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Mastering the oceans for smarter business at sea

NeuWave Technologies wants to make waves by predicting them

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One thing we love to get our teeth into here at PreSeed Now is a story of PhD research being turned into a unique startup.

That’s what we’ve got today with NeuWave Technologies.

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This issue of PreSeed Now is brought to you by EHE Ventures.

Known for backing high-growth tech, EHE just announced they're building a £15m AI tech fund, and have finalised their core Fund Advisory team. The fund itself seeks to support and accelerate the growth of AI technologies, empowering the brightest minds in tech at pre-seed, seed and Series A.

Learn more about their mission and the fund here

NeuWave Technologies wants to make waves by predicting them

Jana Stella, founder of NeuWave Technologies

In summary:

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Conditions at sea can have a serious financial impact. 

Whether you operate a shipping company or are building a wind farm, knowing exactly when it’s safe to go to work is critical for not wasting time and money.

Weather is an obvious factor to consider, but the height of the waves at sea also matters a lot.

“Wave heights affect how safe it is for a vessel to go out and carry out its operations,” says Jana Stella, founder of NeuWave Technologies, a startup focused on providing more accurate predictions of wave heights than are available today.

While its tech could potentially be useful for any business operating at sea, it’s beginning with a focus on supporting the renewable energy industry, specifically the construction and operation of offshore wind farms.

“Every vessel has its own wave height, and at the moment, there is a very rudimentary way of estimating this wave height.” Stella says.

“The resolution is around 30 kilometres per grid point and to think that an average wind farm spans at least 30 kilometres, there is very little information on how safe it is to carry out operations like construction, maintenance, cable-laying, or anything that involves risk assessment.”

This lack of clarity, Stella argues, limits the amount of time in a year that can be spent constructing and maintaining wind farms. With more fine grained clarity about how high waves will be at specific locations, more work could be done for more of the year.

In addition to allowing more work to be conducted, it could help companies save on the leasing costs for vessels and equipment, as they can be less vulnerable to the impacts of delays caused by high waves.

“Currently, wave heights are overestimated by two or three metres. If a wave height is over five metres, that's a no-go operation. Our wave heights from state-of-the-art research models are around two to three metres lower,” says Stella. 

“This means that according to our research, operations can continue. Operations currently can see delays of three to five years in the offshore sector. Reducing that, we can save billions for the offshore renewable energy field.”

An example of the Neuwave Technologies dashboard

How it works

NeuWave Technologies has developed an online platform that allows businesses to model wave heights across the area of their operations at a much higher resolution than alternative methods.

“They can easily add in their own recorded data. Normally, this data is at a point location; we can expand that dataset to cover the entire area at a 500-metre resolution. So that's 60 times higher resolution than what's currently available,” says Stella.

Wave data from the UK meteorological organisation the Met Office is fed into NeuWave’s model. That’s the 30-kilometre resolution data mentioned above. 

“We work to remaster that data, just like you'd remaster an old video,” Stella explains.

The analysis the software produces is presented via a mixture of easy-to-digest maps, charts, and figures.

The story so far

Stella has a background in oceanography. NeuWave Technologies is based on her PhD research into developing an A.I. model that simulates offshore waves.

She originally set out to create a 100-year prediction for waves around the entire British coastline. But the computation required to achieve this was too great. 

“It became very apparent that in order for research and industry to have a much closer link, these models need to be developed in order to be scaled and adopted in industry,” she says.

And so she turned to the approach that underpins NeuWave Technologies. Conducting market research, she decided to focus on an online platform with a dashboard, to make wave data as accessible as possible to potential customers.

Stella says the startup has received interest from quarters as diverse as seaweed farming and the shipping industry. But for now, the startup’s primary focus is renewable energy. That’s thanks to a personal experience.

“I did some volunteering in Kenya, which is one of the areas I identified as [potentially] very profitable for offshore energy… I realised that offshore energy is really only accessible in countries that have access to high-performance computing.”

That’s because of all the data modelling that is required.  

“I did a bit of analysis and only countries that have access to high-end computing also have access to offshore renewable energy.”

“This injustice really perpetuates a wealth gap around the world. As a researcher, you dream of having a big impact. And this is the way I've realised I could do it.”

Stella took part in the ConceptionX programme, which helps turn PhD research into startups. The startup is a core team of two at the moment, with Stella as the sole founder.

The startup’s model has so far been successfully demonstrated in the Outer Hebrides and East Anglia.

“We're trying to extend that to look at the whole British coastline. This means that the model can then be scaled to work entirely around the North Sea.”

Oh, and if you think the name ‘NeuWave Technologies’ sounds like a hot new music tech company from Berlin about to drop its latest modular synthesiser, rather than an ocean tech startup, I agree, but I do like it. 

Stella says the name was suggested to her by a friend who is a DJ. It’s certainly way cooler than many deep tech company names out there.

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