Nine UK start-ups that are engineering the future
Nov 28, 2016
Shell LiveWIRE UK has highlighted nine start-ups that are helping to engineer a smarter future for the UK. The programme showcased the businesses, which include companies focused on smart energy and food waste reduction, in one of its blogs to mark Global Entrepreneurship Week, to celebrate innovation and young entrepreneurs.
All of the businesses have won an award in the 2016 Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Programme, which supports UK-based young entrepreneurs with smart and innovative ideas that meet the energy and resource needs of a fast-growing population. The programme awards a start-up grant of £5,000 (US $6,100) each month to one 16-30 year old entrepreneur with an idea that addresses sustainable living challenges through smart innovation.
Five entrepreneurs who are working to improve energy efficiency through smart technologies and alternative energy solutions, include:
According to the International Coffee Organisation, approximately 500,000 tonnes of coffee ground waste ends up in landfill every year in the UK. Not satisfied with the status quo, this start-up from Glasgow transforms coffee ground waste into fertilisers and biomass pellets that can be used as a low carbon heating source. 22-year-old Fergus Moore, Revive Eco co-founder, explains: “My two co-founders, Scott and Rebecca, and I, worked in cafes, restaurants and bars at university, and saw first-hand how much coffee goes to waste on a daily basis. Creating Revive Eco was our way of addressing the issue.”
Hubebub is a data company which uses a network of wireless sensors in commercial buildings to identify opportunities to save energy. By placing smart sensors throughout a building, Hubebub measures energy consumption and translates this data into energy management insights – such as suggesting heating be adjusted based on the current weather or the number of occupants using a room.
Karina Maksimuk, founder of Hubebub, describes the solution as a complete end-to-end service that integrates software and hardware for measuring a building’s energy efficiency. “We streamline the process of having sensors and a smart dashboard installed in buildings that provide actionable insights for users. The building management dashboard virtually displays real-time data for energy saving opportunities,” she says.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, an uninsulated home experiences 66% heat loss through solid walls, which can be detrimental to people’s health and costs consumers money. Aeropowder’s product is a sustainable alternative to polyurethane foam in boards that are commonly used for home insulation. According to co-founder Elena Dieckmann,
their product not only has similar heat-retention qualities to current insulation materials, but comes at a cost which is 14 times lower.
“We thought about what feathers are good for, which is mainly protecting chickens and birds from water and the cold,” says Elena. “In the same way, we realised we could use the properties of feathers to insulate our homes. Nature had already designed the perfect solution for sustainable insulation!”
The challenge of generating large scale wind energy in a small scale way, to suit the needs of an urban population, was one that Charlotte Slingsby, founder of Moya Power set out to solve. Moya Power is a new type of flexible sheet that harvests light winds to generate energy. Unlike current wind turbines, Moya sheets take advantage of low-grade, un-obstructed winds and do not require strong wind currents in order to generate energy. Once installed, the material can operate consistently throughout the day, harvesting renewable energy 24/7.
Aceleron is a technology company, co-founded by Carlton Cummins, focused on providing low cost energy storage by transforming end of life lithium ion batteries from electric vehicles and consumer electronics, into affordable energy storage. The increased uptake of low carbon vehicles in developed regions has created a waste management challenge associated with their batteries. Meanwhile the growth of renewable energy deployment worldwide and increasing popularity of light mobility products, such as electric bicycles, have increased the demand for low cost energy storage. Through reuse, Aceleron seeks to address both challenges, developing the process to identify lithium ion batteries viable for reuse, and the technology to transform them into safe, cost-effective energy storage.
The following Shell LiveWIRE entrepreneurs are tackling the mounting waste problem in the UK through smarter use, reuse, and alternative use of the stuff we think of as ‘waste’:
It’s no secret that food waste is a major issue in the UK: research shows that 400 million edible meals are wasted every year. Out of 270,000 metric tonnes of food that could have been consumed, just 18% went to charities and food banks last year. To help both food providers and consumers tackle this issue, UK start-up Farmz2U, founded by Aisha Raheem, developed a software solution that enables food retailers to harness customer information – such as age, BMI levels and food allergies – which help consumers manage their nutrition and reduce food waste!
According to the Nature Research journal, around eight million tonnes of seashell waste is produced every year. This natural resource is difficult and expensive to dispose of, with 60% of all seashell waste in the UK going to landfill, and 20% returning to the ocean.
Cambridge University PhD student, George Foot, believes he has hit on a modern and sustainable new use for waste shells. Founded in early 2016, Cove recycles waste seashells into a high-end exfoliant for use in cosmetic products. The model is simple: Cove collects seashells from local seafood producers and cleans them to remove any remaining soft tissue and bacteria. The shells are then ground into particle sizes of 1-2mm to create a natural exfoliant.
Terence Chung is a cosmetic science technician at the London College of Fashion and founder of FRUU – a natural cosmetics business that is also tackling food waste.
Terence’s new range of skincare products is derived from fruit by-products – a big contributor to landfills worldwide. According to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), the UK wastes the equivalent of £150 million (US $185m) worth of fruit juice and smoothies each year.
Alex Bond, founder of Fresh Check is looking to tackle one of the biggest issues contributing to food waste – binning food that is past its sell-by date, but which is still perfectly safe to eat. He’s doing this with Fresh Check, a smart food label that can detect the presence of bacteria in food, giving you a much more accurate indicator of whether or not your food is safe to eat. The benefits do not stop there, however. Using the same principle, the chemical used in the food labels can also be incorporated into a spray that can identify the presence of bacteria on surfaces. In one sweeping bit of innovation Fresh Check is chipping away at the UK’s food waste challenge, and helping to prevent food poisoning and the spread of bacteria like MRSA.