Conversation Worcestershire with Mike Schooling from Indra Renewable Technologies

Conversation Worcestershire with Mike Schooling

by | Apr 1, 2022

‘Persistence and putting in the time’ – is the key to success, according to the Founder and CTO of INDRA Renewable Technologies. Mike chats with Ruby Edwards from You Do Better PR:

Your alarm goes off…
I have a two year-old, so I don’t set an alarm. I normally wake up any time between 0530-0700 – I’ll take the lie-in if my son is sleeping!

How did you start doing what you’re doing?
I started out with a project to convert a petrol Mazda RX8 to full electric in 2011; about a year before Tesla released the Model S. It was only really the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV that were on sale in the UK when I started. It was really a passion project, but I learned a lot from it, building a small hobby business in 2013 and eventually a small team working with ‘on vehicle’ technology and parts supply to some of the small car manufacturers in the UK.

As it became more obvious that electrification of vehicles was to become mainstream, I’d say around 2016, we realised to scale we needed to look at a different part of the market, a small consultancy was going to be lost in the world of large global R&D teams at the big carmakers. To make a difference, we needed to focus on something smaller and more achievable than trying to convince all global carmakers to accelerate their EV programs – that was only a matter of time anyway. I mapped out two industries, Energy with the transition to net zero, and Vehicles, moving towards electrification. Eventually, our work there led to the fact that there was a crossroads where Indra could position itself to offer smart energy technology products and services that span the two industries.

That led me to focus on creating the smartest EV chargers possible, because I believe that controlling when we use energy is the key to making net zero a reality. And from that idea, Indra entered its growth stage. Our ambition is to enable people to make the best decisions for them and the planet when it comes to transport, energy and sustainability. And have fun along the way.

Your typical day…
I’m really lucky, as CTO, I still get to do a lot of what I love, which is developing innovative technology that helps people harness and control the flow of energy. It’s important that we not only use as much renewable energy as possible, but that we are also able to access, store and use it when it’s best for us, and best for the grid.

You’re responsible for …
As CTO, I am responsible for identifying where the industry is heading, and leading the development of our product offering. What that really means is that I have the opportunity to work with a team of world class engineers and specialists to take exciting tech concepts out of the lab and develop them into real, functioning technology that will be able to help us all meet our net zero targets.

I also work with great partners, such as OVO energy, on some fantastic projects designed to test the latest intelligent energy technology in a real-world environment. For project Sciurus, for example, the team here developed the first fully certified V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) technology for the home — a bidirectional charger that enables people to import energy from the grid or local renewables into their cars, store it for use when they need it, and then export any surplus energy back to the Grid.

As the project has indicated, we think V2G technology is a real game-changer for the transport and energy market. It’s also a key conceptual focus for us at Indra as we continue to develop tech that’s designed to help EV drivers save money on their energy bills and help energy companies and the National Grid balance energy supply and demand. The key driver behind this is our belief that the key to enabling a net zero future lies in connecting the home, car and Grid.

And what’s also great is the fact we’re developing and building world-leading technology right here, in Malvern.

What worries you?
I want to make a difference and believe in action that enables others to do so. One of my biggest bugbears is when I see people preaching about making the world a better place and then expecting others to make that change happen. The kind of people that glue their hands to a motorway are doing more harm than good.

I think that raising awareness of where change needs to happen has its place, but I see more value in trying to create the technology that can enable that change. The road to net zero can essentially be boiled down to two simple concepts: stop burning things and electrify transport, heat and our other energy needs.

What are your notable highlights to date?
Since Indra was officially created in 2013, we have led the technology for the world’s largest V2G trial with OVO Energy and Nissan (2018 on), and we have also developed a range of the smartest EV (electric vehicle) chargers on the market, Smart PRO (2020) and Smart Pioneer (2021).

We’ve built a cross disciplined team at Indra, which currently stands at around 60 employees. Next year will be another year of growth as we are set to launch exciting new products and expand the team to enable that growth.

Finally, raising funding on two occasions now – it’s a real thrill to close a deal and enforces that you are doing a good job if you can get others to believe in what you are doing!

What’s the key to your success?
Persistence and putting in the time. I really believe in what we are doing and everyone at Indra has a passion for making a difference; for being part of the movement to reach net zero; for taking the time to develop technology that is both intelligent and reliable. And, most of all, we have fun along the way and never forget that people are the most important part of our business.

Who or what has been your biggest influence?
I’ve been lucky to meet some really inspiring lecturers and managers on my journey to Indra. From James Duckhouse, one of my college lecturers who allowed my 14-year-old self the flexibility to study computing at college alongside my GCSEs, to my former boss who supported me in taking the plunge in founding my own business.

When it comes to tech greats, I’ll avoid the cliché Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Alan Sugar or Elon Musk answers, but I have enjoyed reading various biographies on them. Jack Rickard, founder and editor of Boardwatch magazine, stands out. Jack sold the magazine and used the funds to run a YouTube series called EVTV where they would put together 3 hour videos once a week discussing EVs, conversions, batteries and other related technology. Jack had an influential effect on me because, I guess, it aligned my interest in and knowledge of computing and electric vehicles. I found it really easy to absorb information from that video series.

Best piece of advice you’ve received?
I was told by a trusted mentor when I started the business, that I would never change the world without creating a great place to work. The culture at Indra is very strong and has strong core values which could have easily become less important or neglected without this advice. We believe in empowering people and creating an environment to allow people to develop and operate to the best of their ability. This in turn enables a culture of innovation, anyone in the company is empowered to push a new idea forward.

This has really stuck with me and became one of my two key drivers for the business when I founded it. The other was to change the world for the better.

What’s next? How do people find out about you?
This year is an exciting one for us as we build up to launching our latest products and services; launching a number of key partnerships; roughly doubling the team size (again!) and scaling our production operation by at least 4 times to keep up with demand. All of this will really help drive our ambition of enabling the transition to net zero.

The space to watch is www.indra.co.uk or our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

As seen in BusinessWorks Magazine Worcestershire & the Black Country.

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