Established in 2012 by Terry and brother Neil, Proterra Energy designs and installs micro hydro systems for small businesses.
To begin with, smaller micro hydro systems did not have the advantage of larger schemes; because there was no cost effective way that their owners could monitor performance accurately, the result was the potential for lost revenue.
“If there isn’t a process or product existing, you need to come up with it,” said Terry of Proterra.
“We came up with a telemetry system idea internally that we thought could work so contacted HIe for support. Through their Innovate Your Business programme, we managed to create a faster and more thorough development process.”
Proterra’s involvement with HIE's innovation programme has created new possibilities for product development. We can now better meet specific client needs.
Critically, HIE’s support gave the business time to focus on the project. “When you’re a small business, one of the biggest challenges is to stop thinking about what you’re doing at the moment and think about something new, especially when it’s not immediately creating revenue.”
To create the telemetry system, the company had to work with new materials and products that were unfamiliar; HIE’s support meant that Proterra created the time and expertise necessary to work on product development, while IYB provided the finance of new materials.
For the company, it proved a crucial opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day running of the business, and think about innovation. HIE’s involvement considerably reduced the risk of exploring a new approach. “Innovation for us is all about solving problems,” Terry says. “We innovate in order to deliver solutions.”
There are now three schemes running with the telemetry system; feedback has been very encouraging, and a number of clients have indicated that they would like to keep them.
By embracing innovation in the form of generating a new product, and developing the design and build process, Proterra has created a new revenue stream and diversified its field of operations.
Proterra is now working with HIE’s team of innovation specialists on research and development (R&D) support and has secured funding to further develop the hydro scheme system. It’s clear that while innovation creates a positive cycle of creative thinking and specific focus, the IYB mindset is also constantly opening doors to new directions for exploration. As Terry puts it: “While you’re on that journey of innovation, there’s every possibility that HIE can help you start a different journey.”
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