To mark the launch of our latest equity funding round on Seedrs, we’re celebrating the powerhouses behind our successes so far.
For our first blog, we’re introducing John Grainger, CTO and co-founder of IPG. A seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in rapid prototype manufacturing and engineering, John’s expertise lies in translating technology design for cost-effective product manufacture. John leads the design and delivery function with a focus on the production, delivery and integration of the IPG Flameless Generator.
John, as one of the founders of IPG, you’ve been onboard the company’s journey since the very beginning. Could you shed some light on how the concept of a pollutant-free, fuel-flexible replacement to the diesel generator was born?
Before IPG, myself and my co-founders were working in the renewable energy sector, in particular waste-to-energy. The idea for a fuel-flexible generator really came about in response to what we were seeing around the transition away from diesel to renewable fuels. With many promising alternatives – from green hydrogen to bioethanol, and even ammonia – but the relative availability of any one renewable fuel uncertain and still largely dependent on where you are in the world, to us it was becoming clearer that the “fuel of the future” was at best a long way off, but more likely no single fuel at all. This is becoming more and more self-evident, with Brazil investing heavily in biofuels, and China’s priority on hydrogen.
Seeing the fuel market fragmenting as the world moved in search of a sustainable and economical replacement for diesel and natural gas, we believed that any true replacement to the diesel generator had to be capable of operating on multiple fuels if it were to deliver the energy security businesses are dependent on.
To unlock this fuel-flexibility, we had to take a step back and consider the role of fuel within a conventional combustion engine. In doing so, we questioned why existing technologies could only operate on one fuel and, skipping much of the scientific detail, we recognized that we could unlock multi-fuel capabilities if we could perform combustion ‘flamelessly’.
To make this possible, our technology had to achieve two important functions. Firstly, our turbine needed to be able to withstand the elevated temperatures produced by flameless combustion, and secondly, our solution needed to be able to recycle heat within the system to be efficient and cost-effective.
It was from this starting point that the design for the IPG Flameless Generator was born.
Speaking of cost-effectiveness, you have spent much of your career in rapid prototyping and cost-effective manufacturing within the automotive industry. Can you speak some more as to how this experience informed your role as CTO of IPG?
It doesn’t matter how wonderful your climate tech solution is if it costs the earth. Pun aside, the cost-effectiveness of our solution is as important as the technological innovation if we want to deliver a product that could replace the diesel generator for businesses.
Drawing on my experience conducting early-stage technical development projects for the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin, my role from day one at IPG was to work closely with our design and engineering team to ensure that the product we were developing could be manufactured cost competitively, at scale. The result is a product that is actually quite simple, in both materials and manufacturing processes.
Take IPG’s patented flameless combustion technology, for example. It sounds almost fantastical, and from a technological perspective our approach is truly innovative. But from a manufacturing point of view, it’s effectively a stainless steel tube.
With our ceramics, however, it wasn’t always clear that this simplicity was equally true. We knew that ceramics offered a route to unlocking the benefits of flameless combustion for power generation, without dependency on unique manufacturing processes or expensive materials. So, in addition to proving that these ceramics did stand up to the operational requirements (speed, temperature, pressure) of our turbine design, we concentrated much of our early efforts on proving that an established, cost-effective manufacturing process could be used for a scalable end-to-end process.
As we now move from prototype to MVP, the fruits of these labours are paying dividends, already helping to dramatically reduce one-off production costs and laying a strong foundation for our future cost-reduction roadmap.
Now we’ve reached a significant moment in our development journey, having proven the pollutant-free, fuel-flexible benefits of our technology during a £1m innovation project with National Highways, what are you excited about for the future of IPG?
I’m excited that it’s now time to prepare for scaling; time for me to put my manufacturing skills to work. Thanks to our development efforts over the last few years, and the National Highways project we have recently completed, we have everything we need to ensure our MVP design provides value for our customers. Now we’re focused on delivering these benefits over the course of customer-demonstration trials, and we’re fundraising to support these efforts.
Success in these trials will inform our move to low-volume manufacturing of a cost-competitive solution, and early engagement with manufacturing experts and key supply chain partners, as well as the cost reductions we are already seeing in our transition from prototype to MVP, have helped inform this design.
The next steps are to fine-tune our scaled manufacture and assembly processes, enabling us to further refine our roadmap to cost-effective production. The recently announced collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) and experienced tier-1 and tier-2 manufacturers SDE Technology will be invaluable during this period.
Together, we will develop a digital twin of the IPG Flameless Generator, allowing us to stress test our design and supply chain partnerships before we reach the point of manufacture, promising to deliver an accelerated route to market.
We’re drawing on these partnerships to build our supply chain ahead of time, to stand us in the best stead to deliver on the growing customer demand for our product.
To learn more about our manufacturing collaboration with the AME and SDE Technology, as well as the opportunity to ask further questions of John around the route to low cost manufacturing of our product, join our Meet the Team webinar at 12pm, Thursday 23rd June.
Taking place in the second week of our ongoing funding round on the Seedrs crowdfunding platform, this webinar offers the chance to speak to John, as well as CEO Toby Gill and Senior Product Manager Brett Moolenschot, about the company and its visions for the future.
When investing, capital at risk.