The UK has the most installed wind capacity of anywhere in the world and has ambitious growth targets to generate at least a third of the UK’s electricity from offshore wind by 2030 and achieve ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2050.
Innovators bringing through new products and services, as well as a strong UK supply chain, will be vital to meet these ambitious targets and ensure the ongoing success of the UK’s offshore wind sector. However, almost half of start-ups fail in their first four years of operation, and it’s rarely from the lack of a good idea. Very few have the combined industry, business growth and productivity knowledge to succeed in a globally competitive environment.
That’s where initiatives such as the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s new technology commercialisation programme The National Launch Academy are playing a key role. It is designed to support innovative small businesses to commercialise new technologies that will enhance the UK’s offshore wind supply chain, enabling greater UK content in wind farm developments, whilst supporting cost reduction.
The Launch Academy initiative will focus on companies with near-to-market solutions and is supported by eight industrial and business support specialists including Red Rock Power, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), Barclays Eagle Labs, investment body Green Angel Syndicate, accountancy firm BDO, IP specialists Murgitroyd, law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn and ScottishPower Renewables. The national programme will be supported by a number of regional feeder programmes, with the first of those in the North East of England.
Andrew Tipping, ORE Catapult’s Commercialisation Manager who is leading the project, said: “The bespoke nine-month programme will see a cohort of nine promising companies being given access to a unique package of support from the delivery partners, including legal, marketing, accountancy, IP, HR and investor readiness support as well as modules delivered by ORE Catapult such as technology assessment, supply chain readiness and business case review.”
Red Rock Power Limited, who are developing the Inch Cape offshore wind farm off the Angus coastline, and equipment manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), are the programme’s two key industrial partners.
“Innovation is vital in order to meet our industry’s ambitious growth targets. Incorporating innovative technologies, products and services into the day to day running of offshore wind farms will improve efficiency and performance, and help to drive down costs as a result, but more importantly allow new opportunities to safeguard the health and safety of our offshore personnel.
“The Launch Academy will play a key role in helping us to identify innovators and small businesses we can work with and ensure they are supply chain ready to support our future projects,” said Guy Madgwick, Red Rock’s Chief Executive.
Chris Briggs, Regional Innovation Manager from Siemens Gamesa, added: “We will be setting a number of technology innovation challenges that equipment manufacturers and developers are faced with in the real-world and asking applicants to come forward with ideas and solutions. The best candidates will be chosen to go forward and receive support from the Launch Academy partners.”
Companies will be asked to submit solutions to this series of technology innovation challenges set by Red Rock Power and SGRE. The nine most promising solutions will be selected by a panel of experts to join the Launch Academy cohort.
Tipping adds: “At the end of each cohort, the innovators will pitch to the strategic partners and the Catapult’s network of investors with the aim of securing investment and a route to market for their products.
“This transformative programme is designed to enable offshore wind developers and equipment manufacturers to identify winning innovations in a complex landscape and act as a launch pad for companies to get their technology noticed and unleashed into the market.
Investment body Green Angel Syndicate is also backing the initiative. Founder Nick Lyth commented: “I believe this is a terrifically visionary initiative. For us, it’s incredibly important to have a strong pipeline of process and technology innovations that support the growth of the UK’s offshore wind sector. The Launch Academy will make a real difference in enabling companies to attract investment and equity funding to support the launch of successful new products and services into the market.”
The programme’s success will be measured by the number of innovative solutions securing contracts, demonstrators or research and development partnerships with end users, as well as the number and scale of investments achieved.
Ultimately, it is hoped the Launch Academy initiative will accelerate technological innovations that will create jobs and economic benefit for the UK as well as helping to build the wind farms of the future.
For more information on the Launch Academy, and how to get involved, visit https://ore.catapult.org.uk/launch-academy