“The most common error of smart engineer is to optimise a thing that should not exist.”
These are the words of Elon Musk, no doubt a controversial public figure but few can question his position as a visionary disrupter, continuously pushing the boundaries of innovation from electric vehicles with Tesla to space exploration with SpaceX.
I certainly recognise that drive for technological disruption and challenging accepted constraints in HonuWorx, the subsea engineering company I’m privileged to Chair.
The reality is the financial and environmental costs of subsea robotic operations are exorbitant; relying on complex vessels staffed by large human crews and powered by carbon heavy fuels.
These vessels contend with weather limitations owing to the complex and risky launch and recovery on the surface.
The industry tendency has, as Musk alludes, been to optimise existing surface solutions.
This model of striving for a better version of the past is no longer fit for purpose in the era of low cost offshore renewable energy at scale.
That is why HonuWorx is working to radically upend the multi-billion-pound underwater services market by developing and integrating a suite of technologies that will drive down the costs and environmental impact of deploying and operating subsea robots in support of a range of activities, particularly offshore wind.
We plan to build a fleet of all-electric, fully subsea motherships with work-capable remotely operated vehicles launched from inside, to replace large diesel-powered support vessels that launch ROVs through the splash-zone.
This is enabled by HonuWorx’s unique intellectual property – a cloud-based software platform that enables geographically distributed stakeholders to supervise, control and collaborate with robotic systems from the safety of onshore control hubs.
The proposition at the heart of the HonuWorx offer is compelling. Firstly, under the stewardship of Chief Executive, Lee Wilson, our team has a proven track-record in delivering pioneering commercial offshore robotics including the world’s first truly autonomous underwater vehicle capable of close inspection.
Secondly, in deciding to locate our headquarters in Aberdeen, with its unique position at the overlapping centre of both the old and new energy industries, we are amongst an ecosystem that is second-to-none with a global reputation for subsea engineering and we can rely upon a first-class talent pool to support our growth.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the convergence of technologies embodied in our solution is truly unique and will deliver massive carbon and cost savings as policymakers and our customers rightly continue to demand an accelerated and affordable transition to net zero.
The HonuWorx Solution, The Loggerhead, is an all-electric deployment system that will deliver a 99% reduction in CO2 compared with existing technologies.
Supported by cloud-edge software architecture The Loggerhead will remain subsea at all times for missions that could exceed 1,000 kilometres, meaning it is not subject to the unpredictable risks of the weather and waves and will be able to operate port-to-port without a vessel.
Indeed, the ‘autonomous delivery and remotely supervised’ nature of this innovation means that more jobs will be based permanently onshore, which is particularly good news for high-skill technology-based job creation in Aberdeen and will further cement the city’s pioneering energy legacy with the next generation of talent in software and robotics.
I’ve had the privilege of working at the forefront of the offshore services and robotics sectors for a number of years and, as Founder and former CEO of ROVOP, the largest independent ROV company in the world, we created a fleet of more than 40 ROVs through the hard work of 250 employees operating from its headquarters in Aberdeen and bases in Houston and Dubai.
ROVOP was created initially to support the offshore wind industry, building on decades of experience in our oil and gas industry, anchoring supply chain innovation locally yet having a global impact.
Today, there is an undeniable sense of excitement at the sheer scale of the energy transition opportunity before us and our ambition at HonuWorx is to emulate and surpass what has gone before.
HonuWorx has a unique proposition and is a real game changer for the future of the sector.
The company is already successfully attracting talent with plans to treble headcount and attract inward investment of £30 million in the near term. We have a clear objective of achieving a fleet of 50 Loggerheads and a 20% global market share by the end of the decade.
HonuWorx was created as its founders grew frustrated optimising things that need not exist and we are working to deliver the very best version of the future of the sector. We do not currently have any plans to buy a social media company!