18 innovative firms chosen to help accelerate West Midlands to Net Zero

Eighteen of the UK’s most innovative SMEs have been selected for a business accelerator programme aimed at helping the West Midlands become a leader in developing Net Zero energy systems for buildings, commercial estates and industry.

This ‘Innovator Challenge’ will be run by Energy Systems Catapult’s new Energy Launchpad in collaboration with EIT Climate-KIC and supported by Energy Capital – part of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The aim is for some the UK’s most innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to develop and commercialise products and services with the West Midlands; enabling the integration of low carbon solutions within urban buildings and commercial estates or optimising energy networks supplying West Midlands industry.

High calibre candidates applied from across the UK, that are developing innovations, including:

  • Zero carbon domestic, commercial or industrial heating solutions
  • Leveraging data from end users, infrastructure and networks to create new services and business models that accelerate the transition to Net Zero
  • Interoperable digital control systems that deliver more efficient and flexible operation of a whole building or estate energy system
  • Grid Scale Battery Energy storage to mitigate constraints points for renewable connections
  • Delivering cleaner transport solutions
  • User-centric approaches that help to reduce fuel poverty

The 18 SMEs will get access to a range of advanced energy system expertise and specialist business support to help innovators unlock new routes-to-market, secure investment and breakdown barriers to growth.

Members of the Innovator Challenge advisory board will help to introduce SMEs to potential partners working on projects across the West Midlands, including those in Energy Innovation Zones. These five unique zones were established to support the commercialisation of low carbon solutions to address the key challenges of this call: Integration / Heat & Fuel Poverty / Alternative Transport Solutions.

Paul Jordan, Business Lead for Innovator Support and International at Energy Systems Catapult, said: “Achieving Net Zero will require close coordination across the energy system and arguably most crucially between the built environment, transport infrastructure, industry, and commercial energy consumers.

“Innovation that enables an interoperable relationship across sectors, consumers, technology, generators and distributors is fundamental. Delivering low carbon energy solutions, while simultaneously creating economic benefits to the wider community whilst lowering energy and running costs – will be crucial in achieving the UK’s Net Zero goal.”

Stream 1 SMEs – 11 businesses

Consisting of a series of Masterclasses for SMEs whose innovations have a Technology-Readiness Level up to 5, are establishing their beachhead markets or are looking to secure investment. The SMEs attend a Business Model Canvas workshop and be mentored to develop their Customer Value Propositions. They will also attend an Investor Readiness workshop, enabling them to develop their own innovation narrative and develop their presentation skills to help them prepare an investor pitch.

Stream 2 SMEs – 7 businesses

Focused on scale up businesses, this six month programme will provide a bespoke range of services to help each SME to develop its Customer Value Proposition; business model to identify, validate and test the innovation’s viability; quantifying the market opportunity – unlocking value and supporting credible, investable routes to market to help de-risk the SME’s innovation. Each SME will be supported in creating their innovation narrative as a tool to attract customers, partners and investors. Those seeking investment will be also be mentored through an Investor Readiness workshop to help develop their investor pitch.

The 11 Stream 1 SME innovators chosen were:

1. Advanced Infrastructure enable energy suppliers to personalise energy through our half-hourly energy attributes data service and programmable API. Source, location, carbon intensity, and distance are now all service differentiators and customer engagement stories upon which suppliers can deepen relationships with customers.

The Cambridge-based SME, offer a data service that can be used to form hyper local personalised energy billing, household level carbon accounting, demand side response automatic emissions reduction, lower-carbon trading strategies, and benchmarking against other energy suppliers.

2. Airex has developed a smart ventilation control to reduce heat loss from homes whilst also managing indoor air quality. Cold, draughty and poorly insulated buildings contribute more than one third of the EU’s total carbon emissions. While recent research demonstrated that up to 15% of energy waste can be caused by open air-bricks and residents that block these air vents permanently, can cause damp and condensation, with associated health risks.

London-based Airex developed their “intelligent airbrick” with in-built sensors to monitor and analyse environmental conditions, with smart algorithms that responsively regulate the airflow, control humidity and heat loss, offering customers warmer homes, lower energy bills and improved air quality.

3. Ambue is a new start-up that helps consumers reduce the energy use and carbon emissions from their homes, by leveraging machine learning to develop bespoke retrofit plans. The Oxford-based firm has designed an innovative approach to collecting existing property data, using an online portal and gamification techniques, to make the process of retrofitting a home simpler and more cost effective for consumers. The offering includes a Virtual Reality model that can illustrate the current energy performance, thermal model and embodied carbon of the property. It can also be used in real time, to illustrate the options for retrofit and renewable technologies.

Retrofit plans are produced that offer detailed schedules of works, enabling specific tenders and costs to be obtained, giving an accurate and granular forecast of capital and operational costs and savings – i.e. lifetime performance analysis. This will help justify the up-front capital costs and investment for the consumer.

4. BankEnergi is creating bankable energy assets in a unique end-to-end trading solution. The solution encompasses working with end users to provide energy and flexibility services along the value chain. This will bring socio-economic benefits as well as defer costly gird re-enforcements. The London-based firm used optimised energy trading to provide end users with carbon and energy savings. They aim to develop the industry standard on energy and flexibility trading.

5. Block Dox has a patented technology that uses the Internet of Things, machine and deep learning data science to help make spaces smarter. Currently, most buildings are managed based on fixed assumptions rather than real time demand with implications for energy saving, operational efficiency, space utilisation and revenue generation.

BlockDox uses IoT sensors and data science to blend real time occupancy data with indoor air quality and other data sets (e.g. weather, event data) providing insights to building owners and managers about improving demand-side management. With buildings responsible more than one third of carbon emissions, the London-based SME has developed a Demand Control Ventilation model for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems which currently shows an up to 10% improvement on energy saving. Implementing demand driven HVAC operations could save up to 56% of HVAC related energy consumption or 27% of total building energy consumption.

6. Carnego Systems work at the interface of buildings, data and people, specialising in large scale data collection systems, including interfacing to Building Management Systems, metering, environmental sensors and data management/processing.

Carnego collect, store and analyse real-time data from buildings to determine whether buildings work as designed. With specialist knowledge in human behaviour in buildings, the Cornwall-based company has developed their ‘Shimmy’ product now undergoing live deployments – combining real-time energy usage information, with transport, home information, community calendars and resident messaging. Carnego are looking to extend the functionality of Shimmy and target large scale retrofit where there is a community dimension in addition to the technical retrofit of buildings.

7. City Science is an independent firm of software developers, data scientists and infrastructure experts, developing award-winning software solutions to serve the transport and energy markets. Based in Exeter, City Science work with both the public and private sectors, using specialisms in data management, data analysis, transport technology and energy innovation.
City Science are developing energy products and services to reduce waste and improve efficiency, including: Smart Meter Thermal Efficiency Ratings, Energy Efficiency Dashboards, Data Gateways, Energy Network optimization, Energy Digital Twin and Electric Vehicle modelling,

8. eCloudS has developed a low-cost, easy to implement and scalable platform that uses data and optimisation controls to reduce costs and carbon emissions of major energy users. The London-based SME is currently deploying trial studies in the field, with the eCloudS technology sits at the intersection of advanced Energy Management and Building Management Systems to determine the best solution – including a dashboard that provides a visualisation of energy fluctuations and carbon emissions in real time.

Drawing on wholesale electricity pricing, self-generated energy production and demand data, eCloudS has developed proprietary cost modelling software and Data-as-a-Service products that give customers increased control of their resources, automating import and export energy flows between the power systems and grid to optimise financial returns. The technology can integrate into a new build development or be retrofitted, and is interoperable with Building Management Systems to allow supply and demand to work together dynamically, shifting load demand, increasing return on investment, and help companies reach their sustainability goals quickly.

9. EcoSync aim to reduce carbon emissions, energy cost and waste with a simple solution – stop heating empty rooms. With more than one third of energy consumption and carbon emission are from buildings – and this is expected to reach 50% by 2030. Larger organisations spend millions of pounds on their energy bills while 70% of their heated rooms are empty and 40% of the energy is wasted.

EcoSync is a cloud-based platform synchronising room booking systems and heating control. Ensuring heating is provided only in occupied areas, while saving energy in rooms permanently or temporarily vacated. The Oxford-based SME uses Internet of Things devices, machine learning algorithms and an innovative, patent-pending hardware-free occupancy detection technology to find empty rooms and create responsive heated zones within buildings. The technology has also been successfully retrofitted in both modern and 15th century buildings, and is suitable for hotels, hospitals and offices across the UK and Europe.

10. Q-Bot supply contractors with a range of intelligent tools that: identify the needs of each property; automate repetitive tasks; track the work done; and, seamlessly share information in order to make the retrofit of buildings cheaper, easier and higher quality.

The South London company was founded in 2012 with the objective of using robotics and AI to survey and insulate suspended floors. This is a huge problem, in the UK there are 8m homes with uninsulated suspended floors and 20m in Northern Europe. Q-Bot’s solution uses a robot to apply insulation remotely, which is quicker, cheaper, performs better and is hassle free compared to alternatives. Q-Bot’s range of services has recently been expanded, using the technology to survey, design, procure, manage and measure the quality of a wide range of retrofit measures.

11. Tepeo is developing a new heating technology to help deliver zero carbon domestic heating while supporting the transition to a decarbonised electricity grid.

Their Zero Emission Boiler, called a ZEB™ in set to launch in early 2021, and combines electric resistive heating, dry core thermal storage and patent-pending technology to deliver the same performance as a fossil fuel boiler at a similar operating cost, but without the associated carbon emissions. It can be installed as a direct boiler replacement without requiring changes to the existing heating system or building fabric.

Based in Maidenhead, Berkshire, Tepeo’s IoT infrastructure uses a range of data to optimised operation, including grid carbon intensity, energy cost and weather, in addition to supporting grid balancing, frequency response and self-consumption of solar PV.

The 7 Stream 2 SME innovators chosen were:

12. Connected Response offer a range of control and metering technologies to deliver flexibility services that match renewal generation with electricity demand.

The Glasgow-based firm develop systems for new build or to retrofit storage heaters, heat pump metering and monitoring control, aggregation services and real time metering for community energy projects, Connected Response has a range of products and systems to provide real time control with cloud connectivity.

13. Cumulus Energy Storage aims to be the leading manufacturer and developer of grid-level energy storage batteries with the lowest levelised cost of storage globally. Increasing distributed renewables generation, especially the growth in solar PV on top of onshore and offshore wind, is causing pain points for grid infrastructure and incumbent generators; creating urgent global need for reliable low-cost, scalable grid-level energy storage.

Based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Cumulus has combined a 200 year old battery technology with industrial scale mining and water treatment processes to create electricity super-storage – a low-cost grid-scale rechargeable Copper/Zinc battery.

14. GridDuck is a low-cost energy management system utilising wireless hardware, an online dashboard and an API. The London-based firm offer consumption monitoring and analysis, remote control and automation. Utilising Internet of Things (IoT) technology, they offer real-time and historical per-second consumption data and remote control of appliances using a cloud-based alternative to a traditional Building Energy Management System (BEMS). GridDuck are certified for cybersecurity and the system enables data sharing with different organisations.

15. Gridedge is a Birmginham-based company that offers AI-powered efficiency and flexibility technologies to harness a buildings data to deliver cost savings and reduce emissions. These include the Edge2X technology, which drives down energy consumption, maximises comfort and performance, and identifies and automates carbon savings. And their Flex2X technology, which goes beyond efficiency and harnesses predictive data to flexibly manage energy demand against the volatility of the grid. The innovation shifts demand to pre-empt peak prices, utilises day-ahead data and manages electric vehicles, distributed assets and building management systems in harmony.


16. Rotaheat is a Salisbury-based firm that has developed a patented heating technology that converts motive power into clean thermal energy in the form of heated fluids. Capable of delivering clean heat with 97%+ energy efficiency, Rotaheaters are suitable for space heating in buildings or to provide hot fluid for cleaning, industrial processing or energy storage. Simple to install and requiring minimal support infrastructure, Rotaheaters are designed to heat fluid for closed or open loop systems at temperatures up to 110°C (but can exceed over 300°C) and work alongside existing heating systems or an additional pump.

17. SEaB Energy is a London-Based company offering on-site energy from waste technology. Their patented Flexibuster™ and Muckbuster® units are compact and easy-to-install, turnkey Anaerobic Digestion (AD) systems housed in shipping containers. Designed to be a modular and scalable technology, they are ideally suited to small and medium scale sites that produce between 500kg and 3000kg of organic waste per day. The units are being installed globally, directly and through distribution and licensing agreements.

18. Surple offer Energy Management Software that connects to electricity, gas, water and generation data — allowing the monitoring and management all your energy data in one place.

Based in Newport, Wales, Surple has developed technology that understands how buildings interact with energy, improving efficiency with analytical tools enable investigation of energy consumption across any combination of assets and period of time, with special features such as anomaly detection.

About the Advisory Board

Its members include, Aston University, University of Birmingham, WMCA, Energy Capital, Engie, National Grid, Minerva, SHAP, Places for People, Cadent Gas, Tyseley Energy Park, Coventry City Council, Climate-KIC, Birmingham City Council.

This group supports many of the innovation projects currently being developed or deployed in the West Midlands. Projects cover a wide spectrum of themes relevant to the energy transition and the Advisory Board has come together to support the creation of this incubation and acceleration programme and the SMEs selected.

About EIT Climate-KIC

EIT Climate-KIC is a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), working to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy.  Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, we identify and support innovation that helps society mitigate and adapt to climate change. We believe that a decarbonised, sustainable economy is not only necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change but presents a wealth of opportunities for business and society.

We bring together partners in the worlds of business, academia, and the public and non-profit sectors to create networks of expertise, through which innovative products, services and systems can be developed, brought to market and scaled-up for impact.  Through our convening power, EIT Climate-KIC brings together the most effective groups to create the innovation that can lead to systemic change. 

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