Talking shop: engineering entrepreneurs explain their success

The RAE’s Silver Medal winners say communication is vital in turning raw ideas into commercial success.


Shaun Fitzgerald, a specialist in natural ventilation, puts his business success down to working in a multi-disciplinary team. He completed a PhD in Geothermal Reservoirs at Cambridge University before moving to Stanford University, California. He then used his research expertise to patent e-stack technology, which uses the principles of natural mixing ventilation in the winter and natural upward displacement ventilation in the summer. In 2006, Fitzgerald co-founded Breathing Buildings. Five years on and it has become a multi-million pound success.

’For us, it wasn’t just about doing blue-skies research,’ he said. ’It was about trying to find out the challenges faced by the industry so that the research that we undertook was focused on addressing real-world problems. We worked with many people in the design community to help us to really understand the physical requirements of what we were doing. That meant that, when we came up with an idea, it wasn’t just derived from insights from a laboratory level, it was derived from insights developed from working with a design team. I think that was key to our success.’