Dr Gareth Stockman is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marine Power Systems. His business partner, Dr Graham Foster, Chief Technology Officer, is also an alumnus of Swansea University, as are many of their team.
Marine Power Systems (MPS) specialise in the manufacturing and supply of marine energy extraction hardware. They have developed a revolutionary, flexible, ocean energy technology that can be configured to floating wind power, wave power or combined wind and wave energy, at electricity grid scale. This flexible approach is unique globally and patented by MPS – and it could have a real impact on climate change.
Here, Gareth talks to us about his journey, from Plymouth via Swansea University and to his current role…
“I looked at a few universities, but for me, Swansea was the undoubtedly clear choice. Having lived by the sea in Plymouth and Cornwall, Swansea felt similar to home – somewhere I could be independent, but that would also allow me to continue with my passion for water sports and surfing. Additionally, it had a fantastic reputation for Engineering, which I studied. I never looked back.
“One thing that university did for me, was to let me run with my own agenda. The department certainly empowered us as students to go out and do things and expand our horizons. Even back then, I thought that the facilities were excellent, but having visited the Bay campus recently, I can see that it has got better and better throughout the years.”
Investing in themselves
“During my undergraduate and master’s studies I did a lot of work in the renewable energy space, including building a small-scale tidal energy prototype. I also met my now business partner, Graham Foster whilst studying for my PhD; Graham was another water sports enthusiast, with a phenomenal engineering mind, and in 2008 we realised we would like to start our own business.
“The idea for the business was borne out of a realisation that whilst others had attempted to develop a system to extract energy from the sea, they hadn’t solved the challenges that existed in harnessing energy from the ocean, like installation and maintenance of the product.
“We didn’t know how far it would go at first– but it progressed rapidly, so we put significant personal funds into the business (rather than buying new houses or a first decent car!). We also secured fantastic support from Welsh Government grants.
“In 2010 the idea came to fruition, we were able to expand our small team, and with support from the Welsh Government we had tested a small prototype in a test facility and out at sea, and finally had proof of concept.”
"...it will give Wales and the UK an opportunity for global exports of MPS devices from two Swansea graduates."
Making waves in renewable energy
“We’ve had a number of big successes since we began, but manufacturing and testing a scaled prototype that was tested at sea in Cornwall that proved all the novelties of the design – a £6m project, part financed by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) is definitely a highlight.
“Off the back of the success, we have been granted £12.8m of funding from WEFO for a project to manufacture and test a full-scale device. This is a hugely exciting development for the MPS team – many of whom have been part of the whole journey, and some of which are Swansea graduates. We are all looking forward to achieving our goal.
“Recently, we expanded the MPS product portfolio to include the DualSub that captures both wave and wind energy, and WindSub that captures wind energy for sites without a significant wave resource.
“Both Graham and I are hugely proud of this, as it will give Wales and the UK an opportunity for global exports of MPS devices from two Swansea graduates.
“I am confident that the MPS Team will again deliver during this next phase, confirming our position as a market leader. As a result, this will translate to putting money back into the economy and creating high skilled jobs, all whilst reducing carbon emissions and having a remarkable impact on climate change and saving the planet!”
Who is your inspiration?
“My Grandad was in the Navy and when I was young, he recounted stories of him doing a lot of design work and building and tinkering with boats; as a child I spent countless hours building things in his workshop. It imprinted this kind of thinking in me from a young age – firing up a passion of how things could be done differently or better.
“Additionally, whilst cliché, James Dyson has been something of an inspiration. I have also been impressed on the level of success he has achieved – always looking to take a new approach and revolutionise the way that we do things.”