Does the Covid-19 pandemic threaten the internationalisation of European innovation? We asked Spanish SME Bomba Elias currently scaling to Iran.

Amid geopolitical unrest and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a family-owned SME set out to introduce their innovative machinery to the competitive oil, gas and petrochemical market in Iran. Supported with the INNOWWIDE VAP grant Bomba Elias uncovered new business segments, developed a new product and attracted new funding. The Viability Assessment Projects (VAPs) project with a funding of 60 k€ intended to identify strategic cooperation opportunities, combining the product expertise of the European company with the contacts and industry knowledge of the Iranian partner.

‘’INNOWWIDE puts on the map as an innovative European company, helps us attract new funding and a close international partnership. The VAP grant brings us unexpected results that surpass our initial intentions.’’, indicates Jacinto Soler-Matutes, Senior Partner at Emergia Partner and business development adviser to Bomba Elias.

The overall situation was difficult for the Barcelona-based micro-enterprise, with less than 10 employees. With limited financial means, they were able to build a valuable partnership abroad and discovered solid skills in their counterpart Naft Tejarat in Iran. The local partner contributed with valuable technical advice to the development of Bomba Elias’ new gear pump (RT-F). An innovation that is specifically suitable for operating with high-temperature fluids of around 300-400 degrees Celsius. It enables industrial facilities in the textile, fuel, plastic and oil and gas to reduce the energy consumption of up to 30 per cent. The product is now gradually marketed in Europe and is ready to enter the Iranian market. Naft Tejarat’s expertise in the oil and gas industry led to the discovery of new applications for the gear pump in tank farms, offshore platforms and terminals. Which opened doors to new potential clients.

Leaping forward in their partnership-building efforts with the Iranian partner resulted in the discovery of a new product idea. With Bomba Elias expertise and Naft Tejarat understanding of the current market development in the Middle Eastern region, a new pump was born. The upcoming electronic submersible pump (ESP) operates in deep oil and water wells, both upcoming and sizeable markets. Bomba Elias delivered their machinery to the oil and gas industry in Europe many years ago. Yet it saw itself pushed out of the market due to the growing market share of large US brands, along with costly certification requirements in the early 2000s. With a changing geopolitical situation more favourable towards trade and the Iranian government’s gradual phase-out of energy subsidies, Bomba Elias is confident about penetrating the lucrative industry again with their energy-efficient technology. Their relationship-building efforts and strengthened collaboration with Naft Tejarat reaped unexpected and strong results.

As a result of the InnoWWide grant, Bomba Elias indicates to be ready for the next step. Along with Naft Tejarat, the company moves forward to full commercialisation of the new gear pump RF-T in Iran and neighbouring countries, such as Iraq, Pakistan and Oman. Adding to the list of Elias’s traditional strong presence in other MENA markets, like Morocco, Algeria and Egypt. Depending on the sales quantity, a licensing agreement can be made in which their Iranian partner assembles the pump partially in Iran. A full multi-side production strategy with a factory in Iran is unfavourable. The quality stamp of a product made in Europe gives Bomba Elias’ technology a favourable position towards foreign competitors in the market. Lastly, the engineering and technical development of their ESP product continues under the newly fortified cooperation with their Iranian counterpart.