Heriot-Watt spin-out company, Epistemy – creators of oilfield risk-assessment software Raven – is evidence of how crucial research can be developed into a successful business.
Developed from the PhD research of Dr Dan Arnold, it was co-founded with fellow Heriot-Watt graduate, Jack Talbot, and Professor Mike Christie from the University’s Institute of Petroleum Engineering.
“My Father has worked for himself all his life, so I guess entrepreneurship is in my blood!” says Dan, a geology graduate who started his career working in the desert for Schlumberger.
Dan’s route to Heriot-Watt began when he came to study for an MSc in Reservoir Evaluation & Management. After graduation, Dan worked for a vibrant start-up company in Aberdeen, and enjoyed the freedom a small company can give.
Dan’s itch to undertake a PhD, however, needed to be scratched. He returned to Heriot-Watt to undertake a PhD in Petroleum Engineering, supervised by Prof. Mike Christie. “It was during this time in 2006 that we realised there was commercial potential in my studies. So, after I graduated, Mike and I began to build a company together around the research, along with another Heriot-Watt graduate, Jack Talbot, whose computer programming expertise has proven invaluable in the development of Raven.
The three of us each have our own unique skillsets, which has allowed us to develop our product to such high standards. We received funding from Scottish Enterprise which allowed us to focus on creating an industry-ready product, and since our first sale have continued to develop and refine our software.”
The current version of the software provides the oil industry with a means of finding the optimal development options for their fields based on an accurately assessment of the risks involved, something that is more critical than ever given the current low oil price.
Epistemy won a Special Award at the inaugural Alba Innovation Challenge Awards in 2010, and came runner up in the Research Council UK business plan competition in 2010 which further enhanced both their reputation and ability to continue developing Raven. Dan was also named a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow, in recognition of his work and achievement as a young entrepreneur.
“The company is growing, and we aim to find our niche in the market and become world-leaders in oil and gas. We’re looking at other areas for the future, including groundwater modelling and carbon capture storage. We are maintaining our links with Heriot-Watt University by providing our software for their teaching and research efforts as well as maintaining research links.”
Dan is meanwhile giving back to the University, as he teaches on the same MA course that he once studied in.
“It’s a strange experience, but I’m getting to teach the module that initially interested me in reservoir modelling. I hope I can inspire students the same way I was ten years ago.”