An initiative from the Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN) aims to give Scottish businesses a head start developing offshore wind products and services by accessing academic expertise.
The Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) is an alliance of 13 Scottish universities offering world-class capability and resources in energy technology development. Through KEN, funded by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, it provides Scottish technology developers with access to the nation’s leading academics and researchers.
The scheme encourages entrepreneurs and developers from other industries to bring their innovative ideas and technologies to the table, particularly those at the early stages of development, and encourages bids from smaller businesses that lack inhouse development skills. The programme will take successful applicants from feasibility studies and modelling right through to testing and validation for the next stage of development.
The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult will help identify the brightest ideas and ways of commercialising them.
ORE Catapult business development lead for wind Alex Louden believes that today’s ‘first-footers’ in technology development will be in pole position to exploit the global offshore wind market opportunities.
“We are living through one of the biggest energy transitions in human history. Wind energy has gone from almost zero to a multi-billion pound industry in the UK in just a few decades. Like the first Gold Rush or oil pioneers, those with the spark and invention to get into the industry now will live to see this market boom in the coming decades.
“Some of the ideas we have taken through the ETP have started out as sketches or almost back-garden experiments. Others are game-changers from the country’s larger manufacturers. Where you start from is not important, what we are looking for are ingenious ideas that can tackle some of the industry’s key technology challenges.”
One company to have benefited from the scheme is Argyll-based Renewable Parts, founded by entrepreneur Ewan Anderson in 2011. Renewable Parts identified a gap in the market of a lack of a reliable and sustainable system for sourcing spare parts for windfarms. The angle he chose was ingeniously green – refurbishing old parts instead of sourcing new ones, which also helps the industry keep its costs down.
Renewable Parts received a grant from the ETP and was teamed up with experts in electrics and electronics at the University of Strathclyde, who could help him identify the parts that could be refurbished and sold commercially, as well as conducting an indepth feasibility study.
The company now provides parts to the industry from its Refurbishment Centre in Argyll and secondary facilities in Renfrewshire. They are multiple award-winners for innovation, carbon reduction and business excellence.
ETP project manager Brian Cross highlighted the fact that opportunities to enter the sector are spreading to non-engineering companies too. “The industry’s drive to continued cost reduction means that it makes sense to bring in proven technologies from other industries, rather than always inventing solutions from scratch. Robotics, data and digital innovations are the new frontiers in renewable energy today,” he explained.
“The sheer scale of wind projects can be daunting, particularly to smaller and newer companies. The ETP programme is here to provide the skills, scale-up and commercial insight they need. There are also enormous benefits for the participating universities – being able to apply the latest research direct to working prototypes and products helps cement Scotland’s reputation as the go-to location for innovation globally.”