Turning ideas into innovations

Timothy Allan was just 28 when he launched his own start-up business, Locus Research. Now 15 years old, Locus Research has a near perfect track record helping other Kiwi entrepreneurs turn their design concepts into commercial successes.

Timothy Allan

Locus develops and brings design ideas to market, which involves a small team of specialists of researchers, designers, engineers and marketers.

One of the most recent projects from Locus is Ubco Bikes, a dual electric drive utility bike that can be used to power electric tools and charge devices. Ubco is generating plenty of interest here and overseas thanks to Locus Research’s multi-disciplinary team.

Timothy has recently been appointed chief executive officer of Ubco Bikes and is Locus Research’s founder and executive director. He has 20 years of applied product development experience.

In his teenage years, Timothy had shown a talent for painting and drawing, and discovered design when he enrolled at Victoria in 1992. From there, his interest in product development took off and the self-confessed “middling” student was soon acing classes.

He remembers his final year project where, in “an intensely competitive class of just 25”, he had to design a product influenced by something he was passionate about.

Timothy drew on his love for the outdoors, got in contact with outdoor clothing company Macpac and created a technical harness system for a backpack. Within the year, he designed, created, tested and rebuilt the harness.

“I did things differently from other students, and that paid off. I had a commercial partner and a proposed project in mind before the year started. For me, this project was a chance to show people how you work and how you think.”

Timothy says the calibre of teaching staff and their high threshold for achievement were the “trigger points” that pushed him to success.

He says living in central Wellington also helped nurture his young career.  

“From a creative point of view, Wellington was good for someone like me. I wanted to push things pretty hard and I met people who enabled me to develop my ideas.”

After graduating in 1997, Timothy took up a position at Te Papa where he worked on the ‘Mountains to the Sea’ exhibition and designed display cases for special objects. He then spent five years running the design and development team for bedding and furniture manufacturer, Design Mobel. In 2002, he launched Locus Research in Tauranga.

The company won numerous awards for its design work.

Timothy says it’s perseverance and “sheer grunt work”, not talent, that has gotten him to where he is.

“I’m more of a generalist across a number of areas—marketing, design, IP—it’s all part of what I do. All of those creative skills I learnt at university, I definitely leverage those skills now.”

Timothy says he’s still learning new things on the job. “I’m a glacial learner. I move slowly but I don’t stop.”