By Alex Louden, Senior Technology Acceleration Manager, ORE Catapult
As Senior Technology Acceleration Manager, I’m constantly intrigued by which UK innovation will next take centre stage in the growth of the global offshore wind sector and in our race to achieve Net Zero.
This is why I love the Launch Academy, our flagship SME support programme. It’s a technology accelerator programme for the offshore wind industry, focusing on near to market solutions. With the rest of the delivery team, we have developed the programme to enhance the UK’s offshore wind supply chain, enable greater UK content and support cost reduction through innovation.
Now, with the second National Launch Academy programme underway and a further regional programme receiving applications from those who operate in the North East of England, I thought it would be helpful to answer some of the common questions I’ve come across since the technology accelerator was launched back in 2019.
Launch Academy does what it says on the tin, so to speak. It is a programme full of different business support modules that acts as a launch platform for companies to get their technology noticed and unleashed into the market.
It aims to overcome the barriers associated with commercialisation of innovation by getting successful applicants in front of the right people and bring together an ecosystem of experts providing business growth, industry, and professional services support. This includes accountants, lawyers, Intellectual Propoerty (IP) specialists and business advisors in areas such as investment and storytelling as well as offshore wind-specific experts.
Launch Academy is open to companies developing a new technology for the offshore wind sector. The sweet-spot is start-ups and early-stage companies, aiming to commercialise their first technology, but the support is also highly relevant to slightly more established companies who are dipping their toe in technology research and development for the first time.
The Launch Academy also runs regional programmes, with the latest taking place in North East England. Launch Academy North East is funded by North of Tyne Combined Authority under the TIGGOR Business Support Programme. It aims to accelerate early-stage cleantech solutions from SMEs across Northumberland, North Tyneside, and Newcastle, in order to enhance the North East’s offshore wind supply chain and drive cost reduction through innovation.
For the annual National Launch Academy, we have a two-stage application process. Our Industrial Sponsors (bp and ScottishPower Renewables this year) set specific technology challenges relevant to their offshore wind business priorities. These form the basis of the competition and ensures innovations are highly relevant to the sponsors. We also run an open category to ensure we capture the full breadth of cutting-edge innovations in the programme.
For the regional programmes, like Launch Academy North East, this is shortened to an Expression of Interest which confirms eligibility and suitability for the programme.
For both programmes, the second stage is a week of pitches to an expert panel of industry. Each company will pitch for 15-minutes, before a 15-minute question and answer. This is how the final cohort of 10 companies will be decided.
Throughout the programme, our delivery team brings together technology development and business support under one roof, allowing companies to access our in-house technical capability alongside a range of business growth expertise from our partners.
The support is delivered in the form of a series of modules. These are a mixture of 1-1 interactions with delivery partners, group sessions/seminars, and small peer groups. At the start of the programme, the delivery team and I sit down with each company to agree a bespoke “intervention plan” detailing the companies priorities and therefore which modules should take precedence.
The nine-month programme will create an ecosystem to support successful commercialisation and will strengthen supply chain growth, providing vital business support specific to the offshore wind sector. It gives new businesses access to professional services and, in turn, accelerate their innovative technology.
Launch Academy offers legal, marketing, accountancy, IP, and investor readiness support as well as modules delivered by our ORE Catapult team such as technology assessment, export market introductions, and business case review.
If you want to learn more, can visit the Launch Academy hub on our website and get in touch.
If you operate in the North East of England and would like to take part in the regional Launch Academy programme, please complete the application form on the Launch Academy North East webpage before the 27th April 2022.