Securing investment for product testing

Investment for product development was secured and a consortium of companies to participate in product testing coordinated by experts at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), for the benefit of marine renewables manufacturer Dartmouth Wave Energy (DWE).

The ESI worked with University of Exeter academics to confirm the viability of DWE’s flagship product, the Searaser – a wave pump that generates electricity by pushing seawater through an onshore turbine – and are helping bring it to market.

DWE founder Alvin Smith built a small-scale Searaser prototype in his garage after having a 'Eureka!' moment whilst playing with a football in a swimming pool. Once he'd built his prototype, Alvin got in touch with academics at the Peninsula Institute for Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE), a business focused renewables research institute, through an event for entrepreneurs they were running.

Senior Lecturer Dr Lars Johanning confirmed that the Searaser was worth further exploration. A report suggesting how the Searaser was likely to perform was produced in 2011 with the help of a renewable energy student.

From there, an assurance that Dr Johanning would support the development of the Searaser inspired investor confidence. Investment came from green energy firm Ecotricity, which has plans to build 200 Searaser sites along the English coast.

In addition to academic expertise, the ESI also quickly got local businesses on board.

Specialist vehicles designers Supacat and offshore renewable energy project management firm Mojo Maritime formed a consortium of companies who are helping design and test the full-scale Searaser, which will take place at Falmouth Bay Test Site (FAB Test), a marine commissioning and testing ground in which the University is a lead partner.

ESI Knowledge Exchange Manager Leo McLeman said: "Building a very effective consortium in such a short timeframe was possible only through the excellent working relations we’ve built up during the last couple of years with commercial partners."

Concerning the University support and plans for the future, Alvin said: "Working with the University of Exeter has widened the commercial recognition of our patented Searaser wave energy device and our company as a whole. It has enabled us to work directly with experts across a range of specialist sectors to the point where we now have an optimum Searaser design.

"We look forward to continuing our good relationship on this exciting project in taking it through to commercialisation over the next two to three years."