How Wales became the natural growing ground for renewable energy company Minesto

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Founded in 2007, Minesto is a renewable energy company extracting energy from ocean currents generated from the tide. Headquartered in Sweden and with operations in Wales and Northern

Ireland, the company has been active in the UK for more than 10 years. “The UK has among the best tidal resources in the world, which makes it a very interesting and relevant market for us,” says Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto.


“We made a classic start-up journey from proving the principles of the innovation, to attracting some initial capital to prove the physical principles,” Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto explains when looking back at the company’s journey, which started in Gothenburg in 2007. “Our first contact with the UK was rather early on when we realised that the tidal currents that hit the continental shelf in the narrow straits in the Irish Sea, and in Scotland in the north, are among the best tidal resources in the world.”


Long tradition of marine energy in the UK

According to Martin, the tidal technology sector was basically born in the UK. “Already in the 1970s, some first-generation technologies started experimenting with demonstration installations. There was an emerging supply chain that was experienced with the technology on a demo-scale. So, it was rather natural to look in this direction when we set up our first ocean test facility in a beautiful place called Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, where we have been active now for 10 years,” he says.


In 2014, Minesto started engaging with the Welsh Government and the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), which had announced an ambitious ocean energy investment initiative together with the European Union structural funds. With the ambition to do a build-out in North Wales, the company was granted funding in 2015, which Martin describes as a triggering milestone to be able to put Minesto on the NASDAQ stock exchange. “We were able to match European Union grant injections with equity injections from the capital market in Stockholm, which allowed us to start building our first commercial scale device and to set up our office in the port town of Holyhead, the largest coastal town on Anglesey, the island in North Wales.”


Backbone of operations

Today, Minesto employs 25 people in the UK, of which 20 are based at the facilities in Wales. “This is where we build our prototypes. We also have an operations team with backgrounds in marine operations that supports our other sites, such as the one on the Faroe Islands.” Martin describes how the company made significant progress last winter when a village on the Faroe Islands was symbolically lit by using tidal energy. “This is very much thanks to the team in the UK, which constitutes the backbone of operations wherever we go in the world.” Minesto is currently in discussions on how to collaborate with different constituencies to do a similar project in North Wales and have its site connected to the electricity grid.


An easy step

The heritage from the offshore sector, the tradition in marine energy and an existing supply chain, have all been key elements for Minesto’s expansion to the UK – so has the availability of the right talent and competencies. “There is a tradition of collaboration between the UK and Sweden in many areas with jointly owned companies,” Martin says. “Also, the culture and language, together with the accessibility, made it an easy step for us to take.”


Even though the UK’s exit from the European Union has caused some initial challenges, Martin believes that there might be some post-Brexit opportunities ahead for the sector. “There is now a situation where marine energy is picking up pace in the European Union. At the same time, the supply chain knowledge and momentum is in the UK. This can develop into a healthy competition on who is going to take the market lead. We can benefit from the momentum in both the UK and in the EU.”


"The language, a high level of professionalism and work morale, make it easy to get complex tasks organised and delivered in the UK."


Cultural differences based on trades rather than national culture

A strong culture and a background from the Swedish side of the business to run projects, has meant making some adjustments to fit in the UK context. “We have a very high-level, engineering-based organisation in Sweden, and operationally experienced people with marine expertise in the UK. The cultural differences are perhaps not based so much on national culture, but on different trades in that respect,” Martin says. “With the headquarters in Sweden and the UK office in Wales, there is also a dimension of two small countries collaborating rather than Great Britain and Sweden. We are also in Taiwan and the Faroe Islands, and it can get significantly more complicated than the UK-Swedish dimension.”


Ambitious green energy agenda in the UK

Martin says that the green energy agenda in the UK is ambitious, and that the CFD (contract for difference) set up of market-based subsidies in the UK has a lot of merits. “I think the UK Government has done well in trying to adopt the more mature renewable energy sources of solar and wind into that context, although there is some work needed to stimulate the emerging green technologies such as ours.”


Part of the UK energy agenda is to stimulate locally produced electricity, rather than imported electricity through pipelines across the sea, which puts Minesto – with its tidal technology – in a prime position. “Since we are able to generate locally produced electricity, security of supply and local content is easy for us to demonstrate, which are important factors in the UK energy policy sphere.”


Do not let Brexit stand in the way

According to Martin, the UK is a great place to be active in from a Swedish perspective, with many opportunities to attract resources, technology, and collaborations. “The language, a high level of professionalism and work morale, make it easy to get complex tasks organised and delivered in the UK. My best advice is to not hesitate and to not let Brexit be the reason for avoiding the UK. It is going to open parallel routes to market, and it will be a complimentary resource base just being within the UK.”


Solid commitment to the UK

With several years in the country and substantial investments made in the UK operations, Minesto’s commitment to the UK is solid. “This is our closest significant market. We don’t see ourselves as a Swedish company exporting to the UK. We are a Swedish UK-based company with a collaborative set up.”



About Minesto


Year of establishment

Sweden: 2007 / UK: 2011

Headquarters

Gothenburg, Sweden

UK operations

Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland

Holyhead, Wales

Number of employees

More than 50 in total, of which

25 in the UK


Key sectors and opportunities for Swedish business

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Clean growth & Smart City technology

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Life Sciences:
Healthtech & medtech

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Tech: Fintech & games development

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Advanced engineering:
Electric vehicles