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SafetyNet Technologies is August's Featured Business of the Month

Fri, 28 August 2015

Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Daniel to catch up on how the business has been going since he launched 6 years ago, and to see what’s next for SafteyNet Technologies.
Daniel Watson, 29, came up with the idea for his business, SafetyNet Technologies, during his time at the University of Glasgow. SafetyNet was Daniel’s final project for his Masters in Product Design Engineering and in 2009 he turned that idea into a business.
 
SafetyNet started out exploring how visual stimuli could be used to affect fish behaviour and the selectivity of fish capture methods used by the commercial fishing industry. The initial focus was the Escape Rings, but this has now developed into a range of different devices, all with the use of visual stimuli at their core and all with the aim of lowering bycatch. Overfishing and bycatch (when the wrong types of fish are caught because they can’t escape fishing gear easily) are massive global issues with few clear solutions. The UN FAO estimates that between 8-25% of the total global fisheries catch is discarded. Global NGO Oceana estimates the cost of discarded fish to be around $1bn per year, in addition to being a threat to a sustainable future food source. 
 
SafteyNet’s goal is to make commercial fishing practices smarter through the application of robust and cost-effective technologies. The business was recently included in two successful Horizon 2020 bids, which has enabled them to accelerate their R&D processes and ensure that there are vessels available for them to take the resultant products to sea trials. They are working on a number of commercial contracts with different international partners, mainly in the field of lighting technology. 
 
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Daniel to catch up on how the business has been going since he launched 6 years ago, and to see what’s next for SafteyNet Technologies.
 
What was the inspiration behind SafetyNet?

It was a BBC article that initially caught my interest. Two Scottish fishermen had been arrested in Norwegian waters for discarding excess fish. It seemed strange to me that catching the wrong things was still a problem in this day and age, so I decided to focus my final year project on the issue. After that, technology inspiration came from reading scientific papers and discussing the issues with members of various fisheries research institutions and fishermen.
 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?

For me it was finding an issue that I believed needed to be solved and realising that it would be possible for the work I was doing to have a positive impact on the world, while offering a solution that was valuable to a large part of the industry. I’m still amazed by the exciting problems that come up that, strangely, nobody else seems to be solving at scale. I think this is the key; If you want to solve a problem at any sort of large scale, you need to back it with a sustainable business case or it will have minimal impact. This is the main thing that drove me to setting up a business around the project, and now moving into other areas where there is a problem to be solved and a market that needs, and will pay for, the solution.
 
What challenges did you face when setting up your business?

Building relationships. This industry is all about relationships and I didn’t give myself the best start in that respect. I was a student who’d won a couple of awards trying to tell the industry that what I’d come up with would change their industry and they should all test/buy it. Understandably, this didn’t go down too well and might have killed off any chance of the business succeeding if it hadn’t been for some great people who ignored my arrogance and saw the value in the thinking. I owe those people a lot and am still working with some of them today.
 
What is your proudest achievement with the business to date?

The successful production of the first Escape Ring prototypes was a big day for the business. Being able to take them to conferences and show them to people and watch as ideas about applications formed during conversations was awesome. This has happened a few times since then with the newer technologies we’re developing, and it never gets old. It was also pretty cool being nominated as one of the Telegraph’s 100 Top Britons of 2012 – a year of Olympic heroes!
 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award back in 2009, how have things changed for you since then?

I’ve worked in a number of different industries and countries while running SafetyNet in the background, most recently the space industry, which is very exciting. There are some parallels between the two industries, as they are both highly regulated, fairly conservative and will both try to kill you if you enter their environment (although one will squash you and the other explode you). However, it seems like lots of industries are undergoing massive changes and it’s awesome to be a part of that. It feels like design thinking is being recognised as a valuable part of that change, and that’s brilliant.
 
What’s next for SafetyNet?

Sea trials! We’re going to be taking a number of devices to sea aboard a fisheries research vessel in order to see if they can survive the rigours of trawling. Fingers crossed!
 
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
  1. Be honest and always ask for help.
  2. You can do amazing things, but you can’t do all of them on your own. There are people out there who will help you but sometimes you have to swallow your pride and just ask, or they’ll never know what they can do for you. Some things may seem like they’re incredibly difficult but to the right person, they’re very easy. 
  3. Believe in what you’re doing, make sure you can communicate it to other people in a way that they can understand and see the value in, and you’ll have a much higher chance of success. Honesty is therefore very important; if you tell everyone you’re fine, and you’re not, then they won’t be able to help you. 
  4. Finally, look after yourself. Your idea might change the world, but if you’re unable to work on it properly because you’re too tired or worrying about money, then it will never get anywhere. You are the driving force behind your business, so give yourself the fuel you need to succeed.
Got a Smart Idea for a Business?
Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding!

 

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