Electric future as RAD Propulsion accelerates
A tech start-up in the South is revolutionising marine electric propulsion as the UK moves towards zero emissions by 2050.
RAD Propulsion manufactures high-quality bespoke electric propulsion systems for all types of marine applications, from kayaks to zero emission vessels.
Based at Fareham Innovation Centre, near Fareham in south Hampshire, the company is disrupting the traditional market of petrol and diesel engine drives.
With encouragement from the centre’s in-house Innovation Director, Monika Dabrowska, RAD is looking to accelerate projects after successfully applying for two grants totalling £300,000.
The funding, for two work streams in relation to sustainability and the electric revolution, was awarded by Innovate UK, Britain’s innovation agency.
Formed two years ago, RAD moved into one of 20 light manufacturing workshops at Fareham Innovation Centre in 2019.
Designed for start-ups and early-stage businesses, the centre provides a supportive ecosystem for occupiers in marine, aviation, aerospace engineering and advanced manufacturing.
With a core team of seven, RAD is among customers entitled to free in-house business support.
RAD was founded by Richard Daltry and Dan Hook who previously developed ground-breaking marine robotic ASVs - marine robotic vessels - for the oil and gas, defence and oceanographic sectors.
It was here they discovered that existing, on-the-market electric propulsion systems were lacking in smart, connected technologies, quality and durability.
RAD is developing the next generation of marine propulsion systems with a team of naval architects, systems engineers and automotive experts who are all passionate about the water and have an in-depth understanding of the harsh marine environment.
Business support at Fareham Innovation Centre ranges from one-to-one mentoring, workshops, signposted funding opportunities, seminars, programmes and, with the universities of Southampton, Solent and Portsmouth, internships; there are also apprenticeships through Fareham College.
Monika said: “Part of my role as Innovation Director is to identify new funding opportunities - it was great to be able to support RAD with their proposals using my experience in grant application writing and challenging the team to articulate their ideas and innovative design into application-ready facts. RAD’s success in being awarded two Innovation UK applications is well deserved.”
One of the company’s products is the RAD40, the largest drive currently on its books, with intuitive operating features that provide a safe and reliable propulsion system for RIBs and powerboats.
At the other end of the scale is the RAD1, a lightweight, portable product for paddleboards and kayaks.
Research is also focusing on increasing the size of the electric propulsion units for much larger vessels as operators anticipate emissions regulations.
Clive Johnson, pictured, has been brought onboard as RAD’s Chief Executive. A marine tech entrepreneur, Clive designed and manufactured the world’s first solar powered instruments for dinghies and yachts; Tacktick was sold to Raymarine in 2011.
He later set up and became Chief Executive of Magma Structures, a leader in carbon composites and builder of the world’s tallest carbon super yacht masts.
“We made Fareham Innovation Centre home because of its proximity to the sea for trials, along with the thriving ecosystem of like-minded tech entrepreneurs, the superb R&D facilities, the phenomenal business support and the fact we can utilise fellow occupiers for ancillary services,” Clive said.
“Here we are, just 12 months in at the centre, and we’ve already had a lift to R&D and export ambitions through £300,000 worth of funding from Innovate UK.
“It was the centre who highlighted these grant opportunities as part of wider business support to us - having this in-house business support service to draw upon is an incredibly powerful thing.
“With the UK targeted to achieve a zero-carbon economy by 2050, RAD Propulsion will be challenging the traditional market in marine engines, which rely on fossil fuels to power the propellers.
“Our long-term plans are to export 80% of our electric propulsion units, creating valuable jobs here in the UK.”
R&D focus includes product design, materials, lean manufacturing processes and smart electronics.
According to industry reports, transport is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK.
Regarding shipping, ‘smokestack’ emissions generate large quantities of air pollutants, mainly through sulphur and nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
Britain has given a legal pledge to cut greenhouses gases to net zero in the next 30 years, sparking the green industrial revolution and unlocking massive investment in companies developing sustainable products and services.
As part of that journey, the government has signalled the end of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 and gas boilers will no longer be installed in new homes within three years, to be replaced with heat pumps and other clean tech.
In another example of action on air pollution, sales of wet wood and coal for domestic burning are being phased out between 2021 and 2023, with the transition to cleaner types of fuel.
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