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Actuation Lab was founded by three postdoctoral researchers from the University of Bristol in 2019. It joined SETsquared Bristol in December 2018 after receiving 12 months of funding for the incubation programme as runners-up in the University’s flagship New Enterprise Competition. The team left their academic careers to apply the latest innovations in materials, manufacturing, and origami-inspired design to rethink industrial hardware for industries that are traditionally slow to adopt new technologies.
It is developing the “Dragonfly Valve”, a proprietary, low-torque, origami-inspired valve with zero leak paths to the atmosphere, which will help enable the safe and sustainable transition to hydrogen use, and billions of tonnes of associated carbon savings.
Its plans to bring its products to market have been financially backed by hardware investors Kero Development Partners and deep-tech climate investor Zero Carbon Capital (ZCC). The investment comes at the end of a successful year for Actuation Lab, which has been awarded more than £1m in publicly funded projects, further supporting company growth.
Zac Hall, MD at Kero said: “Simon, Michael and Tom are building a fantastic business in Actuation Lab, and we are proud to have been able to lead this investment round with our friends at ZCC. Actuation Lab’s products have the potential to make a hugely significant contribution to the UK’s Net Zero targets and we look forward to contributing to the next phase of the company’s growth.”
Pippa Gawley from ZCC said: “We’re so excited to back the Actuation Lab team to develop their first designs for leak-free valves, and we know they will keep coming up with new ideas that will be just as impactful. These innovations are critical to prevent fugitive emissions from the transmission and storage of hydrogen, as it is an indirect greenhouse gas.”
The funding round is also being supported by Evenlode Impact, who invest to build a diversified start-up portfolio for the Evenlode Foundation. The Foundation’s mandate is to invest in companies like Actuation Lab, to achieve long-term, system-level positive impact for the benefit of our society and our world. Investments are wholly funded from Evenlode group profits and entirely segregated from client funds.
Actuation Lab is one of an increasing number of hardware companies spun from the University of Bristol to land significant investment this year, with others including gas emission sensing company QLM, and sustainable composite material company Lineat Composites. The wider city is becoming a hub for deep-tech start-ups with incubators and accelerators including SETsquared, QTEC and Science Creates giving companies access to the invaluable training, mentoring and finance on offer.
Co-founder and CEO at Actuation Lab, Dr Simon Bates, said: “I’m very proud of the team we have at Actuation Lab. As well as working towards our goals with a real passion, we have a very honest and supportive group of people here. I feel we have also found these qualities in our new investors, and I think this is key to giving us the best chance at growing Actuation Lab into one of the foremost hardware companies in the country.”
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