Grey Matters initiative to be rolled out after pilot spawns successful businesses

Elevator and Scottish Enterprise initiative aims to impact the global energy industry

A transformative initiative which aims to bring together experienced oil and gas professionals who have been redundant and help them create new businesses is to be launched in Aberdeen following a successful pilot.

Applications are now open for Grey Matters, a joint initiative from Elevator and Scottish Enterprise, which will get underway on January 25, 2018. More than 25 applications have been received already.

The lucrative pilot programme which ran earlier this year saw several scalable companies being established, including Blue Gentoo, which offers products and services to support gas hydrate management.

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Grey Matters aims to drive the future of energy in Scotland by bringing together the experience and knowledge of ambitious individuals facing redundancy from the oil and gas sector and supporting them to work together to create a high growth business.

Up to 20 participants will take part in idea generation and innovation workshops so a business idea is not essential.

John Harris Nov 2018 Grey Matters Project Manager John Harris said the pilot programme had shown that the unique knowledge of senior oil and gas professionals could spawn exciting and ambitious business ideas.

“The pilot of Grey Matters resulted in several businesses being created and some of those are already doing extremely well,” he said. “The opportunity to meet like-minded people but with different skills sets and experience allows participants to work together to either brainstorm industry solutions or to build on an existing idea that could have huge potential.”
John said there was the potential for a huge amount of knowledge to be lost when people are made redundant.

“There is currently little or no support out there for oil and gas professionals who have built up a vast amount of knowledge, not to mention key skills in leadership, collaboration, problem-solving and building teams, yet find themselves redundant.

“We are looking for a variety of people - either those who don’t currently have a business concept, but do have a vast amount of knowledge and expertise, or those who do have the spark of an idea that they can work on with a team of like-minded people.

“Grey Matters will give them an intense learning and growth experience set in our world-class centre for entrepreneurship in Aberdeen.”

Applicants must be able to dedicate 12 weeks to the programme, which will be based at Elevator’s Centre for Entrepreneurship at The Hub in Bridge of Don, Aberdeen. The social enterprise works across Scotland to help facilitate the start-up, acceleration and growth of new and existing businesses.

Eleanor Mitchell Scottish Enterprise Elevator Grey Matters Eleanor Mitchell, Scottish Enterprise’s Entrepreneurial Growth Director, said:

“Following the success of the pilot of Grey Matters, Scottish Enterprise is really excited to be running a second programme with Elevator. The enthusiasm and eagerness to learn shown by the previous cohort, coupled with the wealth of industry knowledge still located in the North-east demonstrates the potential for high growth companies solving market problems to be formed and grown in the region.”

Collaboration both within the cohort and with external partners will be encouraged and there will be a strong emphasis on networking and engaging with local and global experts and mentors. Topics covered will include business planning, globalisation, marketing, fundraising, team management and intellectual property.

Phil Bremner was one of the participants in the pilot of Grey Matters and is now CEO of Blue Gentoo.

“I was overwhelmed at the ‘can do’ attitude from the mentors, the knowledge shared and presented by academics and industry leading figures,” he said. “From day one, it was such a great environment and everyone was so motivated to help us succeed from our chosen business dream and turn it into a reality.”


phil bremner grey mattersThroughout his 37 years in the global subsea industry, working for large contractors and operators, Phil Bremner harboured an idea for a business.
After being made redundant from his most recent post as a subsea development manager on an LNG project in Tanzania, Phil spotted an opportunity on LinkedIn and signed up for Grey Matters.
Phil made the decision to attend in the hope that his inkling of an idea would become a reality.

“I was overwhelmed at the ‘can do’ attitude from the mentors, the knowledge shared and presented by academics and industry leading figures,” he said. “From day one, it was such a great environment and everyone was so motivated to help us succeed from our chosen business dream and turn it into a reality.”

“Our morning huddle was a unique meeting area that stimulated all kinds of banter and communication, and we also hugely benefited from having access to and support from successful business leaders,” said Phil, who lives near Daviot in Aberdeenshire.

Blue Gentoo was formed by four experienced oil industry professionals with complementary skills in innovation, operations, sales and finance.

Phil saw an opportunity for Blue Gentoo to address the problems of gas hydrates, which is a major issue for gas producers, particularly those operating in deepwater.

Gas hydrates form as ice solids in wells and pipelines, when gas comes into contact with water. They can block pipelines and restrict gas flow, resulting in lost production and damage to infrastructure. Once formed, hydrates are very hard to remove and can take days or weeks to dissolve or break up.

The industry spends millions of pounds each day to prevent hydrates forming by the continuous injection of MEG (Mono Ethylene Glycol) or methanol into the gas flow, which works like anti-freeze). However, MEG is expensive to buy, store and inject, and to recover, recycle and reuse.

Blue Gentoo will address this problem by providing technology to monitor well conditions and advise the optimum levels of MEG to inject to prevent the formation of hydrates and maintain a satisfactory safety margin for customers.

By reducing the amount of MEG and methanol that is used, this will provide greater flow assurance and save customers money through lower operating costs and lower capital expenditure costs.

Phil added: “Having the opportunity to be part of the first Grey Matters programme meant a great deal to me. What may appear to others as a crazy notion is potentially then turned into a business idea – some call it imagineering – yet it’s so real.

“It offers not just collaboration and guidance but ‘hope springs eternal’ for the entrepreneur in us all.”


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