In a new content series for Aeristech, we've been interviewing members of the Aeristech team on what it's like to work at the business. Meet Luke Read, our Head of Research and Development.
Q: What is your role at Aeristech?
A: I look after the R&D department, which is a small group of engineers looking at innovation and how we can we progress the technology. Basically, we consider how can we make things smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper.
Q: How long have you been with the company?
A: 10 years.
Q: What kind of career path has led you to your current position?
A: I started in defence with the MOD, but found the pace too slow. So I began looking for a start-up I could join and was lucky enough to find Aeristech. I started as a mechanical engineer and soon became interested in the magnetics of our products and the general motor design.
This gave me a good overview of the product that the company was looking to design. From there, I began leading teams and eventually ended up looking after the whole R&D team.
Q: What do you find exciting about working at Aeristech?
A: Air compressors sound quite boring, but are very technically challenging. They spin very quickly, typically at 120,000-150,000 RPM. So we’re taking something that’s cutting edge and trying to make it into an everyday product, like something you might use in your car. We’re also trying to develop the hydrogen economy.
Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: There’s no such thing as a typical day – and that’s a good thing! We have the challenge of helping to make air travel and vehicles sustainable – that’s our job. Trying to progress a product inevitably involves challenges and finding ways to overcome them, so a typical day involves solving problems. Plus we’re creating products to support the hydrogen economy.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected the way the company operates?
A: Quite a lot of collaboration is needed between the mechanical, electronic and software teams. In order for collaboration to happen, people need to be in the office up to a certain point. People want to be on site, and we’ve allowed for that as much as possible while respecting social distancing.
But there have certainly been some advantages to the pandemic. Tools like Zoom and Teams allow collaboration to happen virtually, which gives us the confidence that it will work with people further afield. To produce our products, we may need to use technology that the UK isn’t particularly strong in. The new working practices we’ve introduced in response to COVID-19 have given us the confidence to go to specialists in places like the US and Switzerland. It’s slightly odd that we know these people well without ever having formally met them, but the pandemic has accelerated our ability to collaborate as it’s forced us down that route.
It’s also allowed us to recruit from around UK, instead of just in our local area. Although we haven’t recruited from outside the UK yet, I can’t see why that wouldn’t be possible at some point in the future.
Q: What does 2021 have in store for Aeristech?
A: We’re looking to significantly increase the power levels of our prototypes and we’ll also be making big improvements in capabilities like quality control and processes. Generally, we’re moving from a start-up mentality to one of a more established company. As the hydrogen economy has picked up, it’s given us the resources to develop the company and establish departments focused on quality control and processes. We’ll be looking to develop those in the next year and generally increase our power capabilities.
Q: Where do think the company will be in 10 years’ time?
B: Power electronics generally get smaller and more efficient, which leads to product size and costs decreasing. So fuel cells will become a much bigger part of our lives. Cars with internal combustion engines won’t be available to buy from 2030, so fuel cells are likely to play a more significant role. That will lead to greater public knowledge of fuel cells and, in turn, hopefully greater awareness of our company and what we do. Fuel cells should also have started making inroads into the air travel industry by then.
Q: Finally, what are the current opportunities at Aeristech?
A: Lots! We’ve almost doubled in size in last year. The UK has been quite ambitious with its emissions-reduction targets and we’ve been able to take advantage of that to grow the company. We’re looking for engineers who want to use cutting-edge technology in a “normal” way, as well as people who want to follow prototype development all the way through to a product development level in what is currently a very immature industry.
If you join an established firm, your job role might not change very much for the next 10 years. But at Aeristech, the change is likely to be much more constant as we’re always modifying the way we do things and looking into new industries.
Also, anyone with ambition joining now can make their mark in these early stages. You’ll have the chance to generate new IP and introduce something new that could be used in the final product.
As we continue to grow, we're looking to hire more people that are interested in making a difference and being at the forefront of innovation. Learn more about joining Aeristech here.