While Africa’s venture capital ecosystem is still in its infancy, the co-founder of one of the world’s most innovative start-ups, Brayfoil Technologies, says AfricaArena’s inspiring work will supercharge growth in coming decades.
Matthew Bray is the co-founder and chief executive of the cleantech start-up which recently won the innovation category at AfricArena’s Grand Summit. Held in Cape Town, the event attracted high-flyer start-ups and investors from across the globe.
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Brayfoil Technologies also won AfricArena’s pitch battle presented as part of VivaTech, an annual technology conference dedicated to innovation and start-ups in Paris, France earlier this year.
“We were immediately taken with the quality of the companies and investors they bring together,” says Matthew in an interview with Ventureburn. “[AfricaArena’s Grand Summit in] itself was inspiring and useful, providing exposure and support for entrepreneurs like us.”
Started in 2017 by Matthew and Robert Bray, Brayfoil Technologies has fast become a force to be reckoned with in morphing aerofoil research and design. The start-up provides unique capabilities to implement breakthrough technologies for efficiency gains and cost reductions, particularly in the wind turbines, aerospace, sailing and automotive industries.
Matthew explains, “Wind turbines are getting larger, and that drives lower energy costs – bigger turbines are better turbines. As the blades get longer, however, they face exponentially increasing loadings on their structures, driven primarily by the aerodynamic shape of the blades.
“Brayfoil is building the future of blades: patented biomimicry-inspired structures that allow the shape to change in operation, like a bird’s wing, in a simple and commercially viable way.”
This, he adds, is a new way to build larger turbines and lower costs of energy, increasing the impact of this industry. Brayfoil Technologies’ funding partners to date include Katapult VC in Norway, the U.K. Net Zero Technology Centre and the Technology Innovation Agency in South Africa.
Bright future awaits Brayfoil Technologies
“We face big engineering challenges in scaling up our technology from the eight-metre long blades on our pilot to 80-meters and beyond that are the industry standard, but we have a driven team, strong backing by experts in the industry and the support of organisations like AfricArena to help us get there,” says Matthew.
He furthermore describes Brayfoil Technologies’ big win as the most innovative start-up at the Grand Summit as a great honour.
“We were immensely grateful. To be in such an innovative group and be recognised for our work was a great honour. Because of the deep-tech nature of our work, we’ve been working quietly on our tech for many years to get it to this stage, and the majority of our partnerships are in United States or European forums, so it was great to receive some recognition closer to home.”
Looking to the road ahead, Matthew says Brayfoil Technologies is now finishing its first pilot turbine of its unique technology. It will be opening a seed round early in 2023 to take its technology to market.
“We want to be an example of what science-based businesses born in Africa can achieve on the world stage,” he says.
As a cleantech start-up, they are making crucial advances in reducing adverse environmental impacts.
“Renewables provide a unique opportunity for Africa to leapfrog the use of polluting and extractive fossil fuels in its development, to provide power to the continent to benefit its people, rather than shipping oil and gas to other markets with little benefit flowing to the broader population.
“Our work is looking to solve some of the foundational problems in wind energy. How do we make turbines larger and therefore make energy cheaper? We aim to improve wind energy broadly at the engineering level, and thereby increase its adoption worldwide, and Africa needs to position itself to be a bigger part of that with enabling policies for scaling renewables like wind and solar.”