World Class Connections
This year's Subsea Upcoming Company has created a watertight business concept.
Owe Hagesæther, CEO NCE Subsea, Olof Nilsson, Project Manager WiSub, Mark Bokenfohr, CEO WiSub, Jarle Daae, Chairman UTF, Margunn Bjørnestad, Regional Bank Manager, Sparebanken Vest
The award «Subsea Upcoming Company of the Year» is granted every year to a young company in the subsea industry. This year the award was granted to the Bergen-based company WiSub for their Maelstrom High Performance Pinless Subsea Connector.
The award is granted by NCE Subsea and Sparebanken Vest, CONNECT Vest and the Underwater Technology Foundation, and is presented at the Underwater Technology Conference in Bergen in June. – WiSub has developed unique, groundbreaking technology of worldwide importance, says head of the jury and CEO at NCE Subsea, Owe Hagesæther. – This is a great innovation and a significant contribution to the industry.
WiSub was also presented with the "OTC 2015 Spotlight on New Technology Award" earlier this year, a feat matched only by one other entrepreneur company. – This is one of the industry's most coveted awards: few Norwegian companies have done this before, says Hagesæther.
Jury member and regional bank manager for corporate markets at Sparebanken Vest, Margunn Bjørnestad, is also excited about this year's winner. – WiSub develops innovative technology that is relevant to the entire subsea sector. They have received international acclaim and are a company with great growth potential. They have a good product and have proved that they have what it takes to succeed in the industry.
Sparebanken Vest has a long tradition of supporting regional businesses. Bjørnestad says that the bank aims to contribute to the development of this type of high-tech business in Western Norway. – Subsea is a very important industry in our region.
We have a good collaboration with NCE Subsea. It is a forward-thinking organisation with global ambitions. To us at Sparebanken Vest, it is important to keep up with what goes on in our region to continue to offer good advice to our customers and partners in the future.
CEO at WiSub, Mark Bokenfohr, is very pleased with receiving the award and recognition from the cluster. – Being named Subsea Upcoming Company of the Year gives us good publicity as an up-and-coming entrepreneur enterprise, and helps boost our self-confidence as a company. The prize money will also come in handy in our future endeavours, he says.
The story of WiSub began in 2010, when Mark Bokenfohr met Tomasz Ciamulski, PhD in microwave electronics, at an oil and gas conference in Bergen. Together they developed the idea and concept behind the Maelstrom connector. Five years later, the company is about to establish itself as an internationally recognised provider of digital underwater communications.
The traditional connector sockets that have been used in subsea operations until recently were easily susceptible to disturbance: water had to be kept away from the connection at all times to avoid short-circuiting. WiSub's Maelstrom High Performance Pinless Subsea Connector is an elegant solution to this problem, as it does not depend on direct physical contact in the connection itself. Instead, Maelstrom transfers high-speed data wirelessly through the seawater via microwaves.
With transfer rates up to 100 Mbps, the Maelstrom connector operates smoothly, unaffected by the harsh conditions in the deep seas. But even though they have already solved one of the industry's greatest technical challenges, WiSub does not rest on its laurels. – We are launching an upgraded product with a 1 kW connector in late summer, says Bokenfohr. – And we will expand our team: we expect to double our staff by the end of 2016.
WiSub has been an NCE Subsea member since January 2012, and has benefited from the subsea cluster's support. Since its founding, WiSub has received funding from The Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway, among others. In 2012 NCE Subsea provided pre-project funding that enabled the drafting of an R&D application to the Norwegian Research Council. Ultimately, The Research Council granted the company 10 million NOK.
Through the business development programme Subsea First Step, WiSub received advice on how to handle the business- and market-related challenges that new companies often face. – Subsea First Step is a fantastic programme that we would recommend all subsea companies to take part in, says Bokenfohr.
– One of our greatest challenges when we founded the company, was figuring out how to turn our invention into a business. First Step helped us determine how we could turn our idea into a marketable product. This was the first step in turning WiSub into a profitable business.