Women Behind Innovation: Sandra Sassow

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Sandra Sassow is the CEO and co-founder of UK-based SEaB Energy which has designed and commercialised breakthrough product innovations that create clean energy and water from onsite organic waste. The company has won numerous awards for innovation, entrepreneurship and investment readiness. With a growing customer base, including several international blue-chip companies, its products are now selling in all the world’s major markets.

Sandra holds a BSc in Biology (specialising in Micro-biology) and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Sandra has launched a number of innovative world-class divisions and companies where she has led high performance teams to achieve significant global profitable revenue growth and market thought leadership. Sandra was previously the Managing Director of the International Division at Optical Technology Group, and Commercial Sales at EMC.

The Edison Awards recently spoke with Sassow about her interest in science, what misconceptions she feels people have about the fields and some of her career highlights. Here’s what she had to say:(edited for brevity and clarity)

When did your interest in science begin?

A passion for science and technology, along with entrepreneurship, runs deep within my family. From a young age, I was involved with our family-run, US-listed environmental consulting firm and chemical manufacturing company in the USA.  After finishing university, with a BSc in in Micro-biology and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, my first job was in software design but quickly realised that my talents lay on the commercial side of the business where I had more scope to influence strategy, develop new products, generate revenues and explore new markets.

What was it like to be a woman studying in your field?

There was never any question that I would gravitate towards studying, and then building a career in science and technology. Although STEM has traditionally been male dominated, with the gender gap steadily closing, this never hindered my studies. In fact, I have not faced any barriers as a woman throughout my entire career. Indeed, I believe it’s been a huge advantage being a woman as it’s easier for people to remember you – you’re not one of the hundred suits in the room. I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of the support of a number of female networking groups, in particular Astia, TheNextWoman and Enterprising Women, who continue to help me connect with other women leaders at prospect customers, investors and partners.

What do you like about your field and what you do?

The best thing about working in our company is seeing the social benefits we bring. The underlying term in our company is that we are making a difference and improving the way we use energy to help the planet. Everyone understands and likes that. Essentially, we are problem solvers to the world’s energy and waste issues and science and engineering are our tools to achieve this. Will everyone understand what this involves? Maybe not, but if we can provide cheap, green energy to businesses with a social conscience, and the millions of people that have no access to electricity, then that, for me, is far more important.

Share with us some of your career highlights.

One of the achievements I’m very proud of is taking a mindshare in the industry and modifying it to create a niche for ourselves. The waste and energy sectors have been highly controlled by big players who are focussed building large infrastructure and centralising operations. Our aim is to redistribute the balance of power by allowing everyone to create their own energy and become sustainable. This is now evolving and we are playing an active role in that.

We have won over 20 awards for innovation and entrepreneurship but one I’m particularly proud of was being selected, in 2012, by the NASA-backed initiative, Launch: ‘Beyond Waste’ as a provider of game-changing innovation that could combat climate change. This brought us to the attention of a number of global blue chips, many of whom we are working with today.

How is your company bringing innovation to the forefront?

Two of the biggest challenges faced by society today is energy supply and waste management. Energy supply is monopolised by big business whilst every year, our waste mountain gets larger. So, why not tap into the potential of organic waste as a source of cheap, green energy and empower businesses and consumers? Our patented ‘power in a box’ technology aims to solve both these issues by turning food and organic waste into energy, heat and water, directly on site of where the waste is produced. The energy can be used on site whilst money can be saved by doing away with collection and disposal. It makes sound economic sense and reduces the carbon footprint.

To date, what project is your greatest success?

Our patented micro power plant technology has been implemented at a number of prestigious customer sites including a NHS university hospital in the UK, a supermarket belonging to Portugal’s largest retail chain (Sonae), as well as on the estates of several blue-chip clients. We are also excited to be working closely with PLACE, a not-for-profit property developer in the US that transforms communities through the use of innovative green technology, and who share the same ethos as us. The vision that all these customers have is to use their waste as a source of un-tapped energy which also contributes to the fight against climate change. Demand for our products has never been greater and which is why we now have distributors and resellers in many of the major markets around the globe.

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