BOC UK (The Linde Group) - HYMERA
Product & Market Development Manager, Fuel Cells
BOC HYMERA: Clean, silent affordable power for off-grid applications. HYMERA is the world’s first commercially-viable, low-carbon, hydrogen fuel cell generator – a flexible alternative to small petrol and diesel generators or large battery banks.
It was named after the Ancient Greek goddess of light, and the beginning of the name plays on the “Hydrogen” element.
What was the in-market status quo before the proposition was created?
Petrol or diesel generators give out a large quantity of fumes and noise, whereas as a hydrogen fuel cell generator HYMERA is clean and quiet, and at low power it is extremely economical.
One of the alternatives to petrol and diesel is batteries, but they have limitations on run time and charge time. HYMERA is designed for today’s low efficiency off-grid applications, for example, cameras, surveillance equipment, rural broadband and environmental monitoring, which require low power for a long period of time. Although the product has many potential applications, we target a number of different sectors including the construction & rail sector for use with products like temporary lighting, companies needing rapid-deployment surveillance cameras (events and property management), as well as remote monitoring for low power applications in the utilities sector and off-grid offices.
What challenges were you facing as a business?
In the UK, BOC, part of the Linde Group is facing a decline in its core markets of cutting and welding and chemicals processing, as countries like the UK are becoming less industrial. Therefore it’s critical for us to find new markets for our core capabilities, which include compressed gas.
What impact has the proposition had?
This is the first application of its kind anywhere in the world so we’ve created a whole new market. We are pleased with HYMERA’s sales to date and its popularity is growing all the time with the growing need for low power energy sources. In fact, we expect there to be multiple new uses for the product in the future. We’ve already won a couple of awards for the product including the Supply Chain Green Solutions Wared from Skanska.
What approach did you take when creating the new proposition?
We inadvertently used a fast to market methodology. It was done because there wasn’t really an alternative – we didn’t have a lot of resources to develop a new product and we were not quite sure what applications would be viable and we wanted to go to market quickly, so we developed a minimally commercially viable product and launched it.
As the market didn’t exist already, it was difficult to do any market research so we thought it was critical to get the product into customer’s hands. Often companies are guilty of overdeveloping products, spending millions of dollars on R&D, and never actually bringing a product to market that a customer wants. We were selling HYMERA from day one.
It’s gone through multiple iterations already, and we are continuously developing it, but once you have customer feedback you understand where the market is and what it needs and can improve the product accordingly. It is essential to have deep customer contact.
What challenges did you overcome?
Big companies are set up so that lots of people have set individual responsibilities in their own areas to make it work. However, in order to launch something new we needed to do everything from within a small team, as we were doing something new and different every month. It was definitely a challenge to do something new, as big companies like ours are not geared up to change quickly.
What advice would you give to other corporate entrepreneurs?
A small multi-skilled team with the willingness to learn can do 90% of what the customer/product needs much more efficiently than spreading it out across multiple teams, especially when they include working across multiple geographies.
What was your project highlight?
My project highlight was our first major order from a well-known company, which was 20 systems from Severn Trent Water. This was the first positive endorsement that we had something that someone other than us thought was a good idea and wanted!
Who are your project heroes?
Some of our customers have been heroes, one of our customers TCP saw the product, liked it and have supported us through thick and thin. We’ve worked with them to improve the product together.