heart monitors, smoke detectors and more.  We also do work for Schnieder Electric for domestic heating controls, testing one every 45 seconds.”

The firm’s other high-profile clients include Thales and BT while its product portfolio traverses a selection of products; from household essentials to the downright futuristic.

The Future...

Laser diodes are a new market for Yelo, which operates from its suave 25,000 sq ft facility at Trooperslane Industrial Estate, Carrickfergus.  These diodes can be used in high-speed communications in what Richard says is a “multi-million dollar market mainly based in the US”.

He adds: “As long as we invest heavily in engineering for what’s next we’ll keep going."

“One of the big growth areas is LIDAR used in autonomous vehicles. It is the eyes of the vehicle, a bit like an optical sonar that builds up an image of what’s in front of a car – detecting the difference between a curb you’re going around and someone stepping off that curb. We’re getting involved in that and the challenge now is to do it at the right time, which is a mix of experience and luck."

“When you do R&D, the key thing is learning when to realise that you’ve gone as far as you can with something.”

Over the past four decades, Richard and his team have encountered many economic and political challenges.  Is 2023 going to be any different given the pressures of the war in Ukraine, the enduring wake of Covid-19, and Brexit?

“There have been more difficult times than today,” he continues. “I think back to when we first started – things were very tough, unemployment was huge, and nobody wanted to know Northern Ireland.  Today it is the worst time for the retail industry and that’s a combination of a backdrop of ten years of squeeze coupled with energy, then the war in Ukraine – sort of a quadruple whammy. It certainly, in terms of a squeeze on living standards, seems worse. I cannot in 40 years remember when we needed food banks. This is a very tough time, tough from a business perspective, looking at cost increases and salaries but our outlook is not nearly as negative as it is for individuals. Things are moving forward, it’s going to be a blip for companies like us but we’ll manage.  “We are often testing things that won’t be used for two to three years which acts as an inherent buffer.

“There is a huge breadth of engineering capability which allows us to turn our hand to things, whether that’s wind farms, solar panels, or killing fish humanely. There are many opportunities ahead,” he says

Yelo Matched Funding Partner for the Concern Ration Challenge 2022

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Yelo is once again delighted to be a Matched Funding Partner for the Concern Ration Challenge 2022.  


According to Concern Worldwide, nearly one in every 100 people on earth has been forced from their homes by conflict or disaster. That’s more than 100 million people – most ever on record. In the last 12 months, we have witnessed violent conflict and unrest unfold around the world, including Afghanistan and most recently Ukraine. This year also marks the 11th anniversary of the conflict in Syria. We’ve also seen an unprecedented rise in natural disasters and unpredictable weather patterns”


The Rational Challenge

For one week, participants will eat the same rations, in almost the same quantities as Syrian refugees in Jordan. The challenge will take place from 19 -25 June 2022.


For the week of the challenge, you’ll drink only water and eat only the rations and a multivitamin (optional). That’s right, no coffee, sugar, or alcohol! (Unless you earn rewards).


To find out more or take part in the challenge please visit

Yelo pick up a Double Award at Carrick Business Excellence Awards 2021

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Yelo was delighted to win two of the Carrick Times Excellence in Business Awards categories for 2021

·      Excellence in Innovation

·       Best Export Award

Our purpose-built state-of-the-art factory based at Trooperslane Industrial Park has been designing, manufacturing, and growing local talent in the photonics industry in Carrickfergus since 1983.

Yelo is one of the world’s leading design and manufacturers of Photonics burn-in and life test equipment.  Our products are exported all over the world providing vital testing services to ensure that the internet works with no glitches!

We are honoured to have been chosen as one of the companies to receive a Carrick Business Excellence Award, so we are double delighted with picking up two! 

The past 18 months have been a difficult time in business.  The Yelo team travels all over the world to set up new systems and help our t customers find solutions to their problems.  Travelling hasn’t been an option in 2020/21 so our teams have been operating remote visits through Skype, Zoom, and Teams functions to meet our customers’ needs. Since March 2020 our staff have really stepped up and thought outside the box to complete tasks in different ways, operate a little bit differently to meet customers’ wants, and just really adapted to each situation to ensure Yelo keeps to deadlines and work schedules. We owe many thanks to our team continuing to work through these difficult times, adhering to new working regulations, and most importantly keeping themselves and their colleagues safe.

We would like to thank the Carrick Time Business Excellence Awards for organising this great event and celebrating businesses in the local area.



© Copyright 2021 Yelo Ltd is a registered company in Northern Ireland, registered number NI 16345 VAT No: GB 354 1381 13