Dr Graham Foster, is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Marine Power Systems, with a passion for wave energy that stems from his love of surfing.
Here he tells us about his journey from the beaches of Cornwall to Swansea Bay, and envisioning a future where MPS technology supplies clean, renewable ocean energy into the grid.
"...Swansea Uni had a good reputation academically and didn’t disappoint socially."
What made you choose Swansea University for your studies?
“The decision to study at Swansea was quite a straightforward one for me; I grew up by the beach in Cornwall and wanted to stay close to the sea for my studies! Fortunately, Swansea Uni had a good reputation academically and didn’t disappoint socially."
Do you remember any role models from your time in Swansea Uni?
“I had a very good fluid mechanics lecturer called Roger Griffiths: he had a way of making his subject interesting, relating abstract problems to the real world in a humorous way, and my interest in fluid engineering has stayed with me ever since.”
Have you always had a passion for renewable energy?
“I’ve always had interest in renewable energy, been concerned about climate change, and wanted to work on projects that were positive for the world. The interest in wave energy specifically no doubt originated from being a surfer – there is no better way to experience the power of the ocean firsthand!”
“As a surfer it was clear to me that wave energy had huge potential and I would often mull over ways to capture the energy in an elegant way. After lots of failed thought experiments and discarded sketches myself and MPS co-founder Gareth Stockman felt that we had something good enough to take forward. From then on it was a case of growing the business and developing the technology in incremental steps, each bigger (and costlier) than the last.”
Tell us about your biggest success so far
“My biggest success so far has been the testing of a 1:4 scale prototype of our wave energy technology – it brought together many years of work from a great team of people. To get to this one recognisable milestone there were many smaller successes that go under the radar: raising finance, solving technical problems, and bring together a talented team being the main ones.”
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role and leading the company?
“I lead the technology development so naturally one of the most rewarding aspects of the role is seeing the technology come to fruition, but leading and developing the team, and steering the company strategically are equally rewarding.
“The next step is to demonstrate MPS’ technology at full scale and secure commercial sales of machines that supply clean, renewable ocean energy into the grid. When we have done this, I can truly look back and be happy that the journey has concluded successfully.”
Who is your inspiration?
“It would be easy to list obvious, high profile technology entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but I’m not convinced these type of people are great role models for most people: it’s clear they have completely sacrificed life in the work/life balance, and many (not Musk of course) don’t have the environment too high on their list of priorities. I think Yves Chouinard, Patagonia founder, has done a good job of combining business success with strong ethics.”