Nautricity - a Strathclyde spin-out company

This successful spin-out company licensed our revolutionary tidal turbine technology.

Formation

Nautricity Ltd was formed in 2010 from Strathclyde’s Energy Systems Research Unit (ESRU) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to generate electricity from tidal flows.

The company’s formation followed five years of knowledge exchange support from Strathclyde’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Services team to obtain funding, develop the intellectual property and mentor the team.

Early stages

During this time, and combining the expertise of Dr Andrew Grant, Professor Joe Clarke and Cameron Johnstone from ESRU, the team developed a contra rotating tidal turbine (CoRMaT).

The first fully functional prototype was built and tested in February 2007 in a tow tank in the University. Unlike conventional turbines, the CoRMaT design uses two rotors, which turn in opposite directions, making it extremely stable and removing the need for expensive, fixed foundations.

An economic appraisal comparing a range of tidal technologies has shown CoRMaT to potentially be the most cost-effective system for all tidal sites with water depths between 10 and 500 metres.

Following successful sea trials, the team was able to demonstrate that the CoRMaT produces electricity and offers significant economic and technical advantages as well as proving environmentally sound – by reducing the impact on the seabed.

Cameron Johnstone, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering, University of Strathclyde, said:

The need to develop advanced, lower-cost, renewable technologies, which deliver reliable power to homes and businesses has never been more apparent.

Making it happen

Dave Pratt was brought on board, funded by the University’s Technology Talent Initiative. This type of funding (now re-launched as the Executive Director Designate Programme) is aimed at bringing in directors for up to six months prior to company creation to finalise the business plan and raise funding. Dave Pratt has more than 25 years’ experience in the offshore energy industry, both in the UK and internationally.

A funding application to the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept programme resulted in the award of £220,000. With this funding, the team developed and tested two CoRMaT prototypes over a period of three years.

Small awards from the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network and the University’s Commercial Development Fund allowed critical testing to take place. The team also made funding pitches with the investment community.

Successful outcomes:

  • Strathclyde negotiated a global exclusive licence of the robust contra rotating tidal turbine patent application to Nautricity as part of the spin-out process. The patent has since been granted in the USA and is pending in Europe
  • the CoRMaT technology has been awarded the prestigious Technology Award by the Energy Institute. It is widely regarded by agencies such as the Carbon Trust and the Scottish Government as being a disruptive technology, since it has the potential to deliver the necessary step change reduction in costs to make tidal energy commercially acceptable´╗┐
  • Nautricty signed a deal to site a tidal turbine in London. This is the first stage in plans to locate a tidal energy farm on the River Thames that would generate enough electricity to power 35,000 homes
  • the Crown Estate has given the go-ahead for up to six tidal turbines off the south-west coast of Scotland, with the potential for many more across the country. Discussions are ongoing over the development of CoRMaT technology in North America, South America and South East Asia

The future

With the tidal market is in its infancy and neither the wave nor the tidal energy market having consolidated on a single device design, Nautricity’s objective is to become the most cost-effective developer of tidal energy sites and establish market leadership.

Dave Pratt, Director, Nautricity, said:

Not only will our business be as a tidal energy technology provider but we will also become a lead project developer.