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  • José Miguel Bermúdez: “This award has helped us enormously”

FPdGi Awards

José Miguel Bermúdez: “This award has helped us enormously”

This aeronautical engineer has won the 2018 Princess of Girona Foundation Business Award.

15/06/2018

Going back to an ancient maritime technique, the sail, to reduce the emissions and fuel consumption of large transport vessels. This is the aim of the company bound4blue (b4b), led and founded by aeronautical engineer José Miguel Bermúdez, who has been recognised with the 2018 Princess of Girona Foundation Business Award. The jury praised his “business and research career leading industrial projects with great social impact linked to highly competitive sectors that are very difficult to break into”.

Bermúdez wants to revolutionise maritime transport by using the wind as complementary propulsion through an innovative rigid sail system. This technology enables the sails to generate part of the power needed by large transport vessels, reducing their fuel consumption and emissions by up to 40%. A business project which, according to the jury, demonstrates “the capacity for exemplariness, differentiation, impact on society and excellence in business management that this award recognises”.

The jury was formed of entrepreneur Bernardo Hernández; entrepreneur and 2016 FPdGi Business Award winner, Sergio Álvarez; country manager of Facebook Spain, Irene Cano; economist Fernando Fernández; managing director of Endeavor Spain, Adrián García-Aranyos; regional managing director of Twitter in Spanish-speaking countries, Pepe López de Ayala, and mathematician and economist César Molinas.

“It is an award which, in addition to the great joy it has brought us, has also helped a great deal to publicise our work”, said Bermúdez, who wanted to share the recognition with the rest of his team “because, without them, it would not have been possible”. And not forgetting the work of the FPdGi, who the winner wanted to thank: “It is absolutely necessary to help young people, to guide and encourage them to discover what they really enjoy doing, and the Foundation is doing a really great job”.

The 21st century sail
An aeronautical engineer specialising in space vehicles, José Miguel Bermúdez graduated from UPC-BarcelonaTech and began his career with the private technology group GMV Aerospace & Defence, later moving on to work for zero2infinity (z2i), a start-up in the space sector which he joined as it was set up. In parallel, he cofounded Marvelmat, which provides services for the hotel sector.

While watching some documentaries on television one day with his father, he asked himself: “How could the Phoenicians, the Vikings and Columbus sail to America using only the power of the wind, while, in contrast, we need tonnes and tonnes of fuel? The wind is free and unlimited! Obviously, we can’t rely completely on the wind, but we must take advantage of it as best we can!” Inspired by this conversation, in 2014, he founded bound4blue.

“It was very tough to get the project off the ground initially as our funding is mainly private. Luckily, there were two or three key investors who had faith in us when all we had was an idea on paper”, remembers the young engineer, who is looking forward to seeing the first ships equipped with his innovative rigid sail system. At the end of the year the company will finish work on a fishing boat, and they have also closed an agreement with two shipping companies to install the sail on two cargo ships of between 90 and 100 metres in length.

All this with the aim of reducing the fuel consumption and emissions of large transport vessels. “They consume tonnes and tonnes of highly polluting fuel, but the main problem is that ships use a very dirty type of heavy fuel oil, which contains high levels of sulphur and nitrogen, in addition to CO2”, explained the engineer, who clarified that sulphur “is much worse than CO2 yet most people don’t realise it”. He added that the general public notice the fumes from cars and factories in their daily lives, “but in the middle of the ocean nobody can see them”. Bermúdez hopes that his system “will have a global and massive impact on the environment because the maritime sector needs it, as we have a really huge environmental problem”.

The engineer ended by calling on public administrations to invest in industry. “Today important amounts of aid and resources are provided for digitals projects, but not for industrial ones”, he lamented before reminding us that, although it requires a large investment, “the industrial sector generates more jobs and brings together a whole series of economic activities”.

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