Kjell Inge Røkkes Aker has launched a new industrial technology center in Bergen with five new companies under it.
On Tuesday, small tech company Prototech in Fantoft in Bergen will be transformed into Kjell Inge Røkke and Aker’s latest projects.
Fantoftselskapet became Aker’s platform for investments in technology and industrial materials, and changed its name to Clara Venture Labs.
The investment will be led by Prototech CEO Bern Skee, and the investment will be led by five companies under his leadership.
– This would be a billion dollar investment. Burnt Skee says a lot of capital and experience will be put behind the investment.
We plan to double the number of employees to more than 100 in a short time. In addition, we aim to employ several hundred in the manufacturing companies we set up, says Skeie.
He will build unicorns
Martin Beck-Holte, president of Aker Venture Capital and chairman of the new company Clara, believes Prototech was a “hidden gem” in Bergen.
They worked with techniques that would solve the problems we needed to solve. We’ll build these technologies into large, successful companies, Holt says.
The goal is to build the first northern European environment for industrial technology, to build an industrial unicorn, says Holt.
The Unicorn Corporation is a startup valued at more than $1 billion.
We will invest billions in the early years, says Holte, who adds that it will attract more investors as companies develop.
Blueprints for full-size plants
For some technologies, plans are already ready.
We’ll have a large-scale fuel cell plant in Bergen by 2025. We’re starting to look for sites, says Holt of Alma, which continues Prototech’s fuel cell technology.
For material company LayerOne, the company will build its first plant early next year.
It’s still early days in this process, but there will be hundreds of jobs at these companies over the next few years. We can say so, says Holt.
Space travel experience
Aker bought Prototech from Norce Institute this summer, of which the University of Bergen is the largest owner. Started in 1988 as part of the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, the company has extensive experience providing space travel technology.
In recent years, the company has developed new zero-emissions power and propulsion solutions, and Skeie has previously highlighted fuel cells for large ships as a promising area.
Where we are at the forefront of the path inside high-temperature fuel cells, which are flexible in terms of fuel, and can run, for example, on green ammonia. This summer, Skeie stated that this is very important in order to achieve zero emissions from large ships.
The technology was tested, among other things, on the naval vessel “Viking Energy”.
On Tuesday, Skeie said funding from Aker will be critical to future development, but he believes their employees will be most important.
– We might be able to get the money ourselves, but having about 30,000 good Aker heads behind us will mean we can get the technology out faster, he says.
New contract with Aker BP
At the same time that Clara is being set up, they announce an agreement with Aker BP and Eidesvik Offshore.
Alma Clara, which continues Prototech’s fuel cell technology, will supply fuel cells to two naval vessels operated by Eidesvik under contract with Aker BP.
– We will develop fuel cells and use them in two ships. Ships will be able to run on more fuel, but we hope to use most of the ammonia, says Karl-Johnny Hersvik, CEO of oil company Aker BP.
The two ships are the PSVs NS “Frayja” and “Viking Lady”. According to the plan, fuel cells will be installed from 2024/25, and will enter normal operation but no emissions after that. One year after this, Hersvik and Aker BP will evaluate the trials.
– Then we’ll look at this for the rest of the fleet, says Hersvik, who has already contacted Equinor, among other things, to establish ammonia as the new standard fuel for ships in the North Sea.
Gitte Gard Talmo, commercial director of Eidesvik Offshore, says collaboration with Aker BP is the right way to go.
If we are to manage this technological shift, we must have customers with us. I want to commend Aker BP for putting actions beyond words, says Talmo.
Foot in Bergen
Hersvik at Aker BP underlines the importance of this investment being made in Bergen. The reason is that this is where the expertise actually resides.
– Usually such companies appear in Oslo, but now we are in Bergen. “We focus on places where we can find good talent and good minds,” Hersvik says.
Aside from Aker Solutions, which has offices in Sandsli, the Aker Group has never had a footprint in Bergen. Holt, who was Aker’s chief investment officer for about a year, says the idea to buy Prototech came about because the technology the company developed became more important.
We are entering a period when this type of technology has its time. And getting a foothold in Bergen for Aker is something we strongly believe in. There are many good environments here, he says.
It will expand faster
Aker will primarily be responsible for corporate financing, but eventually other investors will be invited.
The rule of thumb would be for Aker to own 25 percent of the ownership, as stated in a letter from Chairman Røkke and CEO Eriksen to Aker shareholders. (see fact box)
Røkke and Eriksen justify the move by the fact that they have seen many opportunities in the past, and that access to people and capital means the company can expand.
– We are able to implement many projects involving private and public capital. The letter states our openness to cooperate with new partners and players, and to expand our investor base.
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