Forged two-and-half years ago, Declan Wynne’s Tipperary-headquartered business Skanstec is helping power Europe’s ambition to create a smarter, connected and more sustainable society. The EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist says it is all down to people and passion.
Established just as the pandemic was beginning to hit, Clonmel business Skanstec has managed to do in just three years what it would take more established firms a decade or two to accomplish.
Under the leadership of Declan Wynne, one of 23 finalists shortlisted for this year’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme, the young business has become one of the most prominent players in the burgeoning space of energy and telecoms, two pillars of our digital and sustainable future.
“We have quite ambitious goals and plans for the future because we have the appetite and desire. Macro trends are driving the digital transition and decarbonisation. What we’ve experienced in a relatively short time has given us the foundation to do exciting things in the coming years”
Wynne began his engineering career in London and has more than 20 years’ experience in the engineering sector, working on many largescale infrastructural projects both nationally and internationally. He holds a degree in Engineering and an Executive MBA.
Skanstec is a rapidly growing engineering company which operates in a sector that is likely to dominate high growth industries for decades to come, with a vision to create a smarter, connected, sustainable society for future generations.
The business focuses on decarbonisation and digital transition and currently operates across six pan-European markets.
Skanstec employees 110 direct engineering staff across three regional European offices located in Ireland, Portugal and Denmark. The company is renowned for consistently providing flexible and tailored engineering solutions to a high-profile client base and has a proven track record in delivering infrastructural projects across Europe in the energy and telecoms sectors.
Speaking with ThinkBusiness.ie, Wynne said that the business employs engineers who specialise in power networks, power generation, renewables, data centres, advanced manufacturing and telecommunications networks who could be working on major infrastructural challenges anywhere in the world.
“I shipped off to London at the age of 17 to study engineering and I worked in industry for a number of years there where I was involved in some large-scale infrastructure projects in the London region,” the Sligo native recalls. “While I was there I gained invaluable engineering experience, played Gaelic football and later travelled to Australia for a year, where I also worked on engineering projects.”
The year out in Australia did nothing to dim Wynne’s love for engineering and on his return he joined an global engineering consultancy based in Dublin.
I point out to Wynne that while telecoms has changed remarkably in the last 100 years thanks to the pace of development of the internet and mobile phone networks, the energy sector is only beginning to show innovation, driven on by the climate change challenge.
“I 100% agree with that. What we are driving is the transition in terms of energy and connectivity. The drivers of our business are decarbonisation on one hand and the digital transition on the other.
“Our conventional energy system has to change and we are trying to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy via wind, solar and other forms of renewable. The driving force of our business is helping the world achieve carbon neutrality at some point in the near future.”
Wynne’s decision to go into business and establish Skanstec was driven by a belief that Ireland could be a leader in the convergence of energy and digital and the business model could be scaled internationally.
“I felt there was a huge opportunity in this space in Ireland alone. There’s a lot of development yet to happen in terms of our infrastructure. We are a few steps ahead in terms of talent and ambition but behind on others areas that is required to enable the potential and capitalise on our positioning and natural resources.”
Wynne, who describes himself as an extrovert, said that he is driven by building teams and helping people to succeed. “If you have people who desire something to grow, something that is bigger than the parish, you can scale and grow and internationalise. There’s a great heritage of engineering here in south Tipperary and great success stories, particularly in electrical and mechanical engineering space.
“Many engineering organisations that have come out of Ireland are now beginning to dominate in Europe. There’s a great belief in the Irish people and when you think about physics and engineering, we are good at problem solving and with a good attitude. I think attitude trumps everything and that’s what we at Skanstec have put a focus on: it’s all about attitude and application. If you apply attitude and application to anything you have good foundations for success.
“We established Skanstec to engineer a way out of the energy crisis and build a better future for all.”
Engineering at scale
Loathe to call Skanstec an overnight success, Wynne says the rapid growth of the company is down to fast but quiet and focused execution. “While we were born in 2021, we came into the business with some grey hairs in terms of experience and the sense that we could see a shift and a change in the telecoms and energy sectors. I could see a greater need, particularly in light of the green agenda, for strong engineering capability.
“I don’t see ourselves as a start-up. We exist because we need to exist. The outlook for the business was always ambitious and it was always quite rapid and intentional. The market is there. We believe in our capability”
“We’re not the renewables guys, but what we are geared towards is decarbonisation. But there are a number of plates that need to align to achieve that. We contribute hugely to the green agenda through the projects that we build and connect in terms of wind and solar and bringing clean energy to the power networks and the grid infrastructure.
“The energy sources are changing and that means our grid has to change. And we’re playing a huge role in that transition.”
While Wynne and his colleagues are hellbent on powering the future, the speed to scale of the business is astonishing. In less than two years Skanstec has grown to more than 110 employees. “60% of our business is international and we have operations in six different countries across Europe.”
The business last year alone delivered €20m in revenues and is on track for revenues of €30m this year.
Wynne said that the pace of growth has been maintained thanks to a really strong culture in the business. “What oozes through the organisation is a passion for what we do. We really enjoy it and it really feeds into our client relationships. We have an enterprising mindset and we wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t so enjoyable.
“That said, everything we have achieved has been achieved through hard work, in particular through the hard work of the team and a clear strategic direction.”
While Wynne is delighted to be among the EY Entrepreneur of the Year community, he is adamant it wouldn’t have been possible without the team he has built up in the past two and half years.
“I don’t see ourselves as a start-up. We exist because we need to exist. The outlook for the business was always ambitious and it was always quite rapid and intentional. The market is there. We believe in our capability. The sector is growing and the opportunity is there. We’ve established a strong reputation in this market because of the way we do business, the culture and the people.
“We know how to innovate, add value and demonstrate value to our partners.”
Wynne concluded: “We have quite ambitious goals and plans for the future because we have the appetite and desire. Macro trends are driving the digital transition and decarbonisation. What we’ve experienced in a relatively short time has given us the foundation to do exciting things in the coming years.”