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Duncan Kerr, CEO at Aeristech

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Duncan Kerr: The company began with the desire to decouple a turbocharger into a turbine, electrical storage device and an electric compressor to reduce turbo-lag and reduce pollution at low engine speeds. First development was an electric centrifugal compressor powered by a high-speed motor and controller. Once that was accomplished the application to carbon-free hydrogen fuel cell systems was clear, requiring overcoming the challenge of implementing oil-free air bearings. Improving the power density and energy efficiency of electric motors has been the driving mission of Aeristech, made all the more important as we work to enable the hydrogen economy and Net Zero goals.

Great Companies: What are the various services provided by Aeristech?

Duncan Kerr: Aeristech designs, develops and delivers patented high-speed motors and controllers for oil-free air compressors. We develop these to partner and customer specifications.

Great Companies: What makes Aeristech different from hundreds of other similar service providers?

Duncan Kerr: We are different from other companies as we design controllers and compressors in synergy – most other companies either design compressors or controllers, but not both. Our patented control methodology also increases efficiency and reduces cooling requirements by reducing the number of active switching components and their switching frequency. Our team of dedicated and experienced engineers have the singular skills to meet the design requirements of air compressors for fuel cell systems, and they are adept at the improvement of performance and efficiency of high-speed motor and controller designs to keep on the cutting edge of the market.

Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Duncan Kerr:

  1. Pivoting from combustion engines to an emerging market like hydrogen fuel cells coupled with the pandemic has called for skilful leadership and ingenious engineering solutions to seemingly impossible challenges like an oil-free air bearings.

  2. We worked as a team, sought council from our experienced board members and applied our talents to sourcing and implementing the most dependable air bearing technology on the market which we then learned to assemble internally, driving down costs and reducing our carbon footprint at the same time.

  3. We also looked to our community, winning grants and earning key partnerships as we pushed ourselves to grow from prototyping to volume manufacturing, our current challenge.

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Aeristech?

Duncan Kerr:

  1. We have recently secured projects that require assembly and volume manufacturing at a larger scale than we have delivered previously.

  2. One such project is retro-fitting the iconic London red bus with a fuel cell, for which we have partnered with British fuel cell developer, Bramble, as well as Equipmake and the University of Bath.

  3. We are taking on new staff, skills and facilities to achieve this and in five years we will have the best fuel cell compressors made in Britain and in the international market.

  4. We plan to grow our revenue to £100m per annum in 5 years’ time.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Duncan Kerr: Fail fast. Don’t try to design the final product with your first prototype. Get something that works before perfecting cost. Consider everything as a learning experience, success and seeming failures. Be constantly learning and applying that knowledge to take every advantage of every opportunity that arises, and don’t be afraid to pivot.



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