Green Tech: Jane Jin of OXCCU On How Their Novel Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact On The Future of Fuel Production

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readFeb 26, 2024

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Understand the Problem: Clear comprehension of the problem is foundational. Identifying unmet market needs and understanding customer requirements are crucial steps before tailoring or developing technology.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Jane Jin, Co-Founder & COO of OXCCU.

Jane was the ex-ClimateTech Lead at Oxford University Innovation with over ten years’ experience in IP commercialisation and innovation management. She helped the academic founders to set up the spinout and served on the board for one year before joining OXCCU. Jane completed her PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University on organocatalysis in flow in 2010.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I would love to. I came to the UK in 2002 after graduating from a high school in China. I had a very happy childhood, growing up in Harbin, a large and open city in northern China, deeply influenced by Europe and Japan in its culture, architecture and lifestyle. The city is also called “The Ice City”, hosting the world’s biggest ice and snow festival every year. My mum is a successful entrepreneur who started her own hair and beauty business in 1983 during China’s first wave of entrepreneurship. I still remember the time I helped in her shop during my school holidays. I actually spent most of my time with my grandparents during term time since my parents were busy. My grandpa has a big influence on me, he was a chartered civil engineer, fluent in Chinese and Japanese. He founded and managed an engineering consultancy company in his early fifty, did not retire until his late eighty. He is truly a role model for me. My grandpa used to teach me the importance of bridging science and business, acquiring new knowledge and skills regardless of your age.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Certainly! I gained a wealth of experience and career learnings whilst working at the Oxford University Innovation. In this role, I worked with world-leading scientists to transition their academic results from research into impactful technology solutions. I personally managed the creation of five deep tech companies with 250K to £3M of seed round investment. At Oxford University, over 300 spinout companies were created, accompanied by numerous successful commercial licensing deals. For every £1 invested in Oxford research, the University’s innovation activities generate another £10 for the wider economy. Witnessing the transformation of research results into ventures that could significantly impact the world was fascinating.

In 2020, during the global lockdown, I worked with two professors who jointly developed a rapid diagnosis technology for COVID-19. After the news was released to the public, we received commercial interest from over ten countries within two weeks, a new company called Oxsed was quickly spun out. With the University’s support, we successfully raised £250K seed fund and developed a prototype product, and within a short span, it was acquired by a larger entity with a robust global distribution network. This experience highlighted the agility and impact that technology can have, turning an idea into a marketable solution that served a meaningful purpose.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Around 2018–2019, when the terminology “climate tech” was not as commonplace as it is today, I was lucky enough to be connected with my line manager Brendan Ludden. He offered invaluable support during a period of my career when I was contemplating my focus and professional development.

After several projects, he appointed me to be the ClimateTech Lead at Oxford University Innovation. Together, we launched the Oxford University Climate Tech and Sustainability Challenge, coinciding with COP26 in Glasgow in 2020. We worked together to assess the University’s research and innovation strengths in the area of climate tech and explored ways to engage leading Oxford academics and the local innovation ecosystem in addressing climate crisis challenges.

I am grateful to Brendan for his support, guidance, and encouragement to pursue a career in the climate tech domain. My early career success is a testament to the power of collaboration and mentorship, and I recognise that many of these achievements were made possible through our joint efforts.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favourite life lesson quote is, “Opportunity favours the prepared mind.”

It resonates with me because it encapsulates the essence of understanding what to prepare, how to prepare, and seeking support when needed. Confidence in oneself is crucial for recognising and seizing opportunities when they arise.

As an entrepreneur and someone deeply involved in innovation management, having a mindset that is always attuned to spotting opportunities is vital. It’s not just about preparing; it’s about preparing with a broad perspective. Opportunities often arise at the intersection of different domains, requiring a diverse set of skills and knowledge.

I believe in constantly challenging oneself and diversifying expertise. This approach, coupled with a readiness to embrace new perspectives, enhances the ability to identify and capitalise on opportunities when they emerge. While luck may play a role, being prepared significantly increases the chances of success when the right opportunity presents itself.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Certainly, the three character traits instrumental to my success are:

  1. Can-Do Attitude: Maintaining a positive and confident approach is crucial, particularly in the face of unexpected challenges and uncertainties. An optimistic attitude helps navigate the complexities of growing a startup and sustains momentum through difficult periods.
  2. Open-Mindedness: Actively listening, understanding diverse perspectives, and incorporating critical thinking are key components of remaining open-minded. This trait has been instrumental in my personal growth, enabling me to approach challenges with a calm and objective mindset, distinguishing between personal issues and problem-solving.
  3. Growth Mindset: As a COO in a startup environment, cultivating a continuous desire for improvement and curiosity is essential. Mentorship is important here as it offers me an outlet for evaluating ideas so I can channel them into the business and be better equipped to support others. Questioning the status quo, exploring better alternatives, and fostering a mindset focused on learning and development contribute significantly to the success of the business.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on the planet and the environment. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

At OXCCU, the main problem we are addressing is the increasing demand for aviation fuel in our modern, industrialised world, coupled with the need to transition to net zero carbon emissions. Aviation fuel is currently based on fossil fuels and hence a large source of CO2 emissions. We will still need hydrocarbons for aviation because of their energy density but we can get them from other sources. Biofuels are limited by their feedstocks. Hence we need to look at converting CO2 and turning that into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which is what we’re focused on at OXCCU.

How do you think your technology can address this?

SAF is crucial for decarbonising the aviation industry, especially for long-distance flights, where electrification technologies are not viable. The challenge with converting CO2 into SAF is cost. OXCCU’s technology addresses this through a unique one-step catalytic conversion process that significantly reduces both capital and operational costs. Independent research from Imperial College London has validated our approach, showing a 50% lower capital cost, and reduced operational costs due to higher selectivity yield in the jet fuel range.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I would love to! Co-founding OXCCU is deeply rooted in my background as a chemist, holding a PhD in organic catalysis from the University of Cambridge. During my university years, I actively participated in various entrepreneurial student societies and even founded Cambridge University Consulting Society whiling doing my PhD, nurturing my interest in entrepreneurship. However, it was my role at Oxford University Innovation that fueled my desire for a venture aligned with my expertise.

Working with numerous scientists to bring their ideas into the commercial realm, I anticipated finding the right opportunity for my own business, one closely connected to my trained expertise in chemistry.

When the opportunity to establish OXCCU presented itself, my response was swift and resounding — a definite “yes.” The company was spun out from the University of Oxford in 2021, co-founded by myself and Andrew Symes and three academics. OXCCU is grounded in scientific breakthroughs published in top-tier scientific journals by the academic founders: Professor Peter Edwards, Dr. Tiancun Xiao, and Dr. Benzhen Yao.

How do you think this might change the world?

CO2-derived SAF will enable future generations to fly but without a climate impact. It will also enable any country with green electricity to make their own jet fuel locally. This contributes to energy security. In essence, technologies like OXCCU are reshaping the way we approach and utilise hydrocarbons, reducing dependence on imports and promoting a more sustainable and locally-driven energy landscape.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We do need a lot of renewable energy to make the green hydrogen but this is rapidly becoming available in some places with good wind and solar resource. From a technical standpoint though, I believe there are no drawbacks. The materials used, such as iron-based catalysts, are standard and commonly found in nature, minimising concerns about their impact on the environment. The sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced follows a one-step process, our catalyst is composed of known compounds with a long history of safe use and our process builds upon well-established practices in the hydrocarbon industry.

Other things to consider are the additionality of renewables used to make the green hydrogen, land use if biogenic CO2 is used and non-CO2 emissions. OXCCU is focused on selling to project developers that have projects which have green hydrogen which meet strict standards, and those that have biogenic CO2 where possible. This will result in fuels which have a very low CO2 footprint.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive impact”?

Certainly, creating technology with a positive impact requires a strategic approach. Here are five key considerations that I would recommend as an entrepreneur, academic and mentor:

  1. Understand the Problem: Clear comprehension of the problem is foundational. Identifying unmet market needs and understanding customer requirements are crucial steps before tailoring or developing technology.
  2. Hire Skilled People: Building a talented team from academia, research groups, and industries is essential. A mix of tech-savvy individuals covering initial research to scaling up is vital for successful technology development.
  3. Integrate Problem and Solution: Once the problem is clear and the technical team is in place, bridging the gap between the problem and the solution is critical. This involves creating a commercial product that aligns with customer needs.
  4. Establish a Sustainable Business Model: Beyond technology development, finding a sustainable business model is crucial. This ensures the company’s growth, attracts funding, and allows for a continued positive impact on the world.
  5. Cultivate a Purpose-Driven Culture: At OXCCU we have built a team who are motivated to address the climate crisis. This shared mission unifies the team, extending beyond work and creating a cohesive company identity. Support, active listening, and opportunities for growth ensure a lasting, positive team culture.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

For young minds seeking purpose, I’d say, “Why not be a force for positive change in our society and environment?”. Consider joining companies like OXCCU or other startups that are already championing impactful initiatives. Learn about the motivations driving these technologies and immerse yourself in the culture of meaningful work.

Young people bring abundant energy and enthusiasm, and by aligning with companies committed to creating a positive impact, they can be part of a community driving change. Whether it’s joining existing ventures, starting their own businesses, or becoming part of the growing climate tech community, young individuals have the potential to shape a better future. So, to the young generation, I say, ‘Why not be part of it? You can make a difference, and it starts with finding your purpose and taking that first step.’

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can connect with me here. You are welcome to follow OXCCU on LinkedIn and refer to our media centre for updates as we continue to scale.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

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