Reimagining power. That’s what EMROD, with the help of Callaghan Innovation, is trying to do with their long-range wireless power transfer technology.
- Wireless power startup EMROD is developing technology to transmit high-power electricity safely over long distances without the use of power lines.
- The business has worked with Callaghan Innovation from its earliest stages to bring its innovation to life, accessing the agency’s R&D expertise, grants and connections.
- EMROD has partnered with Powerco, one of New Zealand’s largest electricity distributors, developed an indoor prototype system, and is on the cusp of demonstrating the technology’s use in the field.
Callaghan Innovation has been critical to EMROD. We’re the sort of business that doesn’t really fit the mould for venture capitalists, which is traditionally how technology gets commercialised. Without Callaghan Innovation’s support, it wouldn't have been feasible to advance this startup in New Zealand.
- Greg Kushnir, Founder and CEO, EMROD
Wireless electricity. Envisioned more than a century ago, but now it’s Kiwi company EMROD that is on the brink of making it a commercial reality.
EMROD was born out of a desire to commercialise a high-impact technology that would have a positive global impact. In fact, for serial entrepreneur Greg Kushnir, it was while reading about Tonga, specifically how the island nation spends 20% of its GDP on diesel to be able to fuel generators for electricity generation, that he further pondered the potential for disruption in the field of electricity transmission.
“Not just Tonga, but many island nations and remote communities have ample sustainable resources, such as wind and sun, to generate electricity, however it’s the infrastructure required to transmit that electricity that’s expensive. But wireless technology enables people to connect to those energy sources in an easy and cheap way,” says Kushnir.
Kushnir approached Callaghan Innovation from the beginning, which included meeting with distinguished scientist Dr Ray Simpkin, an innovator and researcher who specialises in applied electromagnetics.
From here, in 2019 Callaghan Innovation carried out a feasibility study for EMROD to determine if there was a business opportunity to pursue, and how it might be done.
“No one else in New Zealand could have done that for us, and there are very few organisations in the world that would have been willing to do that for a startup,” says Kushnir.
“Having the stamp of approval from Callaghan Innovation also opened many people’s eyes to the potential of the idea.”
Given its unique nature, proving to potential investors and customers that the concept could work was crucial. To do so EMROD needed to build a demonstration system, and a grant from Callaghan Innovation enabled them to do just that.
This caught the eye of electricity distributor Powerco, which then provided funding alongside another grant from Callaghan Innovation for EMROD to produce a bigger prototype system.
EMROD’s connections to Callaghan Innovation have increased over time. For example, after a secondment at the business, Simpkin transitioned to become its Chief Science Officer. As well, other employees have joined the business via recommendations from, or connections to, Callaghan Innovation.
For Kushnir, Callaghan Innovation’s support has been crucial to bringing such an audacious idea to life.
“Callaghan Innovation has been critical to EMROD. We’re the sort of business that doesn’t really fit the mould for venture capitalists, which is traditionally how technology gets commercialised. Without Callaghan Innovation’s support, it wouldn't have been feasible to advance this startup in New Zealand.”
After successfully building their proof of concept, then working with Powerco on the larger demonstration system, the next step for EMROD is to deploy it in the field. For Powerco, this would help connect small, remote locations to the grid, which can be logistically tricky and expensive to do via power lines.
“When that goes out into the field, it will be the first commercial long-range power transmission system in the world,” says Kushnir.
Successfully eliminating the need to use wires to transmit electricity opens up a vast number of potential applications, says Kushnir. This includes everything from ensuring continuity of supply during outages of traditional transmission networks, to powering electric shipping, to keeping drones in the air indefinitely.
As well, as part of a separate project, EMROD also plans to deploy the system in New Zealand to transmit electricity from a new solar farm. The next step from there will be demonstrating other potential uses overseas.
“It will also progress another aspect of our mission, which is to show that New Zealand is at the leading edge globally of sustainable technologies.”