7th June 2011
Masters student’s wave power idea wins scholarship
A student engineer who has developed a way of generating power as boats crash through waves has been awarded the only UK place on a leading US entrepreneurs programme.
Alistair Shepherd, 22, is still in his final year of a masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Southampton.
But from next January he will spend six months with an elite group of international students in the US learning how to turn his renewable energy idea into a commercial reality.
His prototype uses the motion of ships to generate electricity in a device that is inside the ship itself.
As it is not immersed in water, the device overcomes the problems of sea damage that affect other wave power mechanisms.
Mr Shepherd said: “The potential for this approach is enormous – wave power could replace diesel auxiliary generators on millions of ships worldwide, saving money for the ship owners and reducing carbon emissions.”
He will become an entrepreneur in residence at Southampton University from September and return to complete the development of his venture in the US, with the help of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Mr Shepherd will be tutored in the US by experts from Harvard Business School, MIT and the University of North Carolina and spend up to three months on an internship at an emerging company in the same field.
The SETsquared partnership, established by the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, is funding his scholarship. The number of scholarships has been scaled back since 2006 when Gordon Brown launched public funding for the the initiative in his Budget speech.
The original aim was to send between 15 and 20 students to the US each year, funded through the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.
Among the budding entrepreneurs to have taken part in the programme was Bristol University graduate George Mills, a mechanical engineer, who secured his place in 2008 after designing a suit-protecting pannier for bicycles. Mr Mills is now chief executive of Bristol-based mobile device applications firm Fibixio.
Fluvial Innovations founder Simon Phelps, a Bournemouth University graduate, also took part.
Mr Phelps, whose Floodstop flood barrier system uses the weight of the water it holds back to secure it to the ground, has said spending time in the US was invaluable.
“In America every graduate says let’s set up a business. I was not hearing that at Bournemouth,” he said.