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Funding support provides power for Lancaster wind turbine innovation

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Lancaster company O-Innovations has been able to use Access 2 Finance support to develop its new bladeless wind turbine, which has the potential to generate power in urban environments.

 Over a period of three years, the firm has gone from developing a very basic bladeless wind turbine concept, to creating the O-Wind Turbine, the first and only omnidirectional wind turbine, capable of generating clean energy from wind travelling in any direction. While the product had secured a raft of awards and recognition from industry, it still wasn't property financed beyond founders' capital.

Lancashire's Access 2 Finance service helped the entrepreneurs to secure angel investment and Innovate UK funding worth £160,000 in a series of tranches over 2021. Access to Finance provides SMEs in Lancashire with bespoke funding support, signposting the products and providers which will unlock their business growth. The company is now on track to be in a position by the end of 2022 to see its new technology out in the real world with installations in urban environments. It is also aiming to fully establish the key business functions to enable full commercialisation.

Main impacts:

  • Development of revolutionary new product.
  • Securing £160K of angel investment and Innovate UK funding.
  • Filing intellectual property in 22 key international markets.

O-Wind Origins

Dominic Chippendale, chief operating officer of O-Innovations, says: "The origins of O-Innovations and our O-Wind Turbine lie in a competition our creator and chief executive Nicolas Orrelana entered for NASA. When tasked with creating alternative designs for the Mars Rover he created this wind-driven ball which made use of the chaotic winds on the surface of Mars to generate power.

"That was about ten years ago, the idea went into a drawer and was left alone for a little while. That was until Nicolas thought about how the turbine could be used to generate renewable electricity from winds that moved in any direction. He completely redesigned the initial project, while maintaining what made it innovative.

"The new design was created to complement modern architecture and has the potential to transform skyscrapers and urban buildings from large energy consumers to substantial energy generators. A single O-Wind turbine could have a comparable impact to a solar panel system. "Nicolas was onto something and entered the new design into the James Dyson Awards in 2018. He was successful and won the national and international sections at those awards. The award win gave Nicolas and the turbine proof of concept a lot national and international exposure, but it didn't give us a working turbine and the kinds of electricity it could generate and what wind speeds it would work in.

"Since then, we've committed our founders' capital to carrying out a thorough computer fluid dynamics project to simulate exactly what the technology could achieve. From that we've had our data validated and have seen some extremely positive output information come through."

Professionalisation and financing

Chippendale says: "I joined Nicolas to help oversee the company's growth in ambition and professionalisation. O-Innovations Ltd was officially established in 2019 with the goal of commercialising the technology. "In the years since we have seen the turbine recognised with the Elevating Ideas Award and the Siemens' Ingenuity Award. A prototype O-Wind Turbine was exhibited at the Science Museum of London. Mark Gibbons, senior Access to Finance specialist, says: "We were so impressed by the work of Dominic and Nicolas.

They're a young management team with an innovative and green technology, they needed some support in raising investment, which is no easy feat for a pre-revenue business. "By helping to secure finance, we've made sure that this incredible technology does have a future, it's protected legally and the team could invest in further development. We might be seeing O-Wind Turbines on buildings sooner than you think." Chippendale adds: "This year, things have really picked up. Access 2 Finance helped us to raise £160,000 off the back of our initial output figures. By March 2021, we had also committed to extend our patents and IP protection to 22 countries internationally. "We are receiving an Innovate UK grant and that has enabled us to do some wind tunnel testing with a prototype to give us more insight into how the product functions.

Moving into the real world

Chippendale says: "We've joined some incredible start-up accelerators in Chile and London in the last 12 months, and we are now in the final stages of creating a minimal viable product. "We're going into further development, and we anticipate that our three new prototypes will be used to further prove the capability of the technology to harness winds from any direction and simultaneously. We're also hoping to bring a masters student from Lancaster University into the organisation next year to do a full report.

"We're also looking at doing a pilot programme with Santiago Airport in Chile to harness the powerful winds emitted by jet engines and help the airport to be more sustainable." "By the end of 2022 we anticipate that we will be ready to bring in teams to establish the key business functions to enable full commercialisation.

We're also expecting that we will see our O-Wind turbines out in the real world with installations in urban environments." Gibbons adds: “Access 2 Finance continues to work with the team at O-Wind and are proud be at the genesis of their funding journey and to support such an innovative business.”

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