Novocastrian engineers Joss Kesby (middle), James Bradley (left) and Sam Evans (right) are the three founders behind the startup Diffuse Energy. With the help of a device called a diffuser, the three have discovered a way to double the energy production of standard wind turbines.
The idea has been around since the 60s, and Joss spent much of his PHD coming up with a way to crack the relationship between the turbine and the diffuser.
“Most people can understand a normal open-bladed wind turbine. A diffuser augmented wind turbine has a cylinder around the blades giving it an aerodynamic shape. What that diffuser does is it draws more air through the turbine, so it makes the turbine more powerful.” James says. “And so for a smaller size turbine, we can get a bigger output than a similarly sized turbine that doesn't have that diffuser in it.”
Joss has a PhD in mechanical engineering and is the managing director of the startup. Despite his many options to teach in the field, he’s always been passionate about renewable energy. He wanted to commercialise his research but he didn’t know where to start.
“I was having breakfast with my family, and I found a flyer for the Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) Hub on Hunter Street,” Joss says. “Basically, that started the whole journey to get to where we are now.”
He went to a Startup Stories event and heard Heath Raftery from Newie Ventures speak. He loved the presentation and wanted to get involved.
“I was talking to Siobhan Curran (I2N Manager) at the time and she said, ’Oh, you're a researcher? You should really go and check out CSIRO's ON Prime program,’” Joss says.
CSIRO’s ON program explores commercialisation pathways for research discoveries. Unable to join as an individual, Joss set about securing team members. James and Sam were two of his colleagues at the University of Newcastle who ended up being perfect collaborators.
“I managed to convince them to come on board as part of our team for the pre-accelerator, ON Prime, and we had great time. Found out some pretty good learnings and good market fit for our turbine. Then I applied to ON Accelerate,” Joss says.
CSIRO’s ON Accelerate is a structured accelerator program for research teams to validate and develop high potential innovative ventures. They “shorten your path to impact, by focusing on your business model, market validation, capital raising and storytelling.”
From ON Prime to ON Accelerate, the momentum behind Diffuse Energy could not be more charged. The ON programs provided seed funding and Joss was recognised as the program participant with the most entrepreneurial capacity, receiving a $30,000 scholarship to attend Stanford Graduate School of Business. He’s heading there in July.
Diffuse Energy have also attracted support and funding from the state government. “We have been successful in our application to the NSW Government’s Minimum Viable Product (MVP) grant which has allowed us to have all of our manufacturing processes in place, so that once we've had a successful trial following that grant, we can just press the go button,” Joss says. “Basically, we've proven up the simulation method, the technology, now we're on the verge of getting a properly manufactured product to our customers. And that's a whole different ballgame once you're at that level. It's a really exciting time, at the moment things are progressing really well.
Wind turbines are just a small part of their future plans - they have big goals to achieve in the next 12 months, and they believe if they can meet those then they can make a real global impact. They’ll look to expand into larger international markets, such as South East Asia, India and Europe, and beyond that they have other opportunities for their core IP. Their initial products are wind turbines, but their design technology is applicable to any system that uses fluid, whether it be air or water, to rotate another system or vice versa, for example: Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems for large buildings, industrial ventilation and even cooling fans for personal computers.
“Currently we have a wind turbine that is up to twice as efficient as our competitors, and it's quieter and safer, and we're going to get them into the market. Ultimately, we want to become a renewable energy company that provides systems to people to allow them to become entirely energy independent. Not only that but also to feed energy back into the grid.” Joss says. “We see wind turbines as our beachhead product; we want to tie them in with other renewable systems to allow people to go off-grid completely or produce their own energy. We've seen solar panels and batteries. What other renewable generation may be out there? We love all that, and we want to become a part of it.”
Diffuse Energy have propelled to success quickly, and it couldn’t have happened without the supportive innovative ecosystem in this community. To learn more about them, visit their website.
Listen to Joss Kesby's founder journey by downloading the Welcome to Day One podcast episode here.