12TOZERO develops revolutionary HyFloat solution in Rotterdam

The success and the speed of the energy transition rests for a large part on new innovations being designed, developed, tested and brought to market. Many deeptech innovations originate at start-up companies, who can find it challenging to find the right environment, resources, networks and collaborations to bring their ideas forward and make a success of their innovation. International start-up 12TOZERO is developing their revolutionary HyFloat system in Rotterdam, in the midst of a bustling maritime ecosystem. We spoke to co-founder Michel Ingenbleek about their innovation and why Rotterdam is the right place to be for their company.

12TOZERO is an international start-up company, located at CIC Rotterdam in the iconic Groot Handelsgebouw building, right in the heart of Rotterdam’s Central District. The company was founded in 2019 by Jamie Frew (CEO), after he discovered a gap in the hydrogen value chain based on offshore floating wind development. Michel Ingenbleek and Simon Potter (CTO) joined Jamie the same year, forming the current team of 12TOZERO.

12TOZERO’s website states very clearly what is that the company is aiming for: ‘Our mission is to harness the vast potential of offshore wind to provide a reliable stream of hydrogen, at scale, and at low cost, to enable a fully decarbonised global energy system.’

At the core of 12TOZERO’s solution is the innovative HyFloat concept. This concept is based on the premise that by 2050, 2,000 GW of offshore wind power is needed in the global energy mix and that up to 50% of this capacity is expected to be dedicated to hydrogen. With 80% of wind resources located in remote deep water, it is a no-brainer that new technologies increasing the production, storage and distribution components of harvesting offshore energy have enormous potential.

Floating offshore wind, hydrogen production and storage

Michel Ingenbleek explains the HyFloat concept: ‘Offshore hydrogen storage is essential if we are to overcome availability and reliability concerns of industrial end users. In depth research and desk top studies all show this. Our HyFloat solution is a foundation design for floating offshore wind in which you can produce and store hydrogen within the foundation structure. It is a decentralized approach, it’s modular and it exists out of proven technologies. One could argue, well hydrogen can be made onshore with floating offshore wind energy. This is true, but with our uniquely cost effective value chain we can do it up to 30% cheaper and bring faster to market. With the energy transition really needing to happen yesterday, time and speed are of essence.’

Since the start in 2019, 12TOZERO have made some significant steps developing the HyFloat. Michel: ‘Our technical solution has gotten traction. We tested our first model at Marin and are now working on our second model together with Erasmus RSM and Hogeschool Rotterdam (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) and TU Delft, and we have a further international collaboration to be announced.’

Presentation video of the HyFloat concept by 12TOZERO

Rotterdam as logical home base

Collaborations are key for any start-up with the ambitions to gain a foothold in their specific niche market. This is no different for 12TOZERO and the aforementioned collaborations with some of Rotterdam’s esteemed knowledge institutes are testimony to this. Michel acknowledges that 12TOZERO purposefully chose Rotterdam to start and hopefully grow the company. ‘It is no secret that Rotterdam, and I am saying this as an Amsterdammer, as a port and hub has a global recognition and strong reputation, and we foresee that this will continue to be so especially in the maritime sector. Our collaboration with the top universities here has helped us immensely and we are pleasantly surprised by the level of knowledge available with the development of our MVP (Minimal Viable Product, ed.) and testing. Besides the universities, the network of energy companies, offshore developers and service companies here is enormous and has pointed us in the right direction in an open and productive manner. Rotterdam is ground-zero for hydrogen as it is the lifeblood for the industrial sector here and it is only going to grow as the port attacks hard to decarbonise activities so there is a huge amount of interests here and a very supportive R&D ecosystem.’

Michel wants to add to the benefits of being in Rotterdam. ‘We are fortunate that we have received funding from Rotterdam on several occasions. This has helped us to get traction on our minimal viable product. What has also been very helpful is the close vicinity of other companies to us, that possibly become part of our supply chain.’

Successful participation in 2022 PortXL program

In 2022 12TOZERO participated in PortXL. This is an active ecosystem of mainly maritime start-ups, scale-ups, corporate partners and mentors, all change makers. PortXL helps start-ups validate their business proposition and conduct pilot test and scale-ups with streamlining their products via use-cases and growing their corporate client network. Michel is adamant that completing the PortXL program has brought 12TOZERO a lot: ‘Besides new connections and the proverbial ton of information, the networking that was provided to us was of high quality. Look at the PortXL website: the companies that partake are of global repute. Connecting with them and hearing their issues and challenges helped us address our business model and approach.’

Still tackling challenges

This all sounds like 12TOZERO has been enjoying favourable winds, so to speak. Are there any major challenges remaining, any potential bumps in the proverbial road to success for 12TOZERO? Michel: ‘I think most start-ups face the same problems, not getting enough traction fast enough and limited resources. In the kind of heavy tech development we are attempting this issues is magnified, however the Rotterdammers think big especially in marine innovation. Thus far we have been in the position to bootstrap1 and receive grants to finance our company. The traction we are aiming for in the coming period should help us look for private investors to get us to the next TRL2.  We are talking to some Private Equity funds in the region but we’re looking for the right time and proposition from our side, to get the right type of investor, that brings knowledge, network and capital. If I can use the space for a general appeal: we are open to suggestions!’

1 Bootstrap: using existing, often one’s own resources to get into a wanted, or out of an unwanted situation.
2 TRL: Technology Readiness Level

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Header photo: : Michel Ingenbleek posing in front of the Groothandelsgebouw (left), where 12TOZERO is located and Centraal Station (right). Photo © Rotterdam Partners

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