Founder of the Month June: INERATEC – Innovative Reactor Technology

INERATEC develops a container-based compact system that enables liquid synthetic fuels to be extracted from small and medium-sized gas sources. Renewable fuels are created from biogas. This way, fuels can be produced wherever they are needed. The compact systems developed by INERATEC represent a new technology within chemical process engineering that distinguishes itself from large chemical plants where this process took place until now. In an interview, we asked the team of INERATEC about the idea, the startup time, and the future prospects.

Team von IneraTec

Team of INERATEC

What does your company stand for?

INERATEC designs, produces, and sells turn-key container-based compact systems that are equipped with an innovative microstructured chemical reactor. Thus, INERATEC offers a technical solution for compact and decentralized creation of liquid synthetic fuels from small and medium-sized gas sources. In doing so, it is insignificant whether the gas comes from fossil or renewable sources. The INERATEC systems transform not only natural gas but also biogas, gas from purification plants, or landfill gas into CO2 neutral green high-performance fuels. We stand for an entirely new and disruptive technology in chemical process engineering, away from chemical plants on enormous scale, towards modular technology and charming solutions. Thus, we also contribute our part to the success of the energy revolution (German: Energiewende), and we are proud of that.

 

Where and how did you get this brilliant idea?

After nearly 10 years of foundational research at the Institute for Micro Process Engineering (IMVT) we have achieved a completely new degree of compactness and process intensification with our chemical reactor technology. This allows us to integrate the process into a common 40-foot container and transport it to the location of use. Then we quickly realized what a tremendous potential such a technology has. Gases are created in small to medium quantities in countless processes and are only optimally used in exceptional cases today, for instance when there is a useful application for heat loss in electricity generation in combined heat and power plants (CHP). It was clear to us all that the startup of INERATEC was the logical consequence since we want to get this technology ready for the market and series production.

 

How did your founding team come together?

Peter has been a scientist at the IMVT since 1997. He is now a professor and chair of the department of Chemical Energy Storage at the institute. During the course of their doctoral theses, the chemical engineers Paolo and Tim joined in 2008 and 2011, respectively. In the following years, the idea of a startup emerged more and more clearly. Tim had already gained a lot of experience in the area of Fischer-Tropsch process through his study trip to South Africa and Paolo created the technical basis for the foundation of INERATEC during his postdoc. Philipp, who studied industrial engineering, perfectly complements the team on the business level. In April 2014, the final startup quartet had been found.

 

What would you say are the benefits of being your own boss?

The freedom to make your own decisions and develop your own strategies is priceless. We are a young startup, the intrinsic motivation and the creative solutions of the entire INERATEC team stimulate us. A dynamic, rather small team can quickly advance innovative ideas and spread suitable concepts effectively. But with all that motivation, it’s also nice to be able to plan your work time flexibly. Classic 9-to-5 workdays do happen, but usually it’s hard to break away from work. Building INERATEC is simply too much fun.

 

What do you think are the properties that one should have to be a successful entrepreneur?

Clearly: curiosity, determination, the ability to learn from mistakes, and of course a certain amount of willingness to take risks. After all, as a team we aren’t taking a beaten path, but are choosing new ways.

 

What would you term as the hurdles on the way to a successful business? Where did you get support?

By winning financing through the program “Junge Innovatoren” of the Baden-Wuerttemberg State Ministry for Science, Research, and the Arts, we already overcame a large challenge. The next challenge will be financing the first container plant. To do this, we hope to win an industrial partner/client. We will not be able to avoid outside financing.

By participating in different competitions, we already had the opportunity to build important contacts to the financial world. For instance, in February 2015, we were awarded “Best Business Idea” at the “Green Innovation and Investment Forum” in Stuttgart. In Karlsruhe, we are also very well linked up with other spin-offs and startups and it is easy to exchange ideas.

 

How did you deal with the large workloads during start-up?

We are still in the middle of the time of high efforts in work, but the team is great and we divide the work as best possible. This way, we can plan for the future proactively. We of course discuss important aspects with the whole team and everyone listens to each other. Everyone works purposefully to come up with the best possible realization of our idea. Of course we try not to neglect our private lives. It is not rare that ingenious ideas were found in calm times. So it’s also not so bad if you sleep a few hours less some nights.

 

Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

Of course it is always easy to say that from our perspective: If you have a good idea, realize it. After all, you do have to carry a certain degree of self-motivation and willingness to take risks. An image that we started to like is: Picture a goal and run towards it with all your force and speed. We try never to lose sight of this goal and not to spend too much time with other tasks that arise.

 

Quick overview:

  • Founders: Tim Böltken, Philipp Engelkamp, Peter Pfeifer, Paolo Piermartini
  • Founded in: 2015
  • Homepage: www.ineratec.com
  • Contact: info@ineratec.de
  • Fields: Environment, energy & water

 

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