Skeleton Technologies Has One Goal — to Save Energy
Text by Life in Estonia, photo by Arno Mikkor
Estonian company Skeleton Technologies will replace space satellites with more energy-efficient ones. Aside from aerospace, Skeleton’s ultracapacitors are used in other sectors, such as motorsports, heavy industry, maritime, renewables and grid.
Skeleton Technologies is among the hundred most influential companies on the Global Cleantech 100 list offering innovative and clean energy solutions. For the second year running, key people behind the company are ranked by Forbes among the thirty most successful young leaders in the world. The company has been shortlisted for the BusinessGreen Technology Awards and named Estonian national champion at the European Business Awards 2016. The company is also going to open a production facility in Germany to increase its production capacity tenfold. Millions and millions of euros were received through several investments during last year. All of that is only a fraction of the achievements that this Estonian company has accomplished.
‘Awards and being shortlisted for achievements is definitely not an aim in itself,’ says Oliver Ahlberg, the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Skeleton Technologies. ‘Our goal is to help our clients save energy and if this is considered so important that we happen to win an award every now and then it’s great. So getting onto the list of Global Cleantech 100 two years in a row is great and confirms that the activities of Skeleton have a global perspective.’
This year a record number of companies − 9 900 from 77 countries − applied to the prestigious Global Cleantech 100 ranking. The list, which only includes a hundred companies in the end, is made up of key players in the field of innovative, clean technology, whose activities are predicted to significantly influence the world’s development in the next 5-10 years. Like Ahlberg says, the Cleantech jury believes in Skeleton for the second year in a row.
After years of research and development, in 2009, young entrepreneurs Taavi Madiberk and Oliver Ahlberg decided to take the technology created by Tartu scientists into production. Today, the company Skeleton Technologies is proud to call themselves Europe’s leading manufacturer of ultracapacitors. Ultracapacitors are high-power energy storage devices with more than 100 times higher power density for more than a million life-cycles, compared with the best battery technologies.
Last year Skeleton Technologies managed to receive a 13 million euro injection, led by the Malaysian venture capital fund FirstFloor Capital with additional investments from Estonian companies UP Invest and Harju Elekter. The company has also attracted large support from Enterprise Estonia.
This was followed by the great news in 2017 that the European Investment Bank will support the Estonian company by giving a 15 million euro loan at favorable conditions. The loan has a European Strategic Investment Fund (EFSI), also known as the Juncker Plan, guarantee. Together with previously attracted capital, the total sum of financing for Skeleton Technologies is 41.7 million euros − a result which not many companies can boast. The company is developing at a rapid speed and has no lack of ambition. The funds are meant to bring graphene ultracapacitors from high-end sectors to the mass market, while moving higher up the value chain with turnkey energy storage solutions. The EFSI-backed financing will allow the company to better serve its customer base, which includes German automotive manufacturers, leading global engineering companies and the European Space Agency (ESA). The latter is one of the rarest clients a company can have. The cooperation between Skeleton and the ESA goes back some years already. ‘It is already our third continuous project with the European Space Agency and it is going really well. According to current plans, we will test our ultracapacitors in space in 2018,’ says Ahlberg. This means that Skeleton could replace some of the batteries currently used in satellites. Ultracapacitors are 60 times lighter and 30 times more efficient than those batteries. ‘This deployment will provide an extremely high profile showcase for our technology’s capabilities. At the same time, we see rapidly increasing customer traction and a growing order book down on the ground, from the motorsport industry to renewable energy applications.’
Speaking of servicing customers in the German automotive industry, Skeleton’s main operating market is Europe and many clients are based in Germany. Skeleton’s sales team and production unit are based in Großröhrsdorf, near Dresden. The company plans to open a new production unit for the mass production of carbon electrodes. Nearly 60 new jobs will be created there by 2019. ‘Saxony has a highly developed industrial infrastructure and skilled labor force because it is home to various high tech production facilities, for example Globalfoundries, which produces semiconductors. It should also be mentioned that the Saxonian Development Bank already approached us in 2012 and offered a 50 percent grant to cover the capital costs of setting up the factory. This is a significant sum, indeed,’ says Ahlberg. Although the factory is quite automated and only approximately ten jobs are needed for operations, Skeleton will hire people in Germany for other positions, such as sales people who will deal with the transportation and automotive industry. The main focus of the production unit near Tallinn, Estonia is for R&D and pilot production.