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UCL spinout commercialises hydrogen as an affordable clean technology

Hydrogen fuel calls have long been seen as a vital clean energy source, but been too costly to produce. A UCL spinout is helping to change that.

The Bramble Energy van, a green and white van.

5 November 2021

Spun out from Imperial College London and UCL, Bramble Energy first developed their highly flexible fuel cell technology as part of the Carbon Trust’s Polymer Fuel Cell Challenge.  

Dr Tom Mason, from UCL’s Department of Chemical Engineering, worked on the project and is now Bramble’s CEO: “Bramble’s co-founders, Professors Anthony Kucernak and Dan Brett recognised that one of the barriers to the commercialisation of fuel cells was cost. In a nutshell, you need a bespoke factory to build them.” 

The answer, Anthony and Dan realised, lay in the printed circuit board industry. By creating products based on printed circuit boards, Bramble plugged into an existing global manufacturing base, as well as an incredible potential advantage in pace.  

As Tom explains: “Everything about the printed circuit board technology is digital. If you want to change it, it’s as simple as changing a file. We can conceivably turn around any design from concept to physically testing a stack within 10 days.” 

When COVID forced Bramble to leave their lab space at UCL, the then team-of-three moved to Tom’s garage. They went onto successfully close a Series A funding round of £5.1 million. In six months, they set up a new 13,500 square foot hydrogen-safe facility from scratch, and grew the team to 23. 

Their first product, a portable fuel cell with a 15W output, launched in July 2021. The portability and low running costs of the fuel cells also make them an attractive clean energy option for developing countries. Three further products are now in the pipeline. 

The business was supported by UCLB, the commercialisation arm of UCL and part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise. The team received funding from the UCL Technology Fund and knowledge exchange funding through UCL Innovation & Enterprise.  

In February 2022 Bramble Energy closed a £35m investment round, representing a major clean tech investment for the UK and positioning the company to be a global player in the industry.

Read the full story on the UCL Innovation & Enterprise website.

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