2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Armada Technologies Ltd, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Armada Technologies Ltd

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford

Industry: Logistics (Maritime)

Founding Student Name(s): Alex Routledge

Brief Description of Solution: Today, only a handful of well-established enviro-efficiency device providers claim savings to entice industry investment, unfortunately imposed operational restrictions and inherent system impracticalities have hindered mass-uptake to date. Even still, the widespread adoption of a reliable energy efficiency technology offers a monumental opportunity to obtain the most considerable fuel and emission saving deductions across the world fleet. ATL has engaged extensively with the end user to ensure the approach and output of the project provides the level of certainty required to manage technical, commercial and operational risk, and ultimately justify their investment.

Air Lubrication (AL) targets a reduction in frictional resistance and as such the mechanism by which it operates is fundamentally different to that of many other enviro-efficiency devices. AL targets an augmentation of the interaction between seawater and the hull by ‘diluting’ local sea water viscosity with the injection of compressed air bubbles. Given that water friction can account for up to 85% of a hull’s total resistance [Ridley/Patterson, 2014], an AL system installation offers a prospective ship owner a reduction in requisite power to achieve an ordered speed, achieve a higher speed for a specified power, or some combination of both these benefits – in either case a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption and associated environmental impact from operations can be realised.

Armada’s PALS is radical by design, taking advantage of passive physical phenomena the system is able to minimize the power required for bubble production, match bubble production to a wider range of ship operating conditions and utilize the dynamics of system sea water to enable a fundamental step change in the area available for lubrication. Current market-ready systems use high-duty air compressors to develop air bubbles. PALS reduces, or even eliminates, this power consumption through the application of a Venturi to passively create bubbles. This culminates in a system that optimizes the effect of lubrication, and in doing so provides potential net performance quantifications twice that of currently available systems. In their haste to bring a suitable solution to market, competing AL ‘first movers’ have failed to recognize the concept’s true potential and how best to deploy their systems to take advantage of discrete physical phenomena and key owner/ operator drivers.

Funding Dollars:


  1. Transport Technology Research & Innovation 2021 (£30K non match funded)
  2. Transport Technology Research & Innovation 2022 (£30K non match funded)
  3. Horizon Europe 2022 (Part of a EUR5M project pot)
  4. InnovateUK: Fast Start (£43K non match funded)
  5. Liverpool City Region High Growth Fund Grant (£104K 50% match funded)

Angel: £90K

VC: £100K

Founders: £90K

What led you to launch this venture? It was a passion for environmentalism and appreciating that shipping plays a significant role in driving improved climate change (SDG13) and wider ocean health (SDG14). As a naval architect, I am fascinated with all things shipping. I love the industry and I love entrepreneurship, so having the opportunity to work in the cross section of these is a dream come true.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We are proud of our strong industry partnerships and support – we simply cannot bring this system to fruition without the incredible support of industry, academia, and ship owners. As a founding member of ‘Retrofit55’, Armada is very proud to have been awarded a EUR5M Horizon Europe grant (the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation) for a 3-year supported project with 15 collaborators.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? It has helped me in so many ways, but perhaps not in the way you expect. I feel the MBA validated my thinking and gave me the confidence to have volition in my thinking. ‘Pitching’ the idea to my classmates also provided me a means to test approaches and fund raising strategies.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Innovation Strategy: this was a fantastic class that showed how technological breakthroughs make way for further technological breakthroughs. It enabled me to make sense of my industry and how innovation develops and propagates. This module made me realize that Armada is in a nascent market and that a dominant design would make ‘waves’ in the industry (pardon the pun).

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Thomas Hellman has been extremely generous with his time and world class Entrepreneurship expertise – connecting us with specialists across the university, whilst also being an advocate for what we are seeking to achieve. It is with Prof Hellman’s guidance that we successfully navigated the highly competitive Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) application.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Networks, networks, networks – faculty, the entrepreneurship center, and my cohort have been instrumental in connecting Armada with blue chip shipping companies – a number of these shipping companies are in serious commercial negotiations with Armada as a result.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We want air lubrication to be installed as standard supply equipment on all new build and existing ships ships globally. We want to support the industry in the recognition of energy efficiency technology as ‘normal’ and not ‘novel’.


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