'˜Strikingly similar' wave technology developed in China after Leith break-in

CONCERNS have surfaced over a break-in five years ago at the Leith-based wave power company Pelamis which took place weeks after an official visit from the man who is now the Chinese premier.

Tuesday, 11th October 2016, 6:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:26 pm
Pelamis - Leith Factory Wave technology.

The thieves ignored the offices of other companies on the ground and first floor of the building and went straight to Pelamis on the second floor, where they stole four or five laptops but nothing else.

The break-in in 2011, never solved, came just ten weeks after the prestigious visit by Li Keqiang, who was then vice-premier of the state council of China.

Max Carcas, who was business development director at now-defunct Pelamis until 2012, says pictures have emerged of strikingly similar technology being developed in China.

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A Chinese factory - showing designs startlingly similar to the Pelamis, Leith, technology.

“Some of the details may be different but they are clearly testing a Pelamis concept,” he said.

Pictures of the Pelamis project were freely available on the internet and it is possible engineers in China were simply working on the same type of development.

But the strange nature of the robbery on the night of March 21 2011 has prompted speculation about a possible link with the visit.

Pelamis had suffered previous break-ins when copper cables were stolen from its site. But the theft of laptops was a first.

A Chinese factory - showing designs startlingly similar to the Pelamis, Leith, technology.

Mr Carcas said: “It was a tremendous feather in our cap to be the only place in the UK outside of London that the Chinese vice-premier visited.

“We did have a break-in about ten weeks after, when a number of laptops were stolen. It was curious that whoever broke in went straight to our office on the second floor rather than to the other company on the first floor or the ground floor. I could infer all sorts of things but I do not want to say.”

There is no suggestion the Chinese premier knows anything about the break-in.

Despite the apparent similarities, neither the UK nor Scottish governments plans to challenge China over the patent.

Pelamis was a cutting-edge renewable technology enterprise when it was set up as the Ocean Power Delivery company in 1998. Renamed Pelamis Wave Power in 2007, the company employed 50 staff and developed a giant snake-like energy wave machine.

In 2004, it became the first wave energy machine to generate electricity into the grid.

But in November 2014, Pelamis went into administration, having run out of funding after 17 years developing the project at a cost of £95m.

In a statement police said: “Entry was forced to a business premises on Bath Road, Edinburgh, between 11pm on March 21 and 6.45am on March 22, 2011. A number of laptops, collectively worth a four-figure sum, were stolen from within. Officers conducted extensive inquiries at the time and any new information received will be thoroughly investigated.”