Prodrive’s Rapid Challenge discovers more winning physical inventions

Mike Tinmouth, the winner of the 2021 Prodrive Rapid Challenge, with head of Prodrive Ventures David Cullimore, and Tim Colchester, COO of Prodrive
Prodrive Rapid Challenge WInner 2021

A zero carbon unscrewed guard vessel has won the 2021 Rapid Challenge, a competition launched in 2019 by Banbury-based Prodrive Ventures, aimed specifically at entrepreneurs and start-ups developing innovative physical products.

ACUA Ocean, a British maritime cleantech startup, is developing the world’s first long endurance uncrewed surface vessel powered by liquid hydrogen (H-USV). Not only will its remotely operated drone vessel release no carbon emissions, but it will also be the first purpose-built USV to operate using only hydrogen fuel.

ACUA Prodrive WinnerACUA Ocean’s vessels have a seagoing endurance of 70 days at five knots and a top speed of 20 knots all while cutting operational CO2 emissions by 99.3 per cent. Its zero-carbon emission vessels aim to enable the sustainable economic and environmental management of our oceans, waterways and critical offshore infrastructure.

Unlike existing uncrewed vessels, the Ocean Protector H-USV is being designed with endurance and reliability in mind. Scheduled to launch in May 2022, the vessel will focus primarily on marine monitoring and protection. The H-USV aims to serve as both a security presence and as a scalable data platform, whilst delivering major project cost savings. Those oftentimes hazardous jobs involving long periods at sea can thus be repurposed and re-skilled into high tech operator roles.

Prodrive Ventures is the investment-arm of the world-leading motorsport and advanced technology group based at Banbury.

David Cullimore, head of Prodrive Ventures, said: “Each year the number of entries to our Rapid Challenge grows and the quality gets better and better. Any of the three finalists could have picked up the award, the standard was that high, and I am sure we will see them all come to fruition over the coming years.

“We chose ACUA Ocean, as the team had a very clear business plan and answered all the very probing questions we and our partners put to them. While they will receive the largest slice of the prize pot, both in terms of financial, commercial and technical support, all three finalists will still receive invaluable support from all the Rapid Challenge partners.”

“We look forward to working with ACUA Ocean to help them bring their autonomous, hydrogen powered vessel to a commercial reality.”

The other two finalists were a team of students from Imperial College who have developed Paige, a highly innovative braille technology, and the engineers behind Balance Active a new product to help facilitate active standing and balance in older people.

Modern braille technology is limited to single line text, which makes simple reading tasks time-consuming for the blind, and certain fields, such as STEM subjects, very difficult to access. Current devices are also expensive. Paige’s solution incorporates multiple lines of braille, which is key for accessing mathematics and other scientific fields.

Balance Active, developed by Exyo Ltd, has been designed by physiotherapists and engineers to help the rehabilitation of patients with deconditioning, leg and trunk weakness and fatigue. It is low tech, low cost and portable.