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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SmartAct-2-3 (Scaling of midsized, patented, low energy, light weight, highly efficient actuator to meet the demands of smaller and larger scale applications)

SmartAct-2-3 Report Summary

Project ID: 685082

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SmartAct-2-3 (Scaling of midsized, patented, low energy, light weight, highly efficient actuator to meet the demands of smaller and larger scale applications)

Reporting period: 2015-08-01 to 2016-07-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

In 2010, whilst working to resolve control issues in the integration of actuators in food processing, James O’Donnell (SACO’s Technical Director) discovered he could configure the actuator power supply to reduce electrical draw down by ~75%. In doing so, he created the RIFT (Reduced Induction Field Torque) Drives upon which our disruptive, SmartActuators are based.
We have since protected our invention with patents and trademarks, been awarded several national awards. Crucially, sales of SmartAct®-1 have delivered two phases of high growth with export orders from USA, Germany, Australia and South Africa now feeding 90% of pre-booked production capacity 3 years out. With SmartAct-1 seeing the product established in the market in early 2014, we have now developed our growth strategy for the next 5 years around becoming a global actuator brand with a minimum of 1% of the market by 2020 -building a business with revenues of $250m+ per annum.
Whilst an ambitious vision; the quality and size of distributor scale customers applying to work with us to deliver this Phase 2 project to demonstrate that the product can be successfully scaled both up and down, confirms it is entirely realistic. Our Phase 1 project confirmed no global competitors can deliver reduce energy consumption and material costs in line with SmartAct-1 which currently averages 75% reduction in both criteria. A paradigm shift for the sector of this magnitude with the advantage of 3 stock keeping units (SKUs) covering the full scale of applications, global distributors could reduce their inventory/stock of actuators by over 14 to 1. Phase 1 Voice of the customer surveys and the last 2 years of experience demonstrate the irresistible value of this proposition. Indeed, distributors have suggested 1% is a lowly target given SmartAct-1 performance. Distributor demand to participate in this project was so high we have had to limit participant numbers and turn distributors away.
To fulfil the needs of these distributors we must overcome some barriers, mainly related to the quantity or quality of resources available to us; physical assets, skills & human, manufacturing partnerships and suppliers. The Phase 1 project saw the project widely disseminated amongst our customer base, resulting in the identification of global customers and supply chain partners keen to collaborate in exchange for early access to the rescaled technology. We re-drafted our financial plan, identifying resources required and when to identify that in the next five years we will require €3 million even with H2020 support to deliver this (Section 2). We have calculated that during the period we will generate a SmartAct®-1 sales surplus of ~€1m. Ongoing discussions with our bank and private investors are highly likely to cover the remaining €2m. Our customer base are keen to purchase licences to distribute or manufacture which will also serve to decrease the payback period of any loans etc. In order to maintain full control of our products and deliver maximum benefit for European SMEs, H2020 support is crucial as it will enable us to begin the process of commercialising the next two members of the SmartAct® actuator family.

At a time when management of energy consumption is increasingly important, the SmartAct®-1 electric actuator has the lowest energy consumption of any system available today. Comparative tests against many competitor models demonstrate a 75% or greater reduction in energy use for the same work load. Given the high cost of energy today, SmartAct®-1 has a 'lifetime cost' lower than other manufacturers.
SmartAct®-1 is configured to between 40 - 100Nm. It has delivered significant high growth for our company with 90% of the first 2 years planned production capacity sold. We seek to capitalise on this to exploit, further market opportunities for both lower and higher rated versions currently known as SmartAct®-2 , the small scale version and SmartAct®-3 the larger scale version, expanding our range to cover 5Nm – 600Nm.
Our patented5 SmartAct® actuator clearly aligns with both Energy and Eco-Design Directives, demonstrating 75% operational reduction in energy use over competitors, 75% reduction in raw material use (copper magnets and other metals) and a significant weight reduction which in turn reduces the quantity of fuel used in shipping.
SmartAct® integrated smart power and control systems ensure our actuators are capable of operating with any global electricity supply, overcoming disparity of regulations between member states, individual nations and other global territories highlighted in the Eco-Design Directive. SmartAct®-1, launched just last year is now used in automotive, marine and other transport sectors and is finding use in robotics, manufacturing and security applications. The potential of the system, given the global prevalence of electrical actuators, is huge.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

This can be summarised as follows,
1 Initial engagement with 12 Collaborative Partners that represent a good cross section of local national and international distribution and sales companies for electric valve actuators.

2 These are,

Severn Glocon UK & Global Subsea Oil & Gas + Water treatment & Distribution
Wolseley Group Plumb & Pipe Centres UK + Ferguson in USA
Georg Fischer Swiss & Global Largest plastic valve manufacturer in World
Aliaxis FIP Italy & Global 2nd Largest plastic valve manufacturer in World
SAFI Valves France & Global Plastic Valves for Agriculture & Specialist applications
KSB France & Global World No1 Butterfly Valve manufacturer
Dirchsen Denmark & Scandinavia. Specialist valve package distributor
Ebora Holland & North West Europe. Specialist package distributor
Zoedale UK Specialist valve & actuator package distributor
Zipson UK Specialist valve & actuator package distributor
Eurovalve UK & Europe Specialist valve & actuator package distributor
Bifold UK & Global Subsea Oil & Gas + Chemical refineries & pipelines

3 Prepare detailed specifications for Small & Large Actuators following collaborative meetings with the above 12 companies. In addition, a specification for a Subsea version of the large actuator following meetings with Severn Glocon in particular. So 3 new products in total.

4 Design & 3D Print prototypes for the Small Actuator

5 Design & 3d Print prototypes for the Large Actuator

6 Design and fabricate from metal and acrylic prototypes for the Subsea version of the Large Actuator. Hyperbolic test this to 80 metres working depth.

7 Second round of meetings with the 12 Partners to further explore pricing, quantity commitments, market positioning, agree campaigns, and in some cases look at own branding by SACO for their sale & distribution.

8 To date the orders laced for Q1 2017 delivery amount to approximately €1.35 Million from these Partner companies. Severn Glocon have introduced a client who has forward ordered for supply of Subsea units worth approximately €2 Million per year for at least the next 10 years.

9 Potential for 3 new Patents and 1 new trademark has been identified so far through the project.

10 Interview for, select and employ 6 new staff. These are full time positions and include one new Director of Sales. We have also engaged two new part time staff who will work towards becoming full time over the next 12 months.

11 Preview the 3 new products at various meetings, conferences, trade shows and exhibitions through the year.

12 Engage with a number of other major customer clients through this activity. These include,

Praher Plastics of Austria who also trade extensively in Asia
HORA of Germany who also trade in mainland China & India
Cambrian Valves in the UK who are major suppliers of fire safety systems in Europe
Apreco in the UK who are major suppliers of HVAC and fire safety systems in Europe

13 Engage with other interested parties/commercial companies who have been alerted by our raised profile as a result of the H2020 project. These include companies from the wider world of motors & generators in automotive, wind & wave generation and aerospace. The largest of these is probably GE Aerospace who are working with us now on a project to introduce electric actuation in to aeroplanes to replace hydraulic systems.

14 Engage with The British Business Bank to secure access to funding for Phase 3. That is full commercialisation at the end of the H2020 project. They have agreed to support us in the purchase and or building of scaled up production facilities (factory) as we enter Phase 3. The initial plans for this amount to approximately €7 Million.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The raising profile of the company has lead to us being approached by a number of interested parties to develop our core technologies for the use in other industries, these include automotive and wind power applications.

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