Alex Louden, Senior Technology Acceleration Manager, reviews an impressive year for ORE Catapult’s Launch Academy.
It is hard to believe that a whole year has passed since we welcomed applications for Launch Academy 2022. The award-winning technology accelerator programme, helps UK-based SMEs develop an innovative new product or service by removing as many technical and commercial barriers as possible on route to market.
As part of the application process our 2022 industry sponsors, bp and ScottishPower Renewables, developed six technology challenges within offshore renewable energy for candidates to respond to. Ten companies were selected, and they started the programme in February 2022.
The new cohort included technological solutions such as AI-equipped internal inspection of turbine blades, VR simulation training for hazardous environments, hydrogen steam-powered engines to decarbonise marine vessels and the real-time status and tracking of people and assets offshore.
Throughout the year, the Launch Academy companies benefitted from modules delivered by external experts in their respective fields such as Investor Readiness, Legal, IT and Accountancy. Each module strengthened the SMEs – securing their business models, developing their value proposition, and developing ways of telling their story.
But it wasn’t all classroom learning. The Global Offshore Wind (GOW) event hosted by RenewableUK, one of the biggest events of its kind in the offshore wind industry, was held in June, and some of the cohort joined ORE Catapult’s ‘Gamechangers Pavilion’. GOW provides an incredible opportunity for the industry to meet, mingle and collaborate. We were thrilled to give our businesses the chance to introduce their technologies on the global stage.
The Launch Academy team was also boosted with Chris Del Valle joining as an Innovation Manager. Focussed on supporting the cohort, his dedication has been outstanding and we are delighted to have him on board.
Of course, no programme goes without a hitch. When we organised our summer and winter get-together events, to mark the mid-point and end of the programme, we had to compete with both extreme heat and travel chaos in July and severe snow and transport strikes in December. Despite this, each went ahead successfully and showcased the determination and perseverance of our cohort and the wonders of virtual technology!
ORE Catapult has always been focussed on the importance of equality within the offshore wind industry, in support of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal’s targets. One of Launch Academy’s metrics is to support improvement in female representation within the industry. One of our modules, delivered by Inclusive Employers, focused on equality, diversity, and inclusion for start-ups. At the start of the programme, two out of cohort companies had EDI policies and we are incredibly proud that six more have built such policies into their ways of working.
The final quarter of the programme was as busy as ever. At the Global Offshore Wind Awards in October two of our fantastic cohort companies, MJR Power & Automation won the Supply Chain Innovation award and JET Connectivity was runner-up for the much-coveted Offshore Wind Gamechanger Award – an incredible achievement!
All too soon we were hosting the cohort’s graduation in December, reflecting on the year’s highlights. Following previous years of Covid restrictions, it was fantastic to meet with the team again. We are immensely proud of the 2022 cohort and their achievements over the year, which include 3 products/services being commercialised, 14 patents filled and £8.7 million raised from grant funding and private investment.
To round off the year in style, we were ecstatic to receive the Outstanding Service Award for Launch Academy at the Scottish Green Energy Awards. It was the best possible way to end the year.
With February now here, the team has been busy reviewing applications for the 2023 cohort and whittling down the next cohort of ten game-changing companies. (Watch this space for exciting announcements in the coming weeks!) I am continually inspired by the organisations we work with, and we are extremely lucky at ORE Catapult to be able to support each cohort with an array of networking and testing opportunities. It is immensely gratifying to see Launch Academy and the companies it has supported go from strength to strength.
I leave you with quotes from some of the 2022 cohort who describe Launch Academy and their experience far better than I ever could. Thanks to everyone who is involved with the programme. Here’s to another year of delivering support to truly innovative SMEs and celebrating their success.
Paul Clark, Managing Director at Masterfilter,
“This has been a fantastic programme to participate in. We’re now in active conversations with a number of potential global customers who we struggled to gain traction with before Launch Academy. It’s like most things; you get out what you’re prepared to put in.”
Steamology CEO, Matt Candy,
“Launch Academy has enabled us to increase our network of contacts within the offshore renewable world and developed our business model exponentially. With the testing capabilities provided to us by ORE Catapult, we are well on our way to achieving Steamology’s goal of significantly contributing to net zero targets across multiple industries.”
Connor Galbraith, Director at Future Energy Associates,
“Launch Academy has already provided us with strong insider industry knowledge and stakeholder introductions, including useful data from their test turbine in Blyth. Crucially, Launch Academy has helped us clarify our nascent product development goals…ORE Catapult has been pivotal in helping us to solidify our business case, financial plans and brand value.”
Izzy Taylor from Jet Connectivity,
“The multiple workshops and one-to-one sessions with experts across different sectors of the business have been great and we have also benefitted from getting to know the other founders and ORE Catapult team. Since taking part in Launch Academy, we have successfully launched our 5G base station buoy platform, secured over £1.5m in funding and customer sales, moved our engineering team into a workshop and office space and hired seven new staff members. If you are considering whether to apply to ORE Catapult’s Launch Academy programme, we would wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. There is a range of support available depending on your own business needs which can drive your growth and direction.”
Tony Hamill, Business Development Executive at Ilosta,
“Launch Academy has been an incredibly valuable experience for the company. We were hopeful the programme would assist us with our technology but the outcome has far exceeded our initial expectations. Since starting the programme with ORE Catapult, we have successfully secured Scottish Enterprise Smart Grant funding, our team of experts has grown to five full time members of staff and we have moved significantly forward on our journey towards commercialisation and linking with industry partners.”
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