Martin Bloom, Group CEO at Intelligent Energy has significant experience in building high growth technology companies across a range of sectors. He has strong connections in Asia, particularly in China.

Non-executive Director of ReneSola Limited (formerly Chairman until March 2016). Non-executive Chairman of MayAir Group plc.

Vishal Sapru (VS), Research Manager for Energy & Power Systems Group had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Martin Bloom (MB), Group CEO with Intelligent Energy.

VS – Can you provide our readers a brief overview of Intelligent Energy (IE) including the vision behind its formation and its current role in the market?

MB – Intelligent Energy is an energy technology group that began operating in 2001. However, we have a 30 year history going back to our roots at Loughborough University in the 1980s. Initially formed as a University Spin-Out in 1995, the Company’s vision was to commercialize its hydrogen fuel cell technology across a range of sectors and applications. Today, while this aim remains fundamentally unaltered, it is more focused; the Company is engaged in selling its core fuel cell stacks and systems to customers, while pursuing Joint Development Agreements where they make commercial sense. We believe there is demand for our fuel cell stacks and modules so we are targeting the commercial markets where our technology can be incorporated into commercial products. We bring clean and reliable energy to people around the world.

VS – Please describe your product/technology/solution for our readers?

MB – Intelligent Energy is commercializing its proprietary Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Air-Cooled fuel cell technology. Our fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity, with pure water being the only emission. We deliver clean energy solutions for the distributed energy, diesel replacement, automotive, and aerial drone markets.

VS – Considering the current market what are some of the challenges IE is facing and what strategy is in place to overcome those?

MB – It is vital that companies like Intelligent Energy understand the energy marketplace and respond accordingly as it is a dynamic and fast moving environment. We have recently introduced a collaborative, commercially focused structure to the business to maximize commercial opportunities, achieve revenue, and build the business.

VS – What is the unique value proposition of IE and what are your key competitive differentiators?

MB – Intelligent Energy is not just a technology company but also an energy product company. We deliver clean energy solutions for our target markets through the development and manufacture of Air-Cooled fuel cell stacks and systems. These are modular and scalable across a wide power range for multiple applications. After 30 years we have mature technologies that are commercially ready and can offer unique products and solutions. We are operating across multiple sectors in various geographies with a number of international partners and customers.

One of our key strengths is that we are an intellectual property rich company with over 1,800 patents (including registered designs) granted or pending across 450 patent families. Innovation is the lifeblood of our business, our research and engineering teams are dedicated to developing cost-effective, market-focused, robust new energy solution technologies that we can profitably deploy into existing and future mass markets.

VS – What is your strategy in regards to offering best value to customer for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors? if any?

MB – Intelligent Energy’s Air-Cooled fuel cell systems are field proven in demanding applications. The modular nature of our technology allows for scaling from less than a watt to 20 kWs or more to meet customer requirements. Our systems utilise carefully selected components and proprietary operating strategies to maximize performance and minimize both system complexity and cost. While we believe batteries have their place in the future mix of energy, a fuel cell can deliver far more in terms of longevity of operation. For a business that needs their energy to be continuous, a fuel cell, which is highly efficient and can be applied to diverse applications, is by far a better value proposition.

VS – Continued innovation is the key to success in this growing industry. How is the process of innovation managed at IE?

MB – Intelligent Energy’s prime focus is to deliver the Company’s technology to its customers; as part of this we place huge importance on innovation and continually improve to maintain technological advantage over competitors, both in the fuel cell industry and the wider power market. We employ highly skilled and experienced scientists, engineers and technicians who are at the forefront of developments in the fuel cell industry and who are well placed to make practical implementation of the Company’s innovation pipeline.

VS – What do you want the company to accomplish in the next couple of years and how would you define success for IE?

MB – Intelligent Energy is structured with a rapid lab-to-market delivery platform. Success in the coming years would be demonstrated by building the business, by monetising our world-class technology, by product delivery and an increased commercial output demonstrating shareholder value.

VS – What is your key value proposition that provides your firm a major competitive advantage over other players in the industry?

MB – Intelligent Energy began life in the 1980s as a fuel cell group at Loughborough University and has the benefit of 30 years history in this field. The workforce is enormously experienced and represents one of the world’s leading concentrations of fuel cell talent and expertise.

Intelligent Energy’s Air-Cooled fuel cell stacks and systems are designed to be scalable across a wide power range of less than a watt to 20 kW and more. This encompasses a wide range of product applications from UAV systems to prime power and range extension for automotive to diesel replacement stationary power systems for microgrids or emergency power. The core fuel cell technology is fundamentally the same, it just differs in scale.

VS – Could you elaborate on the acceptance or adoption of your product / technology / solution in the marketplace and are there any positive client testimonials that can be shared with us?

MB – One example of a successful implementation of our Air-Cooled fuel cell systems relates to the telecommunications sector in India. In the 2015/16 timeframe Intelligent Energy had seven systems in operation across multiple telecom tower sites in Western Uttar Pradesh, which provided primary or backup power for over 50,000 hours. This yielded a tower uptime of close to 100% and saved 64,000 litres of diesel, eliminating 183 tons of carbon dioxide.

In early February 2017, it was reported in the Evening Standard that our fuel cell technology will be at the heart of a fleet of scooters to be used on London’s roads as part of a hydrogen fuel cell technology fleet trial with the city’s Metropolitan Police.

Later that month, we announced a significant stationary power deal with US-based Luxfer-GTM Technologies as part of a growing strategic relationship in the development of a line of integrated fuel cell products. The first order of 600 units is to integrate Intelligent Energy’s low power 1 kW Fuel Cell Modules (FCM) into Luxfer-GTM’s Zero-Set Lite portable, zero-emission light towers and will also see Intelligent Energy mobilise its global network to assist sales of Luxfer-GTM’s products internationally.

More recently we announced we had signed a deal with US based PINC to deliver fuel cell systems for UAVs.

VS – Do you foresee the acceptance of your product/technology/solution in the marketplace to have an influence on the direction of the overall market going forward?

MB – Intelligent Energy is one of a number of companies world-wide helping to drive the adoption of fuel cell products. With our partner Suzuki we are leading the way in the introduction of fuel cell powered two-wheeled vehicles, such as the FC Burgman scooter, which will be fleet trialled in London by the Metropolitan Police. We achieved considerable success in India where our stationary power systems successfully provided power to the telecom sector and we are one of only a very few companies worldwide to have successfully demonstrated that fuel cell technology can significantly extend UAV flight time in what is predicted to be a multi-billion dollar market for UAVs.

VS – As a general conclusion, what do you think the future holds for such solutions and, more specifically, what role can we expect IE to play in shaping the future of the industry?

MB – The energy market is fragmented and offers many opportunities. Many companies are moving toward hybrid systems and are willing to invest in and adopt new technologies. Intelligent Energy can play a major role in this new energy ecosystem offering clean and efficient energy solutions across in particular the stationary power, automotive, and drone markets.

VS – What are your company’s marketing and product positioning strategies? Do you plan to form any strategic alliances with other client companies?

MB – Intelligent Energy’s marketing and product positioning strategies are aimed at accelerating the market deployment of our technologies and focused on those technologies that are closest to market and ready to deliver revenue growth. The strategies themselves vary according to the sector or partner/customer in question. In the automotive sector, IE is partnered with the Suzuki Motor Corporation, working toward range of opportunities both in Japan and beyond. For the aerial drone market IE’s fuel cells provide a unique solution in providing extended flight times; more than three times of that when compared to the performance of batteries. In the Stationary Power sector, diesel replacement and hybrid microgrids offer global opportunities for hydrogen fuel cells against a backdrop of heightened concerns about carbon footprints and ever increasing air pollution.

VS – What is unique about your company in regards to offering the best and differentiated service experience to customers?

MB – As we move toward the productisation of our technology we anticipate more customers coming to us. Currently, we offer a tailored service to our customers who have the reassurance of knowing our team of highly skilled engineers is available if required. I previously mentioned our workforce represents one of the world’s leading concentrations of fuel cell talent and expertise – this fact alone makes us unique and well placed to deliver to our customers.

We also are represented on a number of industry bodies and have strong links with the major fuel suppliers and these can be called upon to support our customer offering where applicable.

VS – Please describe the importance and focus of your company toward building and strengthening the brand equity of your offering?

MB – We are focused on changing the way people think about and connect to energy. That can only be achieved when we continue to build upon our decades of ground-breaking innovation to deliver the highest quality solutions to market. This means being agile and flexible to move with the changing dynamics in the markets around us – from delivering hydrogen fuel cells in large formats to power telecoms towers, cars, or lighting towers, to smaller form versions of the technology to power devices such as UAVs or portable power. As we move toward productisation of our technology we will ensure our brand is synonymous with quality, innovation, and first class customer service helping other brands lead the way with new technology in their industries.

VS – What kind of customer feedback mechanism do you have in place to ensure that the product development and innovation matches market and customer needs?

MB – We work closely with our partners and industry groups to understand customer pain points with their current power solution so we can ensure fuel cells offer a better, cleaner alternative to their incumbent power. We also work with all of our customers to fully understand their requirements to make sure our solutions meet or exceed their needs and keep open lines of communication via their assigned Account Manager.

VS – How do you compare yourself with top competitors in regards to offering Best-in-Class solution, with a full complement of features and functionality?

MB – Intelligent Energy considers its Air-Cooled fuel cell technology to be Best-In-Class. In one of recent orders we displaced the customer’s existing fuel cell provider.

VS – What is/are unique features of your product/technology that address unmet customer needs and competitors are unable to replicate and replace?

MB – Intelligent Energy’s fuel cells offer extended run times, high fuel efficiency, and zero pollution across a wide range of sectors and applications. Our proprietary technologies are protected by over 1,800 granted and pending patents (including registered designs) as well as the know-how and in-house knowledge acquired on our 30 year journey to date. Customer requirement for our products is growing and we are implanting a strategy now that will see Intelligent Energy able to scale up rapidly to meet increasing demand. We also know that fuel cell technology is a new one for many of our customers and we are putting steps in place to ensure we can help and advise them on all they will need to know, whether that is training for their employees or access to hydrogen or particular light weight cylinders.

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About Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

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