NOT content with developing one multi-million pound technology business Andrew Bissell got the inspiration for another while contemplating what global warming would do to his house.

Mr Bissell was living on a handsome Victorian terrace on the promenade at Portobello in Edinburgh at the time and the projections for what environmental change might mean for the area made him very uneasy.

“I was thinking the science is pointing towards the potential of a one metre rise in sea level over the course of the twenty first century. What would that mean to this house and all my neighbours and the people that live along the sea shore and then everywhere in the world because 70 per cent of the world’s population live within so many metres of the sea?”

The founder of the Voxar medical imaging business that was sold to Belgium’s Barco for £23 million in 2004 found the implications sobering.

“For my own house a metre rise in sea level would mean that on a high tide water would be in the living room.”

Bearing in mind that some think sea level rises of up to 10 metres may be in prospect, the scenario provided a call to action for Mr Bissell.

“That’s not ok so the question is what are you going to do about it,” he concluded.

The answers included making changes to life styles. Mr Bissell bought an early Tesla electric car.

That purchase may not have been enough to have much impact on global warming but it taught him an invaluable lesson. In making things greener we can make them better, reckons Mr Bissell who enthuses about the performance his current Tesla model is capable of.

He then decided to use his combination of scientific aptitude and entrepreneurial nous in trying to tackle what seemed to be the most pressing challenge. This meant focusing on the quest to reduce the energy we use to heat us, the volume of which is much greater than the power used for things like TVs. The solution he concluded lay in trying to find a better way of storing heat generated by conventional and renewable sources so that it could be released when needed.

“What I was thinking about was where was the storage innovation,” recalls Mr Bissell, who has tackled the challenge at the helm of the Sunamp battery business he started developing in 2005.

Reflecting on how long it took to find what looked like a technology with the right potential, Mr Bissell highlights the importance of the support he got from his wife Susan Lang-Bissell, a key member of the management teams at Voxar and Sunamp.

“The second roll of the dice is much harder than the first one,” he observes.

When starting Voxar the couple had little in the way of possessions to lose and no children to worry about. Second time round as the parents of two boys there was much more at stake.

“I had the luxury of being able to take my time, I’ve exited a business if I want to spend two or three years before starting something else. I can. In fact, Susan would have said, has said many times maybe the smart thing to do would be not to do another business…. I persuaded her we should do one more because we have chance to move a bigger mountain. We moved a small mountain in medical imaging.”

The search for a potential solution to the climate change challenge led Mr Bissell to focus eventually on phase change technology as a way of storing energy that could be released to heat homes and water in a much more efficient way than conventional methods.

By way of example, Mr Bissell hands over a pouch containing a cloudy wax that turns clear and heats up as if by magic when squeezed.

The crucial breakthrough came in 2010 when he met University of Edinburgh professor Colin Pulham who is an expert in the field. With input from experts at the university, Sunamp went on to develop a material that could be used in a battery that stored heat for use when needed.

The company made its first battery sale in 2012 but it was only in 2016 when serious commercial orders started coming in.

In the years since Sunmap has made real progress, the pace of which appears to be accelerating.

Japanese energy utility Osaka Gas provided a notable vote of confidence in November by participating in a near £3 million funding round completed by Sunamp, in which Scottish Investment Bank, Equity Gap and PAR Equity increased their investments in the firm.

The developments have left Mr Bissell thinking big at Sunamp, which employs 35 people.

“We see a world in which the water cylinder part gets completely disrupted by us because we’ve now reached a point with our third generation of heat battery where we are price comparable to hot water cylinders with something that’s between two and three times smaller, so it fits better in your house, that doesn’t cost as much to install … costs less to maintain.

“We lose less heat, we’re more energy efficient.”

The water cylinder market amounts to 43 million units. Add in the potential to combine its products with emerging renewable energy generation sources and the company could find itself operating in a market that creates demand for hundreds of millions of units.

The Walsall-born pioneer appears to be relishing entrepreneurial life at Sunamp, after setting his sights on the world of business at a young age.

He recalls growing up with parents who appeared to work incredibly hard in the school system without getting much in the way of financial benefit.

While doing a computer science degree at Edinburgh university modules on business studies that featured profiles of entrepreneurs such as Laura Ashley provided real inspiration.

“At the end of my second year I came to an important conclusion: These are ordinary people and yet somehow they become extraordinary through what they do .... If I want to start a business and take my ideas forward there’s no reason why I can’t do that.”

The success of Voxar came after the young Mr Bissell developed software that allowed graphics that had required the processing power of super computers to be run on desktop models.After considering targeting the computer games market, Voxar decided to focus on medical imaging and enjoyed huge success. With its products used in hospitals around the world. Mr Bissell recons Voxar democratised medical imaging while making a useful contribution to the Scottish economy.

He seems proud of the fact the business employs more than 100 people, including some who have remained with the venture from its early days though several ownership changes.It was acquired by Canon with medical visualisation systems operations bought from Toshiba in 2016.

Mr Bissell says he had no regrets about selling Voxar although he admits the timing was driven by the fact backers of the firm wanted to make exit. Some made many times their money.

He reckons the market for medical imaging was too small for Voxar to have become really big.Sunamp does not face such limitations.

The prospect of Brexit is a concern, however, for Mr Bissell, who spent some of his childhood in Italy.

“I’m worried about the consequences of Brexit. I don’t believe ‘Project Fear’ as it was termed was anything more than project telling it as it is.”

Things may turn out better than expected but Brexit could cause complications for a firm with a supply chain in Europe, which has great ambitions to grow sales on the continent.

“Would I prefer to grow all our production facilities for Europe locally? Yes, I certainly would. Will that necessarily be the way we’re going to go? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.”