Tara, tell us about yourself and where the idea for CCell came from?
I studied Civil and Environmental Engineering, which led me to the offshore construction industry. In 2016, I joined Dr Will Bateman, who was developing an ultra-lightweight wave energy technology. We combined his patented wave energy converter with other technologies, which allowed us to rapidly grow artificial coral reefs using renewable energy. Much like natural reefs, these protect coastal communities by reducing the energy in incoming waves, while also enhancing marine ecosystems.
We’re offering a long-term, solution against coastal erosion, which is more affordable than the alternatives.
How does it work?
We start by placing a steel mesh structure on the sea floor, through which we pass a small, safe electric current. This causes seawater minerals to grow around the steel, forming calcium carbonate rock, the same material that forms natural reefs. To power this process, we use our patented wave energy technology.
Unlike alternative forms of coastal protection, these reefs don’t decay or leave a high carbon footprint. They even promote tourism by creating new and exciting dive sites.
Why did you decide to apply to the Enterprise Fellowship Programme?
I met a number of entrepreneurs who were Enterprise Fellows and decided to apply. I was seeking to develop my commercial skills further through the training and mentoring provided, but also to gain access to the vast network at the Enterprise Hub.
Describe what a typical month’s interaction with the Enterprise Hub involves.
The Hub offers many presentations, workshops and forums that allow entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders to come together and share their experiences, knowledge and expertise. There is ample opportunity to get support in developing your business, within a group setting or through tailored one-to-ones. It’s up to the awardee to take advantage of the opportunities.
I personally enjoyed “Reverse Pitch Day”, where investors from venture capital (VC) funds were asked to pitch to us, allowing early-stage businesses to get a good sense of what the VC's value most.
What impact did the programme have on yourself and subsequently your business? What are the most important lessons you learnt?
The mentoring from an industry leader in the energy sector helped us to refine our strategy. We also worked with one of the best engineering companies in the UK and completed technology testing at the National Physical Laboratory.
I was able to enhance my commercial, financial and management acumen, which has supported the growth of the company as well as my own personal development.
What advice would you give to potential applicants?
If you’re an engineering entrepreneur with a great idea, you should definitely apply to the Enterprise Hub. It is a unique programme that provides the support you need to accelerate your idea.
Make sure your business proposition is clear, but do not hesitate to highlight the areas you need help in.
What tips would you give for other engineers looking to start their own businesses?
It’s hard work to start a business. Engineering products are usually capital intensive. Joining this programme can give you the support you need to take your idea from concept to reality.
What does the future hold for CCell?
Over the past year, we have set up a team in our key initial market, Mexico. We have built relationships with local governments there and have secured a high-profile demonstration project to showcase the full solution.
We will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funding required to complete this demonstration project. Beyond this, the funding will be used for further product development, as well as sales and marketing to secure early adopters.
Our mission is to transform the traditional coastal protection industry.