Cambridge-based solar technology firm The Solar Cloth Company has filed for administration, raising fresh concerns about UK solar employment.
Five full-time employees are understood to have been made redundant in late April, however the appointed administrators are confident the company could be rescued by a former director.
While no direct company statement has been made, filings made to Companies House confirm that the company appointed Irwin & Company as its administrator on 1 June 2016, and that the firm’s annual return for the 2015/16 financial year is overdue.
Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Gerald Irwin, principal at Irwin & Company, said that a number of interested parties had come forward looking to purchase TSCC’s assets, including a former director and a previous shareholder in the company.
Neither TSCC nor its chief executive Mike Staplehurst could be reached by SPP at the time of publication.
The development comes just four months after TSCC announced a merger with Bristol-based Base Structures to target the nascent solar carport market, and a year after it raised almost £1 million through crowdfunding platform Crowd Cube to develop its technology.
That crowdfunding campaign originally intended to raise £750,000 in exchange for 10% of TSCC’s equity in B shares, which the company said would be used to further the development of thin, flexible solar panels designed to be used on non-load bearing roofs and car parks.
It eventually raised more than £950,000, and its collapse would make it one of the largest crowdfunded companies to have gone bust in the UK.
The success of the crowdfunding was followed by two new C-level hires, with Staplehurst and David Blair joining as CEO and CFO respectively, completing the firm’s management team alongside founder Perry Carroll.
TSCC’s collapse also raises questions about the protection offered to those investing in crowdfunding initiatives. The failure of Rebus, which raised £800,000 also through CrowdCube, in February this year prompted calls for greater protection for would-be investors.
A statement issued to SPP by CrowdCube read: "We are still investigating the reasons behind the failure of The Solar Cloth Company, but it appears to have come about as a result of unforeseen changes in government policy. Any business going into administration is disappointing but it is important that this is viewed in context: 50 -70% of early stage businesses fail according to the Financial Conduct Authority. Crowdfunding investments are high risk, which we work hard to ensure our members are fully aware of, and should therefore form part of a diversified investment portfolio."
The five permanent jobs lost at TSCC will add to the circa 170 positions lost at installation firm Solarlec and the 53 positions closed at developer Lightsource in recent weeks.