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Spotlight on Michael Pritchard

OG Michael Pritchard (Round Square 1985) gave a lecture to the Sixth Form on his company LIFESAVER and its work to help eradicate water poverty in the world. Since visiting the school, Michael has been out to the Philippines in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, bringing his life-saving technology to those in desperate need. With him was long-term schoolfriend (also Round Square) Mike Carling, who took the photographs in this article.

In the Philippines taking in the devastation of typhoon Haiyan    Michael presents a LIFESAVER jerrycan to a villager

We caught up with Michael on his return from the Philippines and he kindly answered the questions below for the Autumn Term edition of The Record.

What is your plan for LIFESAVER in the Philippines?
LIFESAVER  have provided several thousand LIFESAVER products; LIFESAVER jerrycans and LIFESAVER cubes and also LIFESAVER C2s.  They were purchased by the UK's DFID (department for International Development) and Oxfam.  Access to clean water is vital in the early stages of any disaster and we where one of the first to get our technology into the field.  This was transported by the British Government on C17 transport planes.  We also have 1000 LIFESAVER jerrycans on HMS Illustrious (Lusty) which will be distributed by Royal Navy Helicopters to the 100's of islands that still have not yet been reached.

How many jerrycans are you aiming to supply?
3,500 LIFESAVER jerrycans, 2000 LIFESAVER cubes, 4 LIFESAVER C2's and several hundred LIFESAVER bottles (for use by AID agency personal).

How many people will that help?
In total by the finish of this first round of distribution we will have helped over 50,000 people.  This is just the start.  I would hope that over the next 2 years we will be able to help 1 Million people.

How will you supply them and are you managing to get to the people who need them?
They are already out there now and being distributed by LIFESAVER, Oxfam, DFID and other agencies.

Are you always geared up for a disaster?
Yes, in general.  We work with Government Agencies and Aid agencies and have pre-positioned stock located in strategic points around the world.  However we could always do better.

It must be quite an operation to have enough jerrycans ready for instant use?
Very demanding on the cash requirements of the business.  This is where Governments come in.  DFID purchases stock directly form us and keeps it in their warehouse ready for just such a disaster as this one.  Oxfam and the other Agencies do the same.  The trick is, following a disaster to crank up manufacturing to cope with the demand.  Fortunately I have a great team.

Is this the first use of the Lifesaver in a major disaster since you invented it after after the Tsunami?
No, we have been involved in disasters for the past seven years, from Haiti to Pakistan and Thailand and now the Philippines.  You can see video of our operations on YouTube:

Is it true you are in the company of another OG, Mike Carling, and what is he up to?
Yes, Mike Carling is also an old RS boy and an amazing cameraman.  He has worked with the likes of National Geographic, Bear Grylls, David Attenborough, BBC etc etc.  I believe he is working currently on a major block buster and he is DOP (Director of Photography) Special Effects.  I have written more about him in my blog.  (Word or PDF formats)

Using a LIFESAVER jerrycan    Demonstrating how to use a LIFESAVER bottle

Now my Gordonstoun questions, feel a bit mundane!

Did you know you wanted to be an inventor when you were at Gordonstoun?
I was always inventing things, I remember that.  I was always in the DT block making something or another.  I filed my first patent around the time I came to Gordonstoun.  It was an aid for correctly locating the six figure coordinates on OS maps.

How have your Gordonstoun experiences helped you as an inventor and entrepreneur?
Gordonstoun is an all round school.  It allowed me to develop in directions I felt comfortable with. Also please see below.

What was the most important thing you learnt at Gordonstoun?
Well it is the cliché but their is definitely more in you.  I was always very single minded at Gordonstoun, Always questioning Teachers; taking several of them beyond breaking point on a number of occasions.  From learning leadership skills in the Air Training Corp to toughing it out on Sea Spirit and on the snow caps of the Cairngorms Gordonstoun was a fantastic opportunity and experience for me.  I learnt that through my own efforts I could win.  Athletics and Mr Welsh taught me that.  I believe I still hold a number of Athletics Records.

What is the thing you are most proud of in your business life?
The ability to actually make a difference to peoples lives.  In Malaysia for instance we have provided clean drinking water to over 1 million people, permanently.  In the Philippines we are lifting people up from the misery of dysentery, providing them with clean sterile drinking water so that they are able to start to get on with rebuilding their homes and their lives.

Most of us see natural disasters and don’t do anything, how is it that you were driven to act?
In the world of inventing I am driven by two things, Anger and Annoyance.  Both of these were drivers for me to develop LIFESAVER.  I got angry that the best response we could be seen to be coming up with was to drop bottles of water out of helicopters.  This is when I decided to do something about it.

What advice would you give to students leaving Gordonstoun today?  
I would say do more of what you believe in.  We all (well most of us) need to earn money and I have discovered that I far prefer to earn it from doing things that make me happy and that I enjoy doing.  The earlier on in life you decide to follow your dreams the more chance you have of achieving them.

Delivering a LIFESAVER C2 to a village    A pensive Michael surveys the devastation

Finally, some one (or two) word answers.  When you were at Gordonstoun:

Which service were you in? ATC

Sport or performing arts? Sports - Athletics, Rugby, Hockey

Sail training or exped? Sailing (and Exped)

Favourite subject? Physics (Design & Technology) 

Most inspiring teacher? Mr Welsh  

Michael with Philippino schoolchildren and the LIFESAVER cube

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