Seal deterrent scoops £100,000 prize

A COMPANY pioneering a high tech seal deterrent has won a £100,000 prize in a Scottish innovation competition.
The Scottish Edge awards, aimed at identifying and supporting Scotland’s up-and-coming innovative and entrepreneurial talent, invited Oban based OTAQ to pitch at the finals of the event in Edinburgh this week where over £1.27million in grants and loans was awarded.
Commercial director Chris Hyde led the firm’s pitch on its launch product, a deterrent system called SealFENCE which uses underwater acoustic technology to prevent seals from attacking fish farming sites.
From 239 original applicants, just 22 of Scotland’s most promising entrepreneurs were invited to pitch their businesses to an expert panel of judges in order to win up to £100,000 each in grant funding and loans.
Just 15 of the start-up and growth stage businesses were successful, with only OTAQ and two others awarded the full amount applied for.
Hyde said: ‘This award is going to make a major difference to our company and will mean that we can accelerate our export plans significantly, introduce our product to more markets and recruit more staff this year.
‘Our company vision is to become world leaders in aquaculture technology and specifically in acoustic products such as predator control and monitoring systems.
‘Our key area of expertise lies within underwater acoustics and sonar and we intend to build a reputation as experts in this field within our industry.’
Evelyn McDonald, CEO of Scottish EDGE, said: ‘We’re absolutely delighted to be able to support OTAQ as part of our eighth competition round.’
She said the judges were impressed with the high standard of the pitch and see great potential in OTAQ’s product.
‘We look forward to supporting the business as they develop and to welcoming them into our network of high-profile alumni.’
Sir Tom Hunter, renowned Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist, said: ‘Some 100 per cent of the net new jobs in the UK will come from businesses less than five years old – the winners at Scottish Edge are the job creators of today.
‘We need to invest in them and nurture them in any way we can to build our economy and to provide the quality jobs our people deserve.
‘We need to build a far greater pipeline of high growth businesses if Scotland is to succeed. Scottish Edge is one critical element of that pipeline and I commend all the entrants – not winners yet – and the winners for their commitment to building great entrepreneurial businesses.’
Hyde added: ‘The entire Scottish Edge experience has been invaluable.  The process and feedback from the judges has really made us focus on our business and how best to communicate what it does; this has put us in very strong position for achieving our vision.’
Picture: Chris Hyde receiving his company’s award from Sir Tom Hunter