Cambridge UK surgical robotics gamechanger CMR has signalled its intent to dominate global keyhole surgery markets via a fresh phase of growth under a new CEO with crucial multinational manufacturing expertise.
Martin Frost, who has steered the business from conception to unicorn status, is stepping aside to allow new CEO Per Vegard Nerseth to scale the medical devices technology pioneer to fresh heights and cripple the traditional stranglehold of US players.
Frost will hold the reins until the official handover on January 1 and then transition to a board position as a non-executive director.
Nerseth has more than 25 years of significant growth and business-scaling experience in the field of robotics. He joins CMR from ABB, a world leading manufacturer of industrial robots and robot systems.
For the last nine years he served as senior VP and managing director of ABB Robotics, a multi-billion dollar business unit with more than 7,000 people in 53 countries.
During his tenure ABB Robotics achieved double digit sales growth while making significant operational efficiencies. Prior to this Nerseth established ABB Engineering’s robotics division in China, growing it to become the number one robotics business in that country.
Frost co-founded CMR in 2014 and has been CEO since formation. During this time he has driven CMR to the point of commercialisation whilst attracting investment of a record-breaking £195 million in the company’s Series C financing round, which valued the business at more than £1 billion.
Frost said: “I am extremely proud of what we have achieved to date at CMR and I am delighted to be handing the CEO reins over to Per Vegard, who will lead the company to the next stages of its maturity.
“Per Vegard has strong experience in manufacturing and robotics at a multi-national level, which makes him the perfect candidate to take over. I look forward to continuing my involvement with the company as a non-executive director.”
Nerseth added: “I feel privileged to be joining this vibrant, rapidly growing, world-leading company at such an exciting stage in its development. I look forward to using my previous robotics and manufacturing experience to contribute to the future of CMR.”
The succession is crucial to CMR’s strategy to confirm its position as Europe’s leading medical devices company and nudge US rivals into the sidelines. But stepping aside has not been an easy decision for Frost. He said: “I was away 110 nights in the last year and had to consider my work-life balance. I leave the company in a fantastic position and feel proud that we have built it thus far on a platform of integrity.
“It has been an emotional time, telling 400-plus employees, investors I have engaged with and attracted and others close to the business that I am stepping aside but I genuinely felt I was getting out of my comfort zone and that it was time for someone else to take the reins.
“Integrity is everything. We arrived where we are relatively quickly but built the company in the right way. Now we need a CEO with a different skills set if the business is to take advantage of the position we have created.
“The new CEO has experience in high value volume manufacturing which is important in taking CMR to the next plateau. I have built relationships with a lot of investors and driven staff recruitment but the new CEO has skills that are vitally needed going forwards.”
Frost said CMR was scaling across several key territories in the US, Asia and Europe. It is already in major markets such as China, India, Europe and the States.
Frost has put relationships in place with the NHS in the UK, with hospitals around the world and various influential and wealthy investors and enjoyed the global ambassadorial role.
He said: “We have endeavoured to build the ecosystem right and as we scale it was time to put a new ace in our hand. Our model has always been substance over style.
“We have built the robots and the team – but the important next stage is to deliver the transformation. We have persuaded some highly talented people to join us to pilot this journey.
“Many have taken a pay cut to come to work for us – and I am talking globally. We have attracted talent by creating a quality of work, a happy and productive environment and a business that has massive prospects to scale to fresh heights in a very special space in terms of medical device design and manufacture.
“Now we enter a new phase. The new CEO has great experience in all the right segments to take the business on and has also has signed up to our core values. We are up against US giants but have nothing to fear thanks to the infrastructure and quality of product that we have created.
“We have conjured all the nice warm and cuddly things that make this business so special but now need to get to grips with fresh challenges globally and Per Vegard will carry that torch for CMR.
“We face fresh challenges in terms of scale-up, manufacturing and quality engineering. We have progressed our product, which is brilliantly designed; the market is investing in the vision and our robotic system and we know we have have to thrill the market every time.
“One of the most exciting things about CMR, its vision and its prospects, is that we are starting to recruit interns who are choosing us ahead of the many brilliant technology companies that abound in Cambridge and the wider technology marketplace.
“We had 30 interns in here over the summer, aged around 16-22. One who was particularly brilliant went on to excel in an exercise in Florida.
“All the founders of CMR have worked fantastically well together; all have had shoulders to the wheel and the organisation has drawn great strength from the team and the leadership group.
“But we have had to step out of our comfort zone and recognise that CMR is operating within a complex medical device sector – one of the most complex areas to conquer. There can be no resting on laurels and everyone involved in this wonderful company recognises the need to constantly innovate and improve.”
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