Kiwi fusion scientists get $10m to solve global energy question
OpenStar Technologies’ seed investors, led by Outset Ventures, have compared its potential with Rocket Lab.
The following includes excerpts from Will Mace (NBR)
OpenStar Technologies has emerged from stealth mode after closing a US$6.2 million ($10m) seed round led by Outset Ventures and supported by Icehouse Ventures, Blackbird, Radar, Ngāi Tahu Holdings, K1W1, and Aspire.
Now OpenStar has let the sun shine on its venture, releasing a statement today explaining its not-insignificant mission of harnessing fusion to revolutionise global energy supplies, as led by co-founder and CEO Dr Ratu Mataira – a Robinson Research Institute alumni.
The startup had “quietly” opened the doors at its Ngauranga facility a year ago, and has since recruited 28 “hyper-specialised” staff to build “one of the boldest engineering prototypes New Zealand has seen,” it said today.
By the end of this year, it aims to have used its prototype technology to surpass other researchers “with half the money, in a fifth of the time”.
Outset Ventures partner Angus Blair has called OpenStar “undoubtedly the most ambitious startup to come out of New Zealand”, while Icehouse Ventures’ Robbie Paul put the company in the same world-beating category as Rocket Lab, in terms of commercialising an area typically dominated by governments.
Fusion involves the merging of light atomic nuclei – such as the isotopes of hydrogen – to make new, heavier elements and thereby produce the kind of energy we see emerging from the sun and other stars.
Fusion has been a key field of research for years, to help humanity unlock an efficient and effective energy source, and while New Zealand scientists and the Robinson Research Institute have played a huge part over the years, Mataira’s particular approach is giving fresh hope of a breakthrough.
OpenStar’s point of difference to other fusion companies is in the design of its reactor.
According to the Fusion Industry Association, there are 35 publicly active, privately funded fusion energy companies around the world, OpenStar noted. The ‘leader’ – Commonwealth Fusion Systems – has raised more than US$2 billion, and there are six others that have attracted more than US$200m, the company said.
In an information document alongside today’s announcement, under the heading Impact to New Zealand, OpenStar noted that its strategy was “highly likely to retire risk far quicker and far cheaper than our competitors.
“That being said, in a New Zealand context, the capital intensity of this business is unprecedented in the private sector.
“OpenStar’s seed round was roughly US$6.2m, which is being deployed on an 18-month timeline.
“Looking ahead towards the Series A capital raise and beyond, OpenStar will be deploying hundreds of millions, or possibly billions of dollars of capital throughout this decade. It is OpenStar’s expectation that it will become an international business at some stage on this timescale.
“While many look at the success of Rocket Lab as being the beginning of an NZ space industry, it is actually a wider effect, of which OpenStar is another leap. The New Zealand tech ecosystem is maturing!”
Mataira credited his whakapapa with his single-minded quest for OpenStar. His grandmother, Dame Kāterina Mataira, received her knighthood for her efforts to save te reo Māori from extinction.
“If she could do that, what is the measure of what you can do in a single life? For our generation – for my life – that challenge is climate change and the future of human prosperity,” said Mataira.
“Fusion itself is only a technical solution, but these problems are more than technical. Saving te reo Māori wasn’t done via an app, AI, or government intervention – it was done by people coming together with a sense of responsibility, courage, and hope to protect what was most important to them. That’s OpenStar, and that’s me.”
07 August 2023
Knowledge at the Speed of Beer
Outset Ventures: Igniting Deep-Tech Innovation in New Zealand
Check out the full Op-Ed on Outset Ventures written by Sean Simpson, the Founder and Strategic Advisor of LanzaTech.
In this Op-Ed, Sean Simpson discusses the vital role of community and conversation in fostering successful idea generation for tech entrepreneurs. He highlights Outset Ventures, a deep-tech incubator in Auckland, New Zealand, which not only provides purpose-built facilities but also serves as a campus where aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from each other. The incubator focuses on innovative deep-tech ideas, leading to the emergence of groundbreaking companies that contribute to the country’s economic growth. Outset’s proven model of community-driven support has propelled various start-ups to success, making it a key player in New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
23 July 2023
Zenno Announces $10.5 Million Seed Round To Pioneer
Auckland-based space-tech company Zenno Astronautics (Zenno) has announced a $10.5 million seed round.
The following includes excerpts from Zenno Press Release:
Based on the patented use of super magnets, the company’s satellite control and propulsion system is set to revolutionise the way spacecrafts navigate space and the impact they have on our planet. The tech enables completely fuel-free satellite positioning; as well as fully autonomous, precision interaction between satellites (critical for debris removal, servicing and construction in orbit), leading to world-first electromagnetic shielding of spacecrafts and the humans inside them from radiation damage.
Raised off the back of a multi-year sales commitment of several million dollars, including a committed constellation (a system of satellites that work together to achieve a purpose), by well established industry veterans, New Zealand’s GD1 (Global From Day One) and Nuance Connected Capital led the round, with additional investment from US based Shasta Ventures. NZGCP, K1W1, European billionaire Wolfgang Leitner, Alt Ventures, Enterprise Angels, and NZVC also participated.
Getting objects to move around in space is hugely challenging. There’s nothing to push on and
never enough power or fuel to make things move as much as you need them to,” explains Max Arshavsky, Zenno Founder, CEO and CTO.
“What Zenno has built will enable easy, seamless movement in space without the need for power or fuel and while taking up twenty times less space than traditional propulsion systems. The technology that has the potential to support the future of the space industry for 100 years to come in a transformative, planet friendly manner,” believes Max.
The seed round will enable Zenno to launch the technology in-orbit on a technology demonstration mission in Q4 of 2023.
9 August 2022
Startup Advisors Council
The Startup Advisors Council was formed by the Government in 2022.
The following includes excerpts from Hon Dr Megan Woods media release
The Government has appointed a Startup Advisors’ Council to help identify and address the opportunities and challenges facing high growth start-up businesses, Research, Science, and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, and Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash have announced.
“Startups are major contributors to the knowledge and innovation that we know are fundamental to New Zealand’s economic recovery as well as resilience, ongoing economic growth, the creation of highly skilled jobs, and to people in Aotearoa enjoying a high quality of life,” says Megan Woods.
“Startups are often high tech, rapidly growing businesses which compete in the global market. They can generate significant levels of research and development and drive economic growth, sometimes developing entirely new industries.
“The Startup Council will help us to better understand the challenges facing startups and the actions we need to take to create an even better environment for innovative startups to thrive. I have seen the value of the approach through my work with the Small Business Council, which produced a strategy in 2019. The government backed these recommendations through immediate changes, and the strategy continues to influence Government policy today.
Seven members will sit on the Council for a term of 12 months. The Council will be chaired by Phil McCaw, founding partner at venture capital fund, Movac and former chair of the Angel Association New Zealand.
The members of the Council include:
- Suse Reynolds, Chair of the Angel Association New Zealand
- Marian Johnson, Chief Executive of Ministry of Awesome
- Grant Straker (Ngāti Raukawa), co-founder of the A.I. language translation platform Straker Translations
- Mike Carden, founder of a number of start-ups including Sonar6 and Joyous
- Imche Fourie, co-founder and Chief Executive of Auckland-based Outset Ventures
- Carl Jones, Managing Partner of WNT Ventures.
More information on the Startup Advisors Council, including the terms of reference, can be found on the MBIE website.
26 May 2022
Vertus Energy and Biogest embark on European Plant Pilot Project
Vertus Energy is partnering with Biogest to demonstrate its BRIO solution at commercial scale in Europe.
The following includes excerpts from Robin Whitlock (Renewable Energy magazine)
The pilot will begin in 2023 within the testing facility and move to the demonstration unit in 2024. This demonstration unit is the start of the BRIO commercialisation, showing investors and other potential partners that BRIO can be implemented at commercial scale.
This is the first step in achieving the transition to permanent renewable energy. Once commercially enabled, Europe will have an energy option that is domestically sourced and less vulnerable to price changes based on international politics and environmental change.
For households, this could mean cheaper energy bills that are less likely to fluctuate. With the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, this is a significant step forward for the implementation of more renewables in the energy mix and the decarbonisation of our energy matrix.
BRIO is an external modular unit that easily retrofits into existing anaerobic digesters and Vertus has proven in their industrial laboratory in New Zealand that BRIO delivers 60 percent more energy, 3 times faster from the same amount of feedstock processed.
Vertus’ Bio-Catalytic platform controls the bacteria behaviour inside the main anaerobic digestion tank to accelerate reaction speeds and production yield.
“Our new partnership with Vertus Energy will focus on enhancing existing plants to be more efficient and cost effective” added Georgi Kirov, Senior Sales Manager from Biogest. “BRIO aims to be the perfect retrofit option for biogas plant owners. It is being designed to easily retrofit into their existing plant and could be a game changer for the industry by improving the performance of waste in our plants. It’s exciting for me, as I have seen BRIO in their industrial laboratory in New Zealand and this partnership could lead to it performing at full scale.”
02 November 2022