Mocean Energy’s £3m award sets course for sea trials

Mocean Energy’s £3m award sets course for sea trials

Mocean Energy has been awarded £3.325 million by Wave Energy Scotland to develop its world-leading technology for sea trials in Orkney next year, as it targets the emerging global opportunity in marine energy.

The Edinburgh Innovations client is one of two companies selected by Scottish Government-funded WES for the third stage of its competitive programme to develop reliable and cost-effective wave energy generation.

Edinburgh-based Mocean Energy and Inverness-based AWS Ocean Energy will use the awards from WES, a combined £7.7m, to build half-scale machines and test them in real ocean conditions at the European Marine Energy Centre.

Mocean Energy was co-founded in 2013 by Edinburgh PhD graduates Cameron McNatt and Chris Retzler, and was supported by EI’s student service LAUNCH.ed when McNatt was studying for his PhD in Energy Systems. The company continues to receive support from EI.

World-class competition

“The award is a major achievement for us. We were selected through a multi-year technical development and staged review process in which we were competing against some of the best wave energy companies in the world.


“It will enable us to build and test a prototype of our device in the ocean, which serves as a jumping off point for us to prove our engineering capabilities, grow our team and attract customers and investors.”


– Cameron McNatt, co-founder, Mocean Energy

Mocean’s utility-scale wave energy design, Blue Horizon, consists of two floating hulls connected by a hinge. Waves cause motion at the hinge, driving a generator. A unique feature of the design is the shapes of the hulls, with a sloping, submerged nose and tail.

AWS has developed a submerged point absorber named the Archimedes Waveswing.

‘Most advanced devices’

Tim Hurst, Managing Director of WES, said: “These state-of-the-art designs represent the most advanced and innovative devices in the UK today, and our programme is ensuring that Scotland stays front and centre of the global wave energy story.

“Both devices have already proved their suitability during tank testing and in modelling and the next step is to test them in real-sea conditions.”

The winning designs were selected by WES’s “stage gate” process, with eight concepts narrowed to four over the course of four years. The two winning projects were then selected by a panel including independent external experts working through rigorous criteria to evaluate each submission.

The Scottish Government established WES in 2014 and has since provided more than £30 million to develop commercially available wave energy technologies and sub-systems.

Milestone for Scotland

At the award of the WES grants, Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, highlighted the potential of the wave power industry.

“Scotland’s capacity to generate wave power is very considerable indeed and wave energy devices represent real game-changers for the industry not only here in Scotland but on a global scale.


“The deployment of these two devices will represent a strategically important milestone for Scotland, demonstrating technical progress that will support identification of the most cost-effective technologies and encouraging private sector investment in this emerging industry.”


– Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands

Ocean observation demand

Alongside the Blue Horizon project, Mocean is developing a small-scale wave energy machine, Seabase, for the ocean observation sector.

“Seabase will be our first product to reach the market,” says McNatt. “It will require less investment, and there is market demand that is independent of government support. This will allow us to generate revenue and to learn by doing.”

EI support

McNatt first worked with LAUNCH.ed when he was a year into his PhD studies. Today, Mocean Energy is hosted at EI’s Enterprise Hub and the company continues to be supported by EI as it develops its business strategy.

“Edinburgh Innovations has supported me and Mocean Energy throughout this journey,” McNatt says. “Particularly at the very early stages, LAUNCH.ed and the wider Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem were absolutely essential in giving me the practical, financial and emotional support we needed, and we are extremely grateful.”

McNatt sees a bright future for both Mocean Energy and the industry as a whole. He says: “It is our ambition to be part of the clean ocean energy market and create jobs and exports for Scotland.”

Photograph: Mocean Energy co-founder Chris Retzler with a Blue Horizon prototype at the University of Edinburgh’s FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility. Photograph by Malcolm Cochrane

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Mocean Energy

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Invizius named a ‘Fierce 15’ med tech

Invizius named a ‘Fierce 15’ med tech

University spinout Invizius has been included in an internationally respected list of the world’s most promising med tech companies. The company, whose technology promises to improve the lives of millions of dialysis patients, has been named by FierceMedTech as one of 2018’s Fierce 15.

Invizius has developed H-GuardTM, a biotechnology product that acts as an “invisibility cloak”, hiding life-saving medical devices from patients’ immune systems. The company’s first application targets the blood filter used in kidney dialysis, promising to meet a massive and desperate unmet need among almost three million patients with kidney failure.

Invizius spun out of ground-breaking research at the University of Edinburgh into how deadly bacteria manage to hide from the human immune system. H-Guard replicates bacteria’s behaviour and is being developed into a suite of products that integrate with existing treatments, preventing the deadly complications that result when medical devices are rejected.

During dialysis, the patient’s immune system sees the dialysis machine as an unwelcome foreign body, and attacks it, creating inflammatory processes that end up damaging the patient’s own cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for dialysis patients, and life expectancy on dialysis is slashed by two-thirds compared to that of the general population.

H-Guard is also being developed to help millions of patients in critical care, or who undergo open heart surgery, who suffer from complications after being hooked up to heart and lung machines.

Invizius received £500,000 of investment from Mercia Fund Managers in May 2018, shortly after the company was formed with the help of Edinburgh Innovations.

“The team at Invizius is absolutely delighted that our innovation and global ambition are receiving international recognition as one of the Fierce 15, and this adds to the momentum the business is building. We are excited and motivated by the potential of H-Guard to address decades-long shortcomings in the treatment of millions of patients worldwide.”


– Richard Boyd, CEO, Invizius

The Fierce 15 celebrates the spirit of being “fierce” – championing innovation and creativity, even in the face of intense competition. This is FierceMedTech’s seventh annual Fierce 15 selection.

An internationally recognized daily report reaching a network of over 90,000 med tech industry professionals, FierceMedTech provides subscribers with an authoritative analysis of the day’s top stories. Every year FierceMedTech evaluates hundreds of private companies from around the world for its annual Fierce 15 list, which is based on a variety of factors such as the strength of its technology, partnerships, venture backers and a competitive market position.

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Turing leads EI quartet of EDGE winners

Turing leads EI quartet of EDGE winners

James Turing has won the inaugural £100,000 Social EDGE Award, one of four EI clients who triumphed in Round 13 of Scottish EDGE, the UK’s largest entrepreneurship funding competition.

Turing, an International Development PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, is founder and CEO of the Turing Trust, a charity that reuses computers to bring digital education opportunities to African schools. The new Social EDGE Award is supported by the Postcode Innovation Trust.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be the first ever Social EDGE winners and can’t wait to get started helping Malawian students learn ICT skills whilst training more Scots in IT refurbishment. This award will fundamentally change the scale at which we can make a global impact from our Edinburgh workshop.”


– James Turing, Founder and CEO, the Turing Trust


Robot skin

Fellow EI client Dr Atif Syed, founder and CEO of Wootzano, was awarded £60,000 in the main Scottish EDGE competition. Wootzano is a flexible electronics company that has developed a skin to enable robots to sense and feel like humans.

In the competition’s Wild Card category for pre-trading businesses, Crover, founded by PhD student Lorenzo Conti, was awarded £10,000. Crover’s robotic probing device promises to cut cereal grain spoilage.

And beauty produces resource the Clean Hub, founded by recent MBA graduate Raquel Wing, also took home £10,000, in the Young EDGE competition for businesses whose directors are aged 18-30.

Record round

Round 13 of Scottish EDGE awarded a record £1.8 million to 24 Scottish startups, with an additional £200,000 set aside for two prizes of £100,000 each that will be awarded in March 2019 to existing winners who are seeking funding to scale-up or internationalise quickly.

Thirty-nine finalists pitched their business ideas to an expert panel of judges, chaired by Simon Hannah of Filshill and Kerry Sharp of the Scottish Investment Bank, at the Royal Bank of Scotland Conference Centre over a two-day period. Scottish EDGE runs two competition rounds a year.

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The Clean Hub


Enterprising students’ winning ideas

Enterprising students’ winning ideas

From an app to help people with speech disorders, to an engineering design to make jet engines more efficient, the LAUNCH.ed 2018 Business Ideas Competition has celebrated the inventiveness of students and recent graduates.

There were more than 100 entries in the annual competition, which for the first time included a separate engineering-focused category, sponsored by Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Engineers in Business Fellowship.

In another first for the competition, the awards ceremony was preceeded by a panel discussion, ‘How to Win at Business Competitions’, featuring successful past and present LAUNCH.ed clients and an Edinburgh Innovations business adviser.


In each of the two parts of the competition, three awards were presented, including cash prizes of £500, £300 and £200.

First prize in the general competition went to Wang Yau Li for Speakeasy, an app to help people with speech disorders.

Yau Li, who is studying for an MSc in Speech and Language Processing, aims to develop a speech analysis and feedback app to allow people undertaking speech therapy to improve their independent practice between therapy sessions.

Runner-up was fifth-year Informatics undergraduate Karol Stanski for his system to identify and count plants and animals using drone imagery.

Karol has developed a prototype while working on a dissertation project with the School of Geosciences. He aims to replace the manual process of species counting with a near-real-time system for ecologists tracking changes in biodiversity.

Third place was taken by Alexander Adam Laurence, who aims to enable NGOs to assess malnutrition in children using AI to analyse smart phone photos of children’s fingernails.

Engineer awards

The competition for engineering students was won by George Dzavaryan, Moritz Muller, Iman Mouloudi and Will Saputra with Augment Bionics, which designs and manufactures affordable bionic arms for use by amputees and people born without upper limbs.

The team wants to drastically reduce the cost of functional prosthetics and are targeting an NHS partnership.

In second place came Arthur Chee and Dilyana Karavasileva with their automated strawberry-harvesting arm.

Their design aims to be more efficient and less bulky than existing designs, achieved with more degrees of freedom and an internal conveyor belt system.

And the final engineering winner was Dileep Dasari with Dassun, a simple vortex-generating system which can potentially decrease fuel consumption of turbofan engines by 10%.

Panel discussion

More than 50 students and graduates were in the audience for the panel discussion to hear advice from LAUNCH.ed clients and business adviser Liza Sutherland.

The panel featured Alison Wood, founder of social enterprise Lilypads; Denny Schenk from Retromixer; and Lorenzo Conti, last year’s winner of the Business Ideas Competition and founder of Crover. LAUNCH.ed intern and current student Jack McMillan led the discussion and, with Lorenzo, presented the winners of this year’s Business Ideas Competition.

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PlayerData scores at Homeless World Cup

PlayerData scores at Homeless World Cup

PlayerData has showcased and tested its wearable technology at the Homeless World Cup in Mexico, where the startup company was the official Sports Performance Partner.

Founded by University of Edinburgh computer science graduates Roy Hotrabhvanon and Hayden Ball with support from Edinburgh Innovations, the company supplied 150 of its EDGE units to the Mexico tournament, providing real-time performance metrics to the 40 teams playing over the week.

The Homeless World Cup Foundation empowers homeless people around the world to transform their lives through football. It was co-founded by Mel Young, who started the Big Issue in Scotland and holds an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh.

Kitchen origins

As two of only 14 students on their Computer Science & Electronics degree programme, Hotrabhvanon and Ball often revised together at Hotrabhvanon’s kitchen table. On one of these occasions the two started discussing electronic sensors. Ball’s aim was to track his heart rate, whereas Hotrabhvanon wanted to improve his archery performance. They decided to combine their ideas, and PlayerData was born.

“That’s where the business started and was based at for the first two years – my kitchen table,” says Hotrabhvanon, Chief Executive Officer of PlayerData.

Finding the edge

The kitchen has since been upgraded to an office in Waverley Gate, in the centre of Edinburgh, where neighbouring tenants include tech titans Amazon and Microsoft. “Hopefully we’ll take out this entire building one day,” Hotrabhvanon laughs.

In developing both their product and the business model, Hotrabhvanon and Ball have consulted sports coaches and drawn on their own sporting backgrounds – Hotrabhvanon picked up archery at university during Freshers’ Week in 2012 and went on to represent his native Thailand at the World Archery Championships in 2015.

Roy Hotrabhvanon, Mel Young and Hayden Ball

From left: Roy Hotrabhvanon, Mel Young and Hayden Ball

While other wearable tracking technology does exist, high subscription costs put it out of reach for many. The pair noticed a gap in the market and aim to fill it.

Hotrabhvanon explains: “We’ve developed a model that allows the software to be used by less experienced coaches – so it’s much more user friendly. It’s a pay-as-you-go subscription, so everyone from pub kickabout level to grassroots to amateurs can afford it.”

PlayerData EDGE is the company’s first product. It is currently in beta-testing and has won some early adopters. With a small removable control module, it provides data on biometrics and performance. In Mexico the device measured how far players travelled in a match, players’ agility (calculated from acceleration data, which indicates how quickly an athlete or team can change direction), average speed and peak speed.

Start-up support

With their early-stage business idea, Hotrabhvanon and Ball approached Edinburgh Innovations’ LAUNCH.ed service for student entrepreneurs. A business adviser provided the pair with useful contacts, which had a ripple effect in helping them to network further and gain wider support.

“LAUNCH.ed also gave us a grant for just under £1,000,” says Hotrabhvanon. “We bought a 3D printer, which meant we could do prototyping in-house a lot quicker.”

This 3D printer also generated income for PlayerData, as they rented out spare capacity, putting the revenue back into product development. In doing so, Hotrabhvanon estimates that the value of the initial grant quadrupled over time. And the printer is still working to this day.

The company also benefitted from early-stage support from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Scottish Enterprise.

Drawing from experience

Hotrabhvanon says the constant research and development “slog” can be tiring, but you just need the drive to get through it. “You’re working on 100 different little pieces and you don’t see the full product until you put it all together. So it looks like you’re doing nothing for six months and then suddenly you have something.”

Hotrabhvanon’s personal highlight has been gaining the backing of high-profile investors, including former Tesco Chief Executive Sir Terry Leahy and Mike Welch, founder of, who is the company’s Chairman. Their business experience has been invaluable to PlayerData.

“You have former corporate lawyers, former CEOs of global corporations. Someone who was actually in our position – Mike [Welch] – who started a company from nothing and then exited – bringing all that wealth around one table to draw from, learn from, and apply to your own business,” says Hotrabhvanon.

Having received advice from LAUNCH.ed, experienced business leaders and peers, Hotrabhvanon is now in a position to share PlayerData’s experiences with others just starting their entrepreneurial journey.

He recently delivered a masterclass to physics students at the King’s Buildings campus on the invitation of the School of Physics & Astronomy’s Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Founder of Genius Foods. And the day after arriving back from Mexico, he gave a talk to the student Electronics and Electrical Engineering Society.


Roy Hotrabhvanon’s advice for budding entrepreneurs

Speak to support services
“Talk to LAUNCH.ed, talk to the Scottish Institute for Enterprise. Very simple. Definitely do that.”


Look it up
“It’s not as hard as it looks. You can do a lot yourself. Google it. If you want to do anything, just look it up. You don’t have to be an expert to do some of it. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking they need an expert in this and that. But what you end up doing is outsourcing everything and you don’t understand what these people are doing for you. It means that when it comes to it, you have less information to run your business. You want to try at least to do some of it yourself. I’m not advocating for you to write your own legal documents, but you can do the basics.”


Don’t seek approval elsewhere
“When you’re starting a company, you can’t be driven by other people’s approval. It’s a lesson that a lot of people don’t learn. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who will drive your business. You have to get up in the morning and really want it. Otherwise it’s not for you.”

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The above story is a version of an article originally published by Edit, the University of Edinburgh alumni magazine.



Homeless World Cup