Tidal Generation Limited (TGL)

14thNov 2012

Tidal Generation Limited (TGL) joined the Bristol SETsquared Centre as three founding directors with a desire to become market leaders in the marine renewables sector. SETsquared provided a professional, supportive environment and a sounding board for new ideas, enabling the business to grow from 3 to 30 people in a way that focused on realising the development of their marine technology.

TGL joined SETsquared in December 2005. The small team was compelled to enter the incubator to create a more professional environment in which to engage potential investors, and build their team. Prior to the move the company was conducting meetings around the dining room table, a situation that was not compatible with their aspirations for the development of a market-leading product.

The company emerged at the beginning of 2005 from the technical ideas of George Lake and Chris Huxley-Reynard experienced engineers in the marine sector who were, and continue to be passionate about renewable energy technologies. Society has a need to generate clean energy and the technological capability of TGL addresses this issue. The establishment of TGL was not financially driven, rather motivated by finding the right technological solution to a global challenge.  

Supportive environment for a leading marine technology company

An office space was required for the development of TGL and they felt that SETsquared Bristol could be the professional environment that they needed. Moving to the Centre allowed the founding directors to set themselves up in a credible and confident manner, cost effectively.

SETsquared Bristol was a good fit for TGL due to significant expertise in technology businesses. TGL made extensive use of the services at SETsquared as follows:

  • meeting rooms and office space
  • day-to-day support, such as reviewing grant applications and, importantly, having someone to act as a sounding board for their ideas
  • business advice: employment, health and safety and legal advice
  • strategic advice: early in the company development TGL considered a deal with a multinational, advice from SETsquared helped TGL walk away from this deal
  • workshops, including the negotiation skills course, which was supplemented with coaching by SETsquared staff. The skills gained by the individuals made them much savvier when it came to negotiating deals
  • recruitment of staff and the resource to carry out research due to links with the University of Bristol
  • an EngD student who was able to carry out useful modeling and testing of the technology was sourced through the connection with the University of Bristol
  • introductions to investors and opportunities to develop and practice their pitch made them more attractive to potential funders
  • through SETsquared contact was made with Rolls-Royce, who eventually acquired TGL

Tania Lake, a founding director of TGL describes the time that she spent in SETsquared as comfortable and nurturing; offering a source of support, which gave the team the courage to carry on at difficult times. In 4 years TGL were able to raise approximately £8m through grant funding and investment, enabling the company to develop, test and prototype their turbine, which eventually led to the deal with Rolls-Royce.

The TGL founders always envisaged that the progression of the company would be through technology development followed by a deal with a multinational with the resource to commercially develop the product. However, the founders felt that it was important to maintain the culture of TGL when it was acquired by Rolls-Royce. TGL is now owned by Rolls-Royce, but is run as its own entity, very much retaining a culture that is committed to the technology and the company.

Looking to the futureTidal Generation

TGL have constructed a demonstrator marine turbine in Scotland, which is generating very well. The technology is unique because it has an effective maintenance process that can be carried out simply with small boats and in a wider range of weather conditions than competing marine renewable technologies.

TGL decided to make the move out of SETsquared due to the extensive expansion of staff numbers, which led the company to fill a large proportion of the SETsquared offices. The planned further expansion is not possible inside the business acceleration centre, The new open plan office, near Bristol city centre, allows everyone to work in the same space. The company has matured and has switched its focus from the pure development of ides to the creation of a commercially successful company.

The company is still in a research and development stage. The technology has been demonstrated but it will go through much iteration before it is cost effective. The next step for the company is to harness the technology and make it commercially viable. The marine energy market is uncertain as it is still emerging, however it is predicted to be worth $280bn by 2028, Rolls-Royce can see the opportunity and has the resource to support the further development in TGL.

SETsquared support helped TGL to work through the challenging times and make the decisions required to develop the business, the technology and the people. They have grown through their time in incubation, from a small company, with a technological idea to a company with 30 staff and demonstrable technology. They have been acquired by one of the biggest brands in the world. The ultimate success of TGL and its marine turbines is in the hands of many people and the outcome is dependent on global market changes. But now, in July 2011, as the company graduates from SETsquared, the dream of one-day becoming the market leader is still very much alive and ever closer to being realised.