From Keighley News, April 26th, 2018
Written by Alistair Shand
A PIONEERING high-tech company is moving into the Aire Valley – bringing a multi-million pound investment and jobs. Globally-growing Gaist Holdings is setting-up its head office close to Keighley, in a move hailed as an "exciting" boost for the area. The company has identified a potential site, where it hopes to be fully operational by the summer. Recruitment has already begun. The development was welcomed this week by Keighley MP John Grogan. "Keighley and the Aire Valley have a tradition of manufacturing and engineering to be proud of – with many such firms thriving in the area to this day," he said. "This exciting new investment, based on the most modern technology, will help ensure this tradition continues in the future."
The move marks something of a ‘homecoming’ for Gaist's chief executive officer, Steve Birdsall, who was born and brought-up in Oxenhope, and fellow director Stephen Remde who hails from the Keighley district.
"We're delighted to be bringing the business here," said Steve, 52.
"I love the area and have always had a desire to give something back to it.
"Our new facilities will be used to develop our engineering and electronics teams, as well as research and development and data processing."
It is hoped that over time, other high-tech companies could be attracted to the town and more highly-skilled jobs be created.
After leaving Oakbank School in Keighley when he was 16, Steve spent a decade in the army before working around the world surveying for oil.
He founded Gaist, which is currently based in a unit on the Lancaster University campus, about ten years ago.
The company's groundbreaking work is seeing it develop and operate new surveying technologies, whose functions include inspecting roads and bridges and predicting the long-term maintenance needed to keep the transport infrastructure safe.
It recently completed a year-long video survey of the country's entire classified roads network.
Using a fleet of vehicles fitted with image cameras, detailed inch-by-inch information – invaluable to engineers – was gathered about the condition of each road.
Steve says a particularly exciting element for the business is research and development in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) – that demonstrated by machines rather than humans.
"We have world-leading experts in this field and work closely with the University of York," he said.
"When you possess 1.5 billion megabytes of imagery it can be very time-consuming to interpret it, but AI is bringing huge advances and we are at the forefront.
"Our use of AI will help us develop products and services that will be utilised in the driverless car revolution of the coming years."
Gaist already has an office in India, and Steve was part of a top-level trade mission – which included Prime Minister Theresa May – to the country last year.
Now the company's operations are expanding further, both at home and internationally.
It presently has around 230 staff, but is looking to double its UK workforce.
It is taking on technicians and boosting its research team.
"This is an incredibly exciting time for us," adds Steve.
"We are growing rapidly in the UK and about to start new businesses in Japan and South America, in addition to the existing operations in India.
"I have always had an ambition to bring the head office to Yorkshire and start to bring more high-tech jobs to the area, which I believe we need to adapt to the changing global economy."