Fuel cell research secures valuable funding to continue product development

DA Tech's workshop

After effectively doubling business capacity in just two years, innovative local firm DA Techs were interested in exploring new markets when they took on an intern from Lancaster University.

“Our rapid growth has been from tapping into the right networks, discovering government support and utilising it effectively.” explained Jamie, Managing Director at DA Techs. “We have lots of ideas and the opportunity to take on an intern meant we could carry out research to see if the concept was viable.”

The DA Techs business model is centered around a portable wheel repair service which is delivered from specially equipped vans and more recently from their ‘POD’, a portable shipping container fitted out with specialist equipment.

“Our new POD is a great asset and we thought it would be useful if it could be entirely portable - it's essentially a business in a box. The challenge we needed to overcome was to find a portable power source that would be strong enough. Currently we need access to mains electricity to operate equipment which is limiting the POD’s potential.”

Jamie went on to say, “I’d considered a diesel generator, but wondered whether there was a way to power these pods using quiet, green renewable energy. If so, we could potentially sell our pods to other industries as a portable pop-up shop.”

Having already supported over 700 SMEs since 2012 with low carbon R&D projects, the business support team in the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation (CGE) was well equipped to arrange assistance. CGE lead on Eco-I North West, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project delivered by 6 of the region’s universities. This project opens up huge regional resource to businesses, facilitating resilience, and the creation of low carbon innovations and collaborations.

Jamie said, “The support from the university has been outstanding, Claire helped me with the application and the interview process. The key was knowing what you want to achieve, posing the question properly, and taking advantage of the university’s support.”

DA Techs offered the internship to James Gorman, a physics student, who carried out research into whether it was possible to build a portable, renewable power source with the equivalent energy output of a diesel generator.

The research project took around 140hrs from which James identified that a using hydrogen fuel cell technology could offer a long term and environmentally friendly solution to generating large amounts of electricity.

James commented, “I would definitely encourage other students to go ahead with an internship, it gives you the freedom to investigate a real-world problem and is great experience for your CV. Also, for me it was only 10-12 hours a week which was manageable to fit in around my studies.”

James went on to say, “I worked closely with the company, one of the highlights was having the chance to visit the site, meet the team and have a look at all the different machines and apparatus. I became so invested in the project that I produced an additional report on top of the original presentation.”

Jamie, Director at DA Techs was equally delighted with the project's success, “This initial project exceeded our expectations and I imagine it has exceeded James’s expectations too. We have now identified that this idea could be doable, and we’re now looking at how to build it. We’ve won two additional grants so we can continue working with James and another student to take this project to the next stage.”

James added, “It’s great that I have the opportunity to bring this concept to life. I will now be assisting DA Tech’s to prototype a fuel cell to see if we can generate power at a low cost and in a cleaner, more sustainable way.”

R&D support from The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation is funded through the European Regional Development Fund and available to North West-based SMEs (eligibility criteria applies). To find out more about business support opportunities please visit: /global-eco-innovation/business/eco-i-nw/ or email business@cgeinnovation.org

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