Press Releases

New University spin-out company develops novel solar power solutions – University of Reading

Release Date : 15 July 2004

A new spin-out company from The University of Reading, Whitfield Solar Ltd, has been established to develop and manufacture solar concentrators, a new approach to photovoltaic (solar power) systems which offers significant cost savings over standard solar power generation. The company's novel technology is the product of over 30 years of academic research by Dr George Whitfield and colleagues in the University's School of Systems Engineering, and is now set to enter the UK's rapidly expanding renewable energy market. Whitfield Solar's establishment follows a landmark investment by the Cascade Fund, a venture capital fund that supports the commercialisation of academic research at Reading and four partner universities in the South East. The team, whose original research was largely conducted with UK and European funding, first received investment in 2003 when the Fund managers, Generics Asset Management Ltd, backed a study to establish the commercial potential of the technology. Subsequent investment from the Fund, with additional support from the University, has now enabled the team to set up the company, which will be based at Reading Enterprise Hub, a business incubator on the University campus which offers an environment for growth for high-tech start-ups. The venture initially employed two people and has already created a third job. Dr Clive Weatherby has been appointed CEO and Dr Roger Bentley, one of the founding academics, has taken the role of Chief Technology Officer. Dr Weatherby, formerly Head of Technology at solarcentury and himself a graduate of the University, commented: "The Cascade investment represents a key milestone. It could not have come at a better time as the availability of highly efficient but cost-effective cells combined with low-cost optical elements gives us a real opportunity to halve the current cost of clean solar electricity generation." The spin-out process has been managed by the University's Technology Transfer Office, whose manager Dr Sue O'Hare commented: "It is very gratifying to see the first Cascade-funded spin-out company emerge from The University of Reading. The first company is always special but this one is particularly so, representing the culmination of a research programme carried out over many years. Working closely with the fund managers we have been fortunate to assemble an outstanding team with both the commercial and technical skills which will be needed to realise the potential of the research." The establishment of Whitfield Solar represents a key achievement in the University's ongoing strategic effort to nurture a culture of enterprise and commercial innovation within its academic community. Professor Tony Downes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: "This business is a genuine example of how academic research can generate new commercial opportunities and it very pleasing to see these scientists now taking the products of their research out into a competitive market." The University of Reading has recently won £2.4million of Government funding to further develop and expand its enterprise activities under the second round of the Higher Education Innovation Fund. The funding will allow the University to develop the necessary infrastructure to support the transfer of knowledge and technology from the research base into business and industry. End Notes for Editors Information on Partners Whitfield Solar Ltd - The University of Reading - CASCADE Fund - Generics Asset Management Ltd - Reading Enterprise Hub - The Casade Fund The Cacade Fund is an independent investment fund managed by Generics Asset Management Limited. The Fund was established to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and provide financial and business assistance to commercialise, together with the University Technology Transfer Offices, the inventions and ideas arising from the research undertaken in the five partner universities: Brunel, Reading, Royal Holloway University of London, Surrey and Sussex. Generics Asset Management (GAML) GAML is the FSA-regulated investment management company of The Generics Group Ltd., managing and maintaining investment assets on behalf of both external investment funds and the Group. GAML invests in technology-based opportunities and aims to make investments in enterprises to which GAML or other parts of the Group can add significant value and reduce the inherent technology risk. Sometimes, these enterprises are spin-outs of concepts developed with Generics by its own employees. University of Reading The University of Reading is an internationally renowned for excellence in teaching and research and one of the top 20 research powerful universities in the UK. The University offers a wide range of services and opportunities for business, including collaborative research, consultancy, access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, access to intellectual property and licensing, managed office space, incubation facilities, recruitment services and student placements and continual professional development. The University also hosts the largest and most successful Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (formerly TCS) Centre in the UK, supporting local SMEs in accessing University knowledge and technologies. For further information please contact Veronica Kay: Tel 0118 378 6161 Email


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