Science Capital Low Carbon 2014

We were invited to pitch to a group of potential investors and business experts at an event held by Science Capital at Birmingham University.

As part of our involvement in the MIA Motorsport Valley Launchpad (MSVLP) we undertook a couple of sessions of pitch training to help us fine tune our pitching, both from a delivery skills point of view and a content one.

We delivered our pitch to the panel after supplying them with a copy of our Information Memorandum that we had developed as part of our preparation for the Motorsport Valley Meets The City event. This document was our medium length business overview, quite a bit longer than our Investment Opportunity Note and much, much shorter than our full Business Plan.

The panel seemed reasonably happy with our pitch and we had some interesting discussions on the current scope of the market in addition to some talking through some future growth opportunities we had in mind we had developed our high performance electric motorcycle and associated electric drive train projects.

We were pleasantly surprised to get a call a few days later saying that we had won the Science Capital Business Plan Award for the most promising initiative and most comprehensive business plan.

Motorsport Valley Meets The City

On Wednesday we attended an event at the Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London.

This was an investment showcase to demonstrate some of the innovations in motorsport and generate interest and investment from the City.

We were lucky enough to be interviewed by the BBC, along with former Science Minister, Lord Drayson, and a few other notables.

You can view a brief video here (scroll forward to 1:05 if you want to catch our few minutes of fame).

TSB Innovation Grant Announcement

The decision on funding for the TSB MIA Launchpad was… Sadly, unsuccessful.

We made it through to the final and then struggled to understand the marking and feedback that led to us not being successful. Our conclusion is that the idea was sound and the implementation was mostly on target.

A couple of people suggested that the development time for our battery pack was unrealistic but must have missed the paragraph where we stated that was being developed outside of the scope for this project. It was also noted that the integration time for the final bike was unrealistic but we had also stated that the bulk of that was outside of the scope and funding of the project.

One reviewer suggested that because MotoGP had used carbon fibre frames then our idea wasn’t innovative. Except they ignored the fact that it was the design more than the material that made our proposal innovative.

There was also concern that we needed a stronger project management methodology to make sure we could deliver successfully but we can write more on that area in future.

Whilst we are disappointed not to receive the funding we feel we deserve the majority of the reasons were either our unfamiliarity with the very accounting and project management led application process and two reviewers in particular who seemed intent on reading things in to the project that weren’t there or making negative assumptions on things that we had already stated and clarified.

That gives us hope for the future as we now know how to structure the application better and know to reiterate and reword things in case reviewers prove incapable of understanding them.

It has been frustrating though, especially as one of the successful applications was making a carbon fibre swing arm for a motorcycle using a process that had already been used elsewhere and at a budget that would have seen us build over half of the bike, including battery packs, motors and all the other expensive parts of the rolling chassis.

Having spoken to other applicants since learning of the grant decision it appears very few organisations are successful on their first attempt due to the nature of the application process and the limited space available in the application itself given the complexity of the questions.

Roll on next time…

TSB Innovation Grant Update

Meteor Power applied for support from the Technology Strategy Board Motorsport Valley LaunchPad funding round in conjunction the Motorsport Industry Association.

After submitting videos for our two highest profile projects as part of the Stage process we were delighted that our ‘Innovative & Lightweight Chassis’ proposal was one of just eighteen projects accepted to go through to the next stage.

This was a much more in depth application and after much deliberation trying to adhere to the very restrictive word count the completed Stage 2 application was submitted. We suspect that these things get easier the more you do so you can better understand the feedback from previous applications and appreciate exactly the level of detail the organisers are looking for.

Now there is not much to do but wait and hope we are one of the two thirds of those eighteen projects that will received some funding to our overall costs. Fingers crossed!

TSB Innovation Grant Application 02

Most electric motorcycles these days, even the top performing electric race bikes, still rely on reprogramming the same controller that is found in other more basic electric vehicles, such as fork lift trucks.

Why can’t electric vehicles benefit from the same sophisticated electronics as their high performance petrol counterparts? A SuperBike has extremely configurable engine management and data logging capabilities coupled with traction and launch control, etc.

We know that maintaining a high speed drains the battery more rapidly due to a combination of high motor rpm and the force needed to overcome the wind resistance at speed.

If the traction control system can help the motorcycle find grip in the corner to allow it to accelerate earlier then it won’t need to reach the same high speeds in order to match a given lap time. This should result in a valuable saving in battery power meaning the machine can maintain its performance for longer.
We are building an Engine Control Unit that can be easily configured yet is capable of not only managing the power delivery itself, but also the crucial task of safely monitoring the current, voltage and temperature of the connected batteries, controllers and motors.

What’s more we believe that proven traction and launch control strategies can be adapted to give a significant performance improvement for electric vehicles as well.

The benefits from using sophisticated electronics aren’t just related to performance and safety. The additional of WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity mean the machines can be reconfigured, or logged data downloaded, the moment it pulls in to the pits.

We are looking at premises in the Silverstone area and plan to hire a number of local electrical engineers with F1 and related backgrounds and are also looking at bolstering the team with a number of graduates.

We will sell a plug in engine control unit for OEMs and other companies that wish to build electric vehicles and also complete electric power trains.

Initially the control unit will be for high performance electric motorcycles but we plan to expand it to electric cars and, eventually, even their high performance petrol equivalents.

The TSB investment will make a major contribution to building a highly capable team of electronic and power train engineers to develop this unit. By association it will add to the credibility of our project and will help educate our leadership team and support us in finding additional investment to put our designs in to production.

TSB Innovation Grant Application 01

We believe that, pound for pound, an electric motorcycle can have a greater performance than it’s petrol equivalent.

This project is about changing people’s perceptions and expectations about the performance of electric motorcycles and demonstrate the opportunities available from innovation in chassis design coupled with advanced electronics, such as traction control, etc.

We recently worked with a British SuperBike team. Their 1000cc SuperBike Evo lap record at Thruxton has stood since 2010. We believe that we can build an electric bike that will beat that time.
Unlike a car where the design is dictated by the position of the wheels and the seats, motorcycle design is constrained by the position of the engine between the wheels. Remove that engine and there is plenty of room for innovation.

We will be using carbon fibre to reduce the weight and fine-tune the flexibility required by a high performance motorcycle chassis. This project is more than just using lightweight materials it is about maximising the chassis potential that has been limited until now by the petrol engine.
We are looking at premises in the Silverstone area to be close to many of our suppliers and will also be working closely with a MotoGP chassis designer and a class leading motor manufacturer who are both in the Oxford area.

Several significant things will come from this project:

– We will offer for sale a limited number of motorcycles for racing. Just recently Mission Motorcycles in the US sold half of their limited run of sixty high performance bikes in just two weeks.

– We will be able to sell a proven packaged electric drive trains and provide consultancy based around our chassis design.

We need TSB support as the design and manufacture of such an innovative carbon fibre chassis is extremely expensive but once the moulds are made and the design proven the production costs drop dramatically.
We are here to change people’s perceptions and, as a small company, will be taking on major manufacturers who can plough millions in to similar projects and still not come up with our level of innovation.
With improved handling and performance compared to existing electric motorcycles we are confident of changing how people think about electric vehicles.

TSB Innovation Grants

The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £1m in innovative business-led R&D projects in motorsport, high- performance engineering, and related technology consultancy centred in the UK’s ‘Motorsport Valley’ cluster.

We aim to stimulate and engage this innovative cluster in broader technology and business partnerships with other adjacent sectors. We want to draw investment and people into the area and to encourage networking to strengthen this cluster of motorsport companies.

We are looking for projects that companies could not fund without broader support, or that may take them into new areas, and where the majority of the project activities will take place within the Motorsport Valley cluster.

We will fund up to 60% of eligible project costs in industrial research projects and
it is expected total project costs will range between £50k and £200k. Projects can last up to 12 months and should be led by micro, small and medium-sized businesses working individually or in collaboration.
Successful applicants can participate in a programme of business support and growth activities, including support to access external finance to fund a proportion of the project costs or commercialisation of the outcomes of the project.

The competition is being run in two stages:

1. Video proposal – where applicants describe their project idea in a two-minute video.

2. Written proposal – for applicants shortlisted based on their video submission.