Electrical Engineering, Business Milestones and Growth: Q&A with Richard Crozier, CEO at Reoptimize Systems
Richard Crozier co-founded Reoptimize Systems in 2017, and since then has been growing the company in the role of Chief Executive Officer. We caught up with Richard for a quick Q&A to talk about his role in the business, his career path that led him here, the key achievements to date and what's still to come.
You’re in a pivotal role as CEO of Reoptimize Systems, and it’s a role that covers a lot of ground, but what are your main focuses day-to-day?
Richard Crozier: Reoptimize Systems is still a fairly small company, so my role is pretty varied. Week-to-week, I can be doing anything from looking at the finances, to sales work and speaking to potential clients, to ordering stationery. Although, I’ve recently managed to step away from quite a few tasks, including stationery duties, with the addition of our Operations Manager to our team!
Additionally, I still do technical work for the business — particularly in software development — and, while I like speaking to clients, talking about projects and working on the business, sometimes when I’m having an admin-heavy week I’m eager to escape to the technical side of things again! This week, in fact, I have been doing a bit of software development work on alarm analysis for a client project, and I certainly enjoy the weeks where I can still get involved in project work and growing the business. This is becoming less and less though as we grow the team.
What’s been your career path prior to co-founding the business?
RC: I did my undergraduate and masters degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, and when I finished that my masters supervisor asked me if I’d stay on and do a PhD, which I duly did. This was in wave energy — making direct drive generators for wave energy applications. Through that, I did a lot of work on designing direct drive generators and writing software to do optimised designs for these machines — simulating them electro-magnetically etc. JP (co-founder of Reoptimize Systems) was doing his PhD at Edinburgh around the same time, and so that’s when we originally met.
After completing my PhD, I took a role within the university, doing knowledge transfer work with businesses through a project called ‘RenewNet’ — in which I’d spend a few months with each company, working on their challenges and issues and looking for solutions. One of these companies was called Nova Innovation (a tidal energy company based in Edinburgh), and I ended up going to work for them and designing the first generation of their direct drive generators for tidal turbines. That was a great experience in itself, as Nova Innovation were essentially a start-up when I joined too, scaling up from 3 people to around 10 during the time I worked there.
I followed that with a research position at university and then JP and I, after much discussion and developing ideas over the years, co-founded Reoptimize Systems.
Can you tell us a little bit about the founding of Reoptimize Systems and how it came about?
RC: Early on, while still at university, we did a programme called ICURe (pre-accelerator programme) and that gave us the opportunity to speak to lots of businesses and people in the industry and get feedback on whether our concept was something that there would be demand for. After that you go to a panel of experts and they decide whether or not you’re ready to take your business further. They decided we were, and so as a result we were able to get Innovate UK funding, which was specifically for businesses that had successfully progressed through the ICURe programme. That allowed us to establish the business and get started.
In the early stages of developing Reoptimize Systems and speaking to industry figures, it was clear that no-one was doing this — and it seemed like control settings on turbines were relatively ‘untouched’ and, even, an area of apprehension for wind engineers. No-one seemed to see the potential benefits of adjusting them to optimise wind turbine performance.
What have the key milestones for the business been so far?
RC: Simply put, the first key milestone was getting data from a turbine to use in our testing and pilot programmes. The industry has always been relatively conservative about making the kind of data we needed — high frequency data — available and sharing it outside the auspices of their company. In fact we often ask for SCADA variables the owners have never looked at before.
We started out working on 100 kW turbines, so to get the first data from those was definitely a milestone — and then to have instilled enough confidence in the OEM to be allowed to adjust control settings on one of those turbines was the next big one. That was with a manufacturer called ESPE, who were really helpful to us as we established the business and helped us a lot with that early work. ESPE were really supportive and we were able to optimise a few of their turbines in their field, with good results. From there, we were able to work on a larger model of turbine — the Siemens 2.3 MW — and that was a significant milestone too.
Aside from that, the investment we’ve received so far has marked several business phase milestones — particularly as it’s been from investors within the industry, who understand the value of what we’re doing. The last round of funding we had closed in January 2023, and we’re looking forward to opening up opportunities for further investment in the years to come.
"Another key objective is to deliver our first big wind farm optimisation project which kicked off in September 2023."
As we approach 2024, what’s the key objectives for Reoptimize to work towards?
RC: A big priority now is testing the Global Loss Minimisation algorithm on a wider variety of turbine models, beyond our work on the ESPE models and the Siemens 2.3 MW. In 2024, we’re aiming to get more commercial contracts and further build up our experience in the field, on wind farms etc. Another key objective is to deliver our first big wind farm optimisation project which kicked off in September 2023.
We currently have 5 full-time members of staff, and so in the next year or two we’d look to grow the team further and expand our capacity — maybe bringing the Reoptimize Systems team up to around 9-10 staff.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
RC: Well, I’ve got three children — so I spend a lot of time outside of work with my family, and attending various birthday parties and other such events. That certainly keeps me busy! In a past life I did taekwondo, and managed to get my black belt (2nd dan) before I took my ‘hiatus’ from it. Who knows — maybe one day I’ll get back into it again!