Blyth-based Solar Capture Technologies specialises in the design, development and manufacture of bespoke solar power solutions. BQ caught up with CEO Steve Caseley to discuss what he loves about running a business in the North.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
We operate in the renewable energy sector and in the high-value manufacturing sector.
We design, develop, and manufacture custom solar PV modules and systems for a wide range of sectors from traffic management through to near space applications.
We believe we are one of the best kept secrets in the North East; every emergency roadside telephone installed across the UK is fitted with a solar module manufactured by SCT and 75% of car park ticket machines are powered by a solar system manufactured by SCT! Illuminated keep left traffic bollards are also fitted with solar power, all manufactured by SCT.
And what’s your USP? What makes you different; innovative?
Our prime differentiator is that we design a solar system to suit the exact needs of the customer, meaning we can produce any voltage and current requirement to suit the application need. This means that our systems work all year around - even in the North East!
What’s your role in the business and how did you get to where you are now?
I’m the owner and CEO. I’ve worked in the renewable energy sector for many years now as it’s my passion, it’s still a sector where it’s hard to operate a commercial business but very satisfying and rewarding.
The thought of producing energy directly from the sun - free, clean and sustainable - what’s not to like? I established Eaga Renewables installing renewable technologies as part of the governments Warm Front Scheme, then moved to the National Renewable Energy Centre to commercialise the large-scale testing for wind turbine blades and engines, also wave and tidal devices.
How would you describe your business to a novice?
We listen to our customers, then design a remote power solution to exactly fit the needs of the device that they are trying to power, using silicon solar cells.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I have a couple of business mentors, Jim Imrie, former MD of BAE systems and Richard Charnley, economist employed by North Star, who between them have the expertise I need to act as a sounding board for ideas on growing the business.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Protecting this business from collapse. The former owner was about to enter administration when I got involved, we managed to save jobs and start to commercialise the business.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We offer a value-added service, meaning that if we can be involved at the design phase if a new remote power requirement, we can provide advice on the most efficient and practical options for delivering power all year around.
What do you like about being based in the North of England?
It’s obvious, the people! Having travelled extensively with previous roles, sometimes spending more than 120 days overseas each year, I find the honesty and integrity and ability of my co-workers something very different, being able to rely on your team is essential for a good business.
Where do you see your business in five years’ time?
My ambition is to build a profitable sustainable business and share the profits with everyone who works at SCT. We have been through a very difficult transitional period changing the business from scientific research into manufacturing and this was only possible with a great team, I promised everyone when I became involved five years ago that I would share the profits once we became sustainable and we are almost there, so I very much look forward to being able to do this. We have built up a strong base of customers and have a game changing opportunity that would grow the business dramatically, however, its essential that we protect the existing base of business which has been so difficult to develop.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or innovators?
Be confident and get into the market. Discuss your innovation with potential buyers, establish the opportunity and if you believe in it, then make it happen. There will be people who say it’s too hard or can’t work, but if you believe it you can always find a creative way to bring your idea to life. Surround yourself with great people, spend time with them to listen to their thoughts and ideas, mentor them, reward them and share any benefits you can. Be a team player.
What are you looking forward to about the Northern Powerhouse Business Summit?
It’s an opportunity to put SCT on the map, we have a new innovative solar product called the Solar Energy Hub, it’s a vertically mounted solar module retained on an extrusion that contains batteries and electronics inside. It is a remote power system that can mount onto a lighting column, a wall or a roof, providing power for IoT gadgets, radar, CCTV, pedestrian counting systems, vehicle emission detection, in fact most city centre gadgets and devices. It looks great, not at all like a traditional solar product, it produces energy from the sun, so free, it works and its made in Blyth, Northumberland by local fantastic people
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