Distran is a spin-off from ETH Zurich funded in 2013. They developed the world’s first ultrasonic imaging cameras, that enables industry professionals to detect gas leaks meters away without being in contact with the gas. It is thus safer for the people, more efficient and thus better for the environment. The two important goals for them when they launched Distran were to make scientific discoveries while having a meaningful impact, both for the environment and regarding people’s safety. Distran’s ultrasonic cameras are used by industry professionals in Oil & Gas, Power Generation and Chemistry fields. Gas leaks are found based on ultrasounds they emit at the leakage point.
Mr. Perrodin, what’s the idea behind your company?
Distran aims to overcome industrial inspections’ constraints, to enable a proper classification and prioritization of maintenance and repairs operations. Thus, reducing industry footprint by accidental gas releases in environment through undetected gas leaks. And drastically reduce workers exposure to gas, that is why our cameras can detect and pinpoint any gas type leaks at a safe distance. For instance, 3% of all the methane (greenhouse gas) extracted is lost into leaks - this represents 30B$/y in gas and a big contribution to global warming. We developed our first acoustic camera in 2013, it was the world first acoustic camera dedicated to location of gas leaks on industrial plants. We are supported by the Swiss Climate Foundation and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.
What are your most important export markets and why?
As our products are used in industrial plants, the more industrialized the country, the bigger the market. Back in 2013, Switzerland was our first field of operations and development of our products. Having Alstom and then GE as customers, we quickly made sales in more than 20 countries, main markets being Europe (mostly Germany and France) and the United States. We are also active in the Middle East region and several Asia countries. In the future we intend to develop our activities further in Europe, North America, China, and Korea. In 2020, our export market share was around 90%, in the coming year this percentage should increase even further.
“Without S-GE support, it would have been much more difficult and time consuming, if not impossible (also due to the language barrier), to address them directly.”
What were your biggest learning experiences during the internationalization process?
We learnt that internationalization is the key to success for us. It gave us access to customer segments not represented in the Swiss industrial ecosystem. Without internationalization Distran would not have been able to grow so fast over the years.
What are you particularly proud of?
Over the years, global industrial players such as Shell, GE, Roche, NASA or Air Liquide put their trust in us. Even though we are a small Swiss SME, we supply big companies with Distran’s cutting edge acoustic technology for gas leak detection. We are also very proud to supply the NASA. One of our cameras is currently being used in the ISS to find leaks inside the cabin to the outer space. Through their networks, NASA experts were looking for a reliable gas leak detection method to augment pre-existing methods in use. Our US distributor was able to get NASA’s attention, our product was tested among others, and selected to be used by astronauts within the International Space Station, during maintenance operations and searches for air leaks in ISS modules.
To what extent has S-GE helped you succeed?
S-GE provided Distran with a great support to enter Polish market for example. Mr. Michael Bronowski (Head of Swiss Business Hub Central Europe) and Mrs. Katalin Dreher (Senior Consultant) supported us to get access to Poland's biggest group of Refineries resulting in confirmed projects. Without S-GE support, it would have been much more difficult and time consuming, if not impossible (also due to the language barrier), to address them directly.