Meet our next tenant Tidal Harness!

The next start-up business joining the Catalyst Centre is Tidal Harness, founded by Steve Khoo. We spoke to him about his business and to find out his objectives over the next six months in the Catalyst Centre.

What is the idea behind your business and what will it offer?

Tidal Harness is building tidal turbines and arrays for extracting energy from tidal streams at cheaper capital expenditure and operating expense than offshore wind farms and with correspondingly shorter ROI. It advocates extremely simple but highly effective technology, and with simplicity comes greater reduction of cost and greater reliability. Its turbines have only one moving component and there are not any intermediary components or rotational seals used in the system.

What stage is the business at currently?

The business is currently at the research and development stage. The core technology is being established, but at a research level and not presently commercially implemented. A small-scale turbine has been successfully tested recently in France with the support of Cranfield University, a British postgraduate and research-based university specialising in science, engineering, technology and management. The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund under its Low Carbon KEEP programme and their support is gratefully acknowledged. We are now gearing up for sea trials to test the technology further.

Why did you decide to apply for the Catalyst Centre?

We were looking to relocate the business to a region close to the sea. Southampton seemed ideal due to the strong maritime industry and other supporting industries. More importantly, the Solent region is committed to support local clean tech companies who are working towards a low carbon economy.

The Catalyst Centre provides bespoke business mentoring and workshops to aspiring science and technology start-ups as well as exposing them to a community of entrepreneurs within the Science Park. We felt that these would be the most valuable support for our business.

What do you hope to achieve in your time at the Catalyst Centre?

Since relocating the business to the Science Park our network connections have been expanding rapidly, we hope that the Catalyst Centre will continue to open more doors and opportunities for the business.

How is your experience in the Catalyst Centre going so far?

This has been our third month at the Catalyst Centre and the support we have gained so far has exceed our expectations – they do much more than they say on the tin! Phil Sharpe, our business mentor, has been very patient and supportive and on one occasion he sat with us for over 4 hours to refine our business value proposition. Peter Birkett, the CEO of the Science Park, have gone beyond the miles to help us expand our network in the Solent area and his staff has been instrumental in helping us to settle here. Relocating to Southampton to join the Catalyst Centre has been the best decision we could have made for the business.

What have you personally been doing before Tidal Harness?

I was an independent technical consultant before establishing Tidal Harness. My career so far spans production management at Intel, academic research at the University of Nottingham and technical lead designer at Williams & Mercedes Formula One teams, automotive and renewable energy companies.

How did the pitch to join the Catalyst Centre go?

The pitch went extremely well, we valued the judges’ feedback to unlock the full potential of the company and how it can grow and scale up.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

In five years we hope to grow the business 10 times the current capacity and form a partnership with a key customer within a consortium of stakeholders to develop a tidal array.

What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

The two top tips I would mention are: to raise more cash than what you think you will need; and build a strong team, surrounding yourself with people who can help you improve and grow.

Excluding yours, what entrepreneurs do you admire the most?

I admire the sheer tenacity of all entrepreneurs regardless of whether they have been successful or not. One entrepreneur I really admire is Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, who concurrently founded 3 multi-billion dollar technology companies.