No buyer found for world-leading energy technology firm Applied Superconductor Ltd

The Blyth-based firm had received multi-million pound funding, including £1m of Regional Growth Fund money in 2012

Business Secretary Vince Cable, visites Applied Superconductor Limited at Blyth on 4 August 2011
Business Secretary Vince Cable, visites Applied Superconductor Limited at Blyth on 4 August 2011

A buyer has not been found for a Blyth-based firm whose technology had once promised to lead the safety and stability of UK power networks.

Applied Superconductor Limited (ASL) was closed in 2013 after fund-raising hopes collapsed, leaving the firm to fall into administration, and dashing hopes it could prove an international success story for the North East.

The Charles Parson Technology Centre-based outfit, which started trading in 2004, developed world-beating technology which reduced surges in power supplies caused by short circuits, by regulating current flow.

It was the firm’s intention to provide technically and commercially viable solutions to network operators and power generators to reduce the risk of damage to their networks, caused by faults in the current.

ASL had received substantial funding, including £1.4m in 2007 from a group comprising North Star Equity Investors (NSEI), NEL Fund Managers and an Austrian fund called New Energy, as well as follow-on funding of £600,000 in 2010.

The firm was also allocated £1m from round three of the Regional Growth Fund in 2012, and hosted a visit from Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Administrators from restructuring specialists Baker Tilly were appointed on December 20, 2013 after the company failed to secure further backing from its existing investors.

Shareholders had been banking on the success of a third party exercise with a “large network operator” – but when this fell through at the end of 2013, they pulled out.

The company was closed and assets sold on to an undisclosed buyer. Documents from 2013 show the firm held tangible assets of £31,014 in 2012, coupled with £1.08m of intangible assets.

Operating as a loss-making business since its inception, Applied Superconductor owed “substantial sums” to its creditors.

This week the firm was placed into liquidation to allow a dividend to be paid to unsecured creditors. In 2013 the figured owed to this group stood at £811,641.

In 2012 ASL had acquired US-based Zenergy Power, an AIM-listed developer of high temperature superconducting materials, along with a number of patents relating to commercial “fault current limiter” technology.

Zenergy undertook research and development activities and was re-branded under the ASL name, before closing at the same time as its parent’s administration. 13 staff were made redundant as a result of ASL’s closure .

Superconductor fault limiters (SCFLs) provide means for electricity distributors to manage problems caused by anything from equipment failure to lightning strikes affect their systems.

By acting as both a superconductor and a resistor as circumstances require, and allowing energy flow in two directions, SCFLs provide network managers with a low-cost flexible solution.

The systems also allow a growing amount of renewable energy generating equipment to be connected to the energy the distribution network.

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