Wavegen, the Highland-based pioneer in renewable energy, has secured the #5m investment it needs to take its wave power technology to market.

Allan Thomson, its founder, said the group had ''very ambitious'' targets for exporting its next wave power machine and would consider a stock market listing in the future.

The critical funding round

was led by Merrill Lynch New

Energy Technology, the investment trust launched last autumn to specialise in renewable energy. The fund has 40% of its #136m of assets in renewable energy, but Wavegen is only its second unquoted investment in the sector.

''They understand the new tech-nology and renewables market and this is quite a milestone for them as well as for us,'' Thomson said.

Wavegen attracted EC funding to develop its prototype machine Limpet, which was installed last year off Islay, and generates power for ScottishPower and Scottish & Southern Energy under a 15-year contract. Thomson said he was hopeful the next machine, capable of generating five to six times the 500 megawatts of Limpet, would be constructed next year.

It would be installed in Scottish waters, but the location was yet to be decided.

''It works on a different prin-ciple and the patent is being

sorted out,'' he said. ''We have done a huge amount of research and development on it.'' A 12-strong research team at Inverness is now set to grow, alongside the continuing use of subcontracting.

Wavegen, which secured the #5m funding with backing from Ernst & Young, can now move towards commercial production.

The package includes further investment from existing shareholders including 3i, which has 9% of the company, AGIP Oil, and Unotec.

Thomson said: ''These are global players and they feel that we should roll out internationally as quick as we can. The wind

turbine industry is now worth #6bn a year.''