CEO Spotlight: Gary Owen, CEO of Lineat Composites

About Lineat:

  • Lineat is reducing the carbon footprint of composite materials (carbon fibre) by developing high-performance sustainable composites that are made from reclaimed chopped fibres.

About Gary Owen:

  • CEO of Lineat and experienced Director with a demonstrated history of working in the environmental services industry
  • More than 25 years’ experience in the commercial world dealing with sales and running a team
  • Background in materials and a developmental consultant for several years.

Why is carbon fibre important?

As the world transitions towards hydrogen storage, there is increasing demand for storage vessels which are made from carbon fibre. It’s predicted that demand for carbon fibre is going to outstrip supply in 12 to 18 months. We are offering a less-expensive alternative to virgin carbon fibre and have created a technology called AFT (aligned formable tape) which allows re-use and recycling of carbon fibre across industries.

AFT tape can enable the manufacture of more complex and geometric shapes and can even produce them at a higher quality than the original material. Aerospace engineers could use our carbon fibre technology for third level structures such as seats in aeroplanes, reducing weight and cost of the material, but there are other widespread uses for the technology. It could be used as a direct substitute for continuous fibre UD tapes in existing supply chains for various markets including sports, marine, automotive, and aerospace.

What role can Lineat play in the circular economy?

At the moment 95% of carbon goes into landfill and there’s no way of recycling that carbon other than grinding it up and using it in concrete. However, the concrete industry doesn’t particularly like using carbon fibre in their product. Instead, AFT allows us to complete the circle with carbon fibre manufacturing and build new products out of old carbon fibre materials.

We recently took a broken carbon fibre tennis racket, reclaimed the fibres and aligned them in the Lineat system. We partnered with Wilson’s R&D lab and for the first time created a recycled carbon fibre tennis racket.

What has been one of the hardest challenges with bringing the AFT technology to market?

Other than developing the product, one of the toughest challenges has been convincing people to believe in the technology because it’s new and relatively unheard of. This was particularly a challenge when seeking investment, but we’ve overcome that through market validation, which we’re undergoing at the moment.

How has UKI2S helped Lineat?

Mark White at UKI2S has been extremely supportive, and not just from the funding perspective. When we were looking for seed funding, we wanted to bring on board well-rounded people who can support us in different respects. UKI2S has helped us reach out to great people and introduced us to key contacts.

What is your advice for new CEOs or entrepreneurs?

  1. Building the team is the most important and also the hardest thing to do. Engineers in the UK are very hard to come by. Investors expect the technology to be technically sound and they want to see a strong team behind it. If you’ve got the right technology and the wrong team, it’s not going to work. Think creatively too, consider hiring some part-time people who are towards the end of their working life such as those who have been full time CFOs in the past but now only want to work a couple of days a week.
  2. Don’t to take things too personally. Focus on what you can learn from mistakes, then move on and forget about it.
  3. Be open and take on feedback. I often use tactics from boat racing, for example, asking every single person, no matter what they do on the boat, what was their best aspect and the worst aspect of the race, and what they could have done better. I think translating that to business is a good way of approaching feedback.
  4. Solve the problems when they hit you. You have to solve issues quickly and in the most cost-effective way. Remember that it’s part of the excitement and tackle challenges head on!