Originally a contract engineering firm, Panacis was working with WorldHeart on something to power the latter’s heart assist device, when the U.S. military got wind of the lithium cell-based power system and asked if a similar device could be made to support soldier systems.
Before long, the U.S. Navy came a-knocking and requested the powerful, light lithium systems for its aircraft, says Panacis CEO Steve Carkner.
“That was something unexpected and delightful,” Mr. Carkner says.
The company then realized that being flexible in its business plan could help it capture more opportunities in new spaces.
“Basically, anything that is operated using batteries – where weight is a factor or the need to pack in more power – is affected by our technology,” he says.
While Panacis still derives a sizable chunk of its revenues from engineering and design work, it’s currently making the move towards being completely focused on its advanced power systems.
The company’s technology can reduce the weight of an aircraft by hundreds of pounds while delivering the same level of power as a much heavier battery, for instance, says Mr. Carkner.
Panacis uses a similar model as Mr. Carkner’s former employer, RIM, which supplies wireless products but doesn’t build the networks upon which they run. As such, the company doesn’t make lithium cells, but rather the devices that produce power from the cells.
It’s a calculated move that allows Panacis to be more nimble with customers’ needs, as it isn’t dependent on any one type of cell.
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“The focus is not so much on the lithium cells themselves, as we’re agnostic towards whose cells we use – our specialty is in providing electronics and intellectual property to retrofit systems so they can handle huge amounts of power and control it safely,” he explains.
The batteries are also medically compliant and can deliver power flawlessly, so a user won’t have to worry about their artificial heart shutting off suddenly, for example.
Panacis is concentrating on markets that may not yet be using lithium technology, with the goal of becoming the dominant player in those spaces as they mature, Mr. Carkner says. Most of the company’s customers were using older battery technologies such as lead acid or nickel-cadmium before switching over to Panacis’s power systems.
So far, that strategy seems to be working, as Panacis has secured relationships with several aircraft manufacturers and land vehicle suppliers, and its technology has been used on a fleet of F-18 fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. And of course, that initial work with WorldHeart has paid off as well.
Year founded: 2002
Number of employees: 30
Product/service: Advanced power systems for the medical, aerospace and defence markets; contract engineering services
Revenue growth: 215%