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The University of Southampton

Southampton emerging as new clean technology hotspot

Published: 13 October 2008

As clean technology continues to attract billions of pounds of investment and carries the hope of a low-polluting sustainable future, South Hampshire is emerging as a leader in this field in Europe. A cluster of Southampton-based companies has been named in The Guardian’s clean tech top 100 of ‘Europe’s Hottest Clean Technology Companies’.

Of the companies listed, three are spin outs from the University of Southampton – Perpetuum, a world leader in vibration energy-harvesting; Ilika, a materials development company and Nanotecture, an energy technology company developing solutions for the power and energy needs of the portable electronic and automotive markets. The companies are resident on the University's own Science Park at Chilworth. A fourth, Bac2, which develops electrically conductive plastics used within fuel cells, went through the SETsquared Business Incubation Centre based at the University of Southampton.

Energy is one of the University’s strategic research themes, driven by the innovative research undertaken across all faculties and schools. Professor William Powrie, Energy Theme Leader and Director of Knowledge Transfer, explains: “The University has a broad range of expertise in energy research – covering many areas from tidal energy to photovoltaics, biofuels and energy efficiency in the built environment. The development of sustainable technologies will bring about clear societal, environmental and economic benefits for generations to come. Southampton is at the forefront of cutting-edge thinking in the sustainability arena.”

Examples of recent energy-related initiatives to come out of the University of Southampton include ‘Anaconda’, an innovative wave energy concept. With an ultra-simple design making it cheap to manufacture, it could hold the key to producing affordable electricity from the energy in sea waves.

The University has also signed a ground-breaking agreement with the Isle of Wight Council to help realise the Council's Eco-Island ambitions of making the Island carbon neutral by 2020.

Most recently, researchers Dr Suleiman Sharkh and Dr Stephen Turnock won The Engineer Technology and Innovation Award, in the Energy Technology category, for their work on a marine turbine generator in conjunction with Hampshire-based engineering company TSL Technology.

By combining these unique research strengths with a strong entrepreneurial culture, the University is becoming a catalyst for the growth of this clean technology cluster in Southampton. The SETsquared Business Incubation Centre, based on campus, provides start up technology companies with business mentoring, business planning and pitching support, access to funding and low cost office space.

Mike Stannard, CEO of Bac2 which has been through the SETsquared programme says: “The Incubation Centre provided a unique environment which allowed our company to grow at a fast pace. Rigorous evaluation of our business planning, unique access to funding, introduction to key management personnel as well as alignment to academic expertise and facilities meant that we were able to move to Millbrook Technology Campus, Southampton in 2006 where we continue to grow.”

Notes for editors

The top 100 list has been compiled by The Guardian newspaper in collaboration with venture capitalist firm Library House and the Carbon Trust.

  • The featured companies span the whole energy supply chain, from the development of new energy sources, to the clean generation of power and its transmission, to innovative low-power devices.
  • South Hampshire as a region is emerging as a European hotspot for clean technology with six companies listed – more than any other European location except London – in addition to companies such as Vesta Blades on the Isle of Wight.
  • The SETsquared Partnership, the research and enterprise collaboration of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton and Surrey, maximises the universities' impact on the UK economy through enterprise.
  • Perpetuum is a world leaderin vibration energy-harvesting. It developed the world’s first truly practical vibration harvesting microgenerator capable of generating enough power to enable the reliable transmission of large amounts of data. Perpetuum was set up by the University in 2004.
  • Ilika Technologies Ltd is a privately held company which was spun out of the University of Southampton in May 2004. Ilika has quickly established a reputation for innovation, revenue generation and profitability in the high growth industry of materials development. Within the energy sector, Ilika has made a significant contribution to better materials for batteries, photovoltaics and fuel cells.
  • Founded in 2002, Nanotecture which was spun out of the University’s School of Chemistry, focuses on the development of materials, manipulated at nano scale. One of their key focuses is energy storage, and to significantly increase the energy density of batteries.
  • Bac2 was formed in 2002 by Dr. Graham Murray of the University, to develop commercial-scale electrically conductive polymer composites. Bac2 is the creator of ElectroPhen™, a new plastic that's a billion times more electrically conductive than other polymers or resins.
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