Best Practice Representative
Epoch Wires Award
2017 Parliamentary Review
Epoch Wires is a very new company, founded in 2013 with the aim of significantly reducing the cost of healthcare equipment and renewable energy products through creating a new superconductive wire. Though little-understood by the public, superconductor technology has many uses and is expected to trigger the next industrial revolution in clean energy applications, once it becomes more affordable. The technology is explained more fully below.
Our company has become the first to successfully commercialise the use of a superconductive wire using one of the cleanest and cheapest options available. It has the potential to slash the cost of wind turbines, medical MRI scanners, and energy storage and transmission systems. We produced our first superconductive wire by 2015, made from magnesium and boron, and the following year we manufactured the longest wire of its kind on Earth. This development has been ground-breaking, after many previous problems with this material prevented its manufacture at sufficient lengths and technical consistencies. We are currently taking a lead role in expanding our superconductive products throughout international markets, gaining a foothold in Europe and the Far East, tapping into these growing economies to integrate our latest hi-tech wires into superconductive equipment.
Given the prospective growth of Epoch Wires, we predict that over the next five years, the company will have a cumulative turnover of more than £30 million, while creating a further 35 jobs – both in the Cambridge area and throughout the UK – to expand our current small team of 10 people.
By basing ourselves in Cambridge, a city at the forefront of innovation, we have acquired access to leaders in the field of superconductivity, enabling the company to develop and grow. These resources allowed us to improve our product with scrupulous attention to detail, focusing solely on research and development until we could achieve guaranteed superconductivity throughout continuous rounds of testing. This has been spearheaded by Prof. Bartek Glowacki, who has applied his specialist knowledge based on decades’ worth of superconductivity research into creating the superconductive product we sought to develop. Complementing this approach, our board of directors – which includes Nuno Carvalho for the private investor, Bekaert – brings together more than 60 years of management experience, providing Epoch Wires with the expertise to commercialise our products. We are currently in talks with industry leaders in manufacturing medical MRI scanners, and have already established a strong relationship, with these firms – many indicate that they want to switch from their current, expensive superconductive products to our new, innovative and cost efficient design.
Applications for our superconductive wire
Our company’s superconductive wires have an extensive range of possible applications, ranging from the growing MRI health care market to the potential for wind turbine generators and we predict a wide array of other opportunities for Epoch Wires. The superconductive wire we can now produce – made from magnesium diboride (MgB2) – has overcome many challenges that mean it can be successfully integrated into applications throughout the healthcare and energy markets. The ability to produce such single wires at very great length has overcome a major limitation that previously prevented the adoption of this technology: an inability to create such wires at the length and consistency required to make the product commercially useful. Our success has opened up the potential of significantly reducing the costs of MRI scanners and wind turbines. Epoch has thus placed itself at the forefront of a unique superconductive wire manufacturing process that is unrivaled throughout the industry. This unique product is also capable of connecting large quantities of offshore wind-power generated electricity to consumers without any electrical losses, enabling the production of extremely efficient large wind turbines also capable of storing large quantities
of electrical energy.
The successful development of this superconductive wire has led to various forms of investment totaling around £2 million – from private investors, public bodies such as Innovate UK, Epoch has thus placed itself at the forefront of a unique superconductive wire manufacturing process that is unrivaled throughout the industry.
What is superconductivity?
First observed just over a century ago, superconductivity is the ability of certain materials at very low temperatures to allow electric currents to pass through cables, wires and magnets very efficiently, with practically zero resistance. This capacity produces potentially useful effects and applications. Traditionally, superconductors rely on liquid helium during this cooling process, but its expense and other problems inhibit its potential use. At Epoch Wires, we are working hard to solve this problem, with our unique superconductive material that can be cooled using much more cost-effective ‘pumps’ that eliminate the reliance on liquid helium.
Epoch Wires and Bekaert, a Belgian-based global company with 30,000 employees worldwide and an annual revenue of more than £4 billion. This has enhanced the technical research capabilities of Epoch Wires, helping us to perfect our manufacturing technology and products.
Advantages of our technology
The reliance on liquid helium has been a major inhibitor of the sustainable growth of large-scale superconductive applications. Since 2009, the price of liquid helium has increased by
more than 60%, while volatile supply conditions have caused temporary price surges of up to 250%. This trend is only set to continue with the imminent closure of US federal helium
reserves planned for 2021. Additionally, the limited availability of liquid helium in remote and less economically developed countries adversely affects patient access to MRI scanners. As a result, our liquid helium-free scanner will significantly enhance access for those in developing countries, enabling better, cheaper healthcare. Projects such as ITER, a collaboration
of 35 nations seeking to build the world’s largest magnetic fusion device to provide a carbon-free source of energy, rely on superconductive wires for their success. Similarly, the success of further European-wide renewable energy programmes aiming to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius will greatly benefit from using low-cost superconductive wires.
As a result, we have the unique opportunity to integrate our products into the MRI and energy market, eliminating the need to use liquid helium and to reduce the engineering challenges and financial barrier that may prevent the success of such projects. Epoch’s future Continuing talks with market leaders in the healthcare and energy sectors, mean Epoch Wires is well-placed for future success. Alongside this, its current application for the European Commission’s ‘Horizon 2020’ fund, an EU initiative to provide financial support for innovative and ground- breaking scientific discoveries, signals an exciting and global future for the company. In a post-Brexit Britain, the accessibility of such funding remains an open question. As a result, we will have to seek funding from sources outside of the EU, potentially turning to the UK government, further private investments or extra-regional bodies to continue
the strength of our research. While the scientific and technological background of Epoch Wires is vital to its success, our desire to tackle pressing societal issues ranging from low-cost healthcare to renewable energy provides a clear direction for the future. Given the nature of contemporary challenges – ranging from climate change to the rising costs of healthcare
Epoch’s technology will act as a facilitator in bringing about sustainable, low-cost change. Our technology has the potential ability to hugely enhance accessible, high-tech health care by dramatically reducing the cost of MRI scanners while also cutting the costs of renewable energy sources, such as the power generated by wind turbines.