Launch Academy, established in 2020, is an Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult programme set up to support UK-based SMEs entering the offshore wind industry.
SMEs face numerous hurdles when navigating their way into the offshore wind industry. Key technical, commercial, financial, legal, contractual, and risk-based considerations must be made before bringing a technology, product, or service to the offshore wind supply chain. It can be daunting for SMEs to enter a new market, and some fail at an early stage due to a lack of support.
SMEs are vital to make sure the supply chain can support the expected offshore wind industry expansion, and that this delivers economic benefit to the UK as part of meeting net zero targets.
Launch Academy is a nine-month programme for UK SMEs that aims to break down barriers when bringing an innovative technology, service, or product to the offshore wind industry. It provides a cohort of up to ten companies at a time, with the chance to take part in a comprehensive programme delivered by experts from ORE Catapult and key industry players, as well as business growth and professional services firms, giving each cohort the chance to really connect with the energy industry.
ORE Catapult works with each cohort to understand their businesses and how it can help them to tackle some of the challenges they might face, through a series of modules provided through a combination of group and one-to-one sessions, focused on specific barriers.
The programme gives companies the chance to proactively engage with the industry and receive valuable, tailored, support and guidance that they can use to help launch their product.
Working with the Launch Academy sponsors, the programme identifies key technology challenges that represent a market opportunity for new businesses. This year’s cohort sponsors include major industry players such as bp, Ørsted, RWE, and Equinor. Together, they have identified challenges in the UK supply chain that the cohort’s products can overcome. Examples include:
The programme concludes with a graduation ceremony where cohort companies have the rare business opportunity to pitch to the sponsors, as well as ORE Catapult’s network of investors.
Since Launch Academy started in 2020, it has had a lasting impact on cohort companies. From the 2022 cohort, Jet Connectivity and MasterFilter are just two of the success stories that have accelerated their entry into the UK offshore wind supply chain due to their programme participation.
Provide 5G connectivity products and services in challenging environments (such as offshore wind sites).
Since joining Launch Academy, JET Connectivity has secured over £1.5 million in funding and customer sales, enabling them to successfully launch a floating 5G base station buoy and expand their team.
Testimonial from Izzy Taylor, Head of Business Development at JET Connectivity:
“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.”
Develops enhanced oil filtration systems for lubrication systems within wind turbines.
Launch Academy has given MasterFilter the chance to develop its technology by securing a £50k grant to design a lubrication unit in collaboration with bp and the National Engineering Laboratory. This has allowed them to boost the growing UK offshore wind operation and maintenance (O&M) supply chain. There are also plans to test the company’s technology on ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth demonstration turbine in 2023, taking them one step closer to commercialisation.
Testimonial from Paul Clark, Managing Director of MasterFilter:
“Being part of Launch Academy has provided us as a small company with a degree of credibility… it’s been a real godsend.”
Sponsor and funder of the 2022 cohort, Scottish Enterprise, said:
“It is gratifying to see the progress being made by the 2022 cohort in bringing their products and services to market, thanks to the impressive ecosystem of support assembled by ORE Catapult. I have no doubt that Scottish Enterprise will continue to work with Launch Academy graduates in the months and years ahead as their businesses develop and grow, and Launch Academy goes from strength to strength.”
The success companies have experienced from taking part in the Launch Academy shows the enormous potential for growth in the UK offshore wind sector. Through the programme, ORE Catapult can use their facilities, research, and resources to accelerate growth within the sector, enable greater UK content and identify innovative solutions to real industry problems.