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Innovators wanted for challenge call on ‘Zero carbon: Smart buildings and estates’

Energy Systems Catapult is launching an innovator challenge call in collaboration with Places for People, Geovation and Pineapple Partners, inviting SMEs developing products and services targeted at Zero Carbon Housing Solutions, Smart Buildings and Estates, to receive tailored business incubation and acceleration support.


The 4th intake of the Energy Launchpad offers SMEs access to advanced energy system expertise from across the Catapult alongside a wider network of around 40 firms offering a range of specialist business support.

The Energy Launchpad aims is to help innovators unlock new routes-to-market, secure investment and breakdown barriers to growth – with at least two innovator challenges running each year.

The Zero Carbon Housing Solutions, Smart Buildings and Estates challenge could include innovators working on:

  • Integrating innovative low carbon generation or infrastructure technologies into the building or estate fabric
  • Zero carbon domestic heating solutions
  • Leveraging data from end users, infrastructure and networks to create new services and business models that accelerate the transition to net zero
  • Enabling active, interoperable control systems that delivers more efficient and flexible operation of the whole building & estate energy system
  • Delivering better living environments.

A shortlist of SMEs will be generated and must be available to attend a workshop at the Catapult innovation hub in Birmingham on the 5th and 6th of May 2020.  Closing date for applications is noon on the 30th March 2020.


Julie Alexander, Director of Technology & Innovation at Places for People said: “Climate change is the most pressing challenge of our time,  and with the construction sector and buildings being the most prolific polluters, we need to be much more determined as a sector to tackle this issue head on.”.”

“Engaging with the supply chain is the starting point. We want to identify technologies and business models we can deploy that are effective, and deliverable within the coming decade”

“This call is not about finding the next renewable energy solution, it’s about developing interoperability across systems, using intelligent infrastructure to help us manage demand and supply and identifying new business models that will allow deployment at scale. It’s a combination of these approaches that will enable us to achieve our net zero ambitions.”

Paul Jordan, Energy Launchpad business lead, said: “One of the biggest challenges to achieving the UK’s climate change goals is creating Zero Carbon places for people to live and work. But this is also an opportunity on a grand scale.

“Working with Places for People, we recognised that emerging smart innovations provide a great opportunity to capture value from low carbon generation and infrastructure systems.

“Yet smart controls and interoperability between innovations remain a barrier for integrating buildings, estates and the wider energy system.

“So we’ve launched this challenge with the aim of unleashing innovative products and services that can realise benefits across the built environment for multiple stakeholders – from building occupants and owners to networks, system operators and energy suppliers.”

Start-ups will also be granted free membership to the Geovation Hub, an Ordnance Survey initiative that supports start-ups and provides them with world class location and place-based datasets. Start-ups joining the Geovation Hub can request specialist support and access an established start-up community and business network.

Alex Wrottesley, Head of Geovation said: “We are delighted to support the Zero Carbon: Smart Buildings & Estates challenge as a step towards accelerating the transition to net zero, through the disruptive power of location-based innovation and entrepreneurship. We welcome approaches from additional funding partners interested in supporting a Net Zero Accelerator being developed by Geovation with Pineapple Partnerships.

Examples of innovation areas include (but are not limited to):

  • Tools that collate and manage building, occupancy and energy data, enabling Demand Side Management (DSM) practices to drive energy efficiency improvements, helping track performance and supporting asset managers in planning and undertaking building maintenance (e.g. building passport type solutions), and optimising lifetime costs.
  • Products and services that unlock large-scale deployment or integration of IoT sensors to capture building performance and occupancy data. Associated services that use this data to deliver bespoke energy efficiency and low carbon retrofit recommendations and financing solutions.
  • Improvements in building design or the installation processes of low carbon heating solutions that minimise the disruption and impact to the building and building occupier during retrofit and operation leading to higher adoption rates.
  • Innovative low carbon retrofit solutions for generation, storage and efficiency.
  • Interoperable control systems for power (DC or AC), heat and transport to improve outcomes for occupants and estate owners that support the adoption of flexible local energy systems.
  • Microgrid solutions.
  • Data Services that improve forecasting, balancing and investment decisions or provide user centric recommendations relating to:
    • Energy as a service
    • Optimising energy distribution efficiency
    • Local area energy planning (LAEP) decisions
    • Optimisation of investment costs.
    • Building usage & utilisation through better end user experiences
  • Innovations that increase consumer engagement, leading to the adoption of low carbon energy solutions (across power, heat and transport) and behavioural change in consumption patterns and attitudes.
  • Financing solutions that deliver returns incrementally over the building or estate life cycle.
  • Business models with an emphasis on community energy projects emphasising local engagement, leadership and control where the local community benefits collectively.

About Places for People

Places for People is a leading placemaker in the UK. It believes that places work when they work for everyone, and these places are designed for the long term, with sustainable value at their core. Delivering social impact by taking a commercial approach is what makes Places for People different.

The Group’s award-winning, placemaking, property investment, development and management companies are active throughout the UK and collectively have the capability and expertise to create and manage entire places, considering all the things a place needs to become a sustainable community.

Places for People owns or manages more than 197,000 homes, provides services to over 500,000 people, operates over 120 leisure facilities, has assets of £4.5bn, and will be delivering 25,000 new homes in the coming years.

About Geovation

Geovation was launched in 2010 by Ordnance Survey to support innovative start-ups using location and property data. Geovation operates two Accelerator Programmes, launched in 2016 and run in association with HM Land Registry and Registers of Scotland. These provide promising GeoTech and PropTech start-ups with focused guidance and support, access to quality data, and technical and financial resources to help them develop and thrive. Geovation has offices in London and Edinburgh and also has partnerships with innovation hubs in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester to develop and support local start-ups.

About Pineapple Partnerships

Pineapple Partnerships helps to accelerate business to solve global challenges like climate change and access to clean and affordable energy. Pineapple are supporting the development of the accelerator initiative by helping to identify the different organisations that can add value to the process and innovators in order to act as a catalyst to the innovation process.

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