If you are interested in learning more about these five exciting opportunities, as well as our other live deals – Entomics and Powervault – please contact Nick Lyth or Simon Acland.
Airex – Smart ventilation system, tackling energy efficiency and fuel poverty
Ambition – AirEx is an innovative, intelligent ventilation control system that helps householders reduce their heating energy bills without compromising air quality.
Market and business model – AirEx replace the existing air vents in homes with a ‘smart vent’, that regulates the airflow by automatically adjusting its aperture. This is based on self-learning algorithms that analyse information from the system’s smart sensors (monitoring environmental conditions such as the temperature, humidity and air quality in the house) and can predict occupants’ behaviour and weather patterns.
The primary target market for Airex is social landlords, for which it will charge an install price and a subscription fee. However, Airex also focuses its commercial efforts on utilities, which, under Energy Company Obligation regulation, will have large budgets to spend over the coming years on the trial of innovative energy efficiency technologies.
Airex’s key value proposition is that it is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce a building’s CO2 emissions, with a much lower capex per tonne of CO2 saved than draught proofing, underfloor insulation or boiler replacement, for example.
What it’s achieved so far – In November 2016, Airex secured its first R&D grant and made its first prototypes. Since then, it has achieved independent validation of its product, won the Business Green ‘Cleantech Startup of the Year’ award (2017), secured certification partners (BRE, BEIS), has been endorsed for ECO3 certification (Energy Company Obligation) and has signed an outsourced manufacturing contract.
Airex has agreed commercial trials with large utilities (EdF Energy, Engie, SSE) and has live trials with several large social landlords. To date, the company has secured funding of £355k including £175k in equity (£100k from Sustainable Accelerator and £75k from Greenbackers) and the rest in grants.
Team – Agnes Czako is co-founder and Managing Director. Andrew Wordsworth (Sustainable Ventures) is co-founder and Chairman, and the company has a development team of three.
Exit – Airex foresees a trade sale to a building technology manufacturer firm by 2022-23 and is already engaging with large corporate partners.
Fundraise – Seeking £500k (EIS) to secure the following three milestones: reducing the production cost to £45 per unit; completing the ECO certification and installing smart vents in homes. The company expects that it will need a £1.5m Series A investment at the beginning of 2020.
Chrysalix – Innovative chemical process for the recycling of waste wood
Ambition – The recycling of waste wood is massively underdeveloped, both in Europe and in the US. This is because waste wood mainly comes from the construction and demolition sector, and contains pollutants, including heavy metals. Chrysalix has developed a chemical process enabling the recycling of these large amounts of waste wood, helping to create a circular bioeconomy.
Market and business model – Europe and the US produce 100Mt of waste wood every year, and the company believes that its patented technology, the ‘BioFlex’ process, can generate recycling outputs worth £250 per tonne of wood – pointing to a £25bn opportunity. The process uses an inexpensive and recyclable liquid salt (an ionic liquid) to transform the waste wood into cellulose, lignin and other by-products. These can be sold into the cellulose fibre market (£35bn by 2025), the bioplastic market (£25bn by 2024) and the biochemicals market (£17bn by 2025).
Beyond contaminated waste wood, the firm’s technology could also be used on other input materials, such as wheat straw or sugarcane bagasse, further increasing the potential opportunity. Chrysalix’s ambition is to make waste wood recycling a zero-waste process where all components are valorised, and CO2 savings are very high compared to regular petrochemicals.
What it’s achieved so far – Chrysalix was founded in 2017 and has raised over £400K for IP and tech development. The company has signed a MOU with SCA, the largest private forest owner in Europe, and it has letters of interest from two potential customers on the lignin side. Chrysalix is endorsed notably by Imperial College London, EIT Climate-KIC, Royal Academy of Engineering and Interreg North-West Europe.
Team – Dr Florence Gschwend, Co-founder & CEO, has spent four years working on the BioFlex process as part of her PhD and has been recognised by Forbes 30under30. Prof Jason Hallett (Imperial College) is the firm’s technical and scientific adviser, and Dr Agi Brandt-Talbot is leading product development.
Exit – Exit options include a trade sale, which could take place post-commercialisation or even pre-commercialisation; or potentially an IPO.
Fundraise – Raising £300k (EIS) to give the firm an 18 months runway, to finalise the design and costing of a pilot plant, find a suitable location and raise the money for its construction. Chrysalix anticipates that it will need a further £3m in funding to build its first commercial plant.
Dynamic Boosting Systems – Manufacturer of industrial energy efficiency solutions
Ambition – Energy efficiency in industry is a hidden source of clean energy and there is a large global opportunity to recover wasted energy from industrial processes. DBS aims at generating a turnover of £100m within 10 years from the manufacture and commercialisation of world-class industrial energy efficiency solutions, based on its high-speed electric motors and generators technology.
Market and business model – Industrial groups want to access energy efficiency savings but the problem they face is how to get an acceptable commercial return on investment. Using technology developed at City University of London and Imperial College, DBS has made a breakthrough in energy recovery technology such that turn-key units can be delivered to customers’ sites at a price and performance that achieves the rapid payback they need. The energy savings provide both a commercial win for the company and an improvement in terms of sustainability. DBS estimates a total addressable market in excess of £1bn.
What it’s achieved so far – DBS was founded in 2006 and started trading in 2009. It generates annual revenue of £650k and an order book of £1.2m for FY19. It has secured IP rights and equity investment to date of £1.5m.
Team – Dr Stephen Hampson (Interim Managing Director) is a mechanical engineer with 20+ years of experience covering venture capital, high growth businesses and academia. Professor Keith Pullen is a Director in charge of R&D and Dr Shahram Etemad is Chairman.
Exit – DBS’s plan includes an AIM IPO in 3-5 years, but other opportunities include the trade sale of a subsidiary company and options to sell or license its IP.
Fundraise – Seeking £500-750k to expand its testing and assembly facility, increase its sales effort and complete an ISO9001 accreditation. DBS will need to raise a further £2.5m in 12-18 months to develop it manufacturing capability and for further product development.
Firglas – Microalgae facilities at a disruptive cost
Ambition – Firglas plans to develop and operate microalgae facilities, using proven technology to make food-grade product. The company will offer nutritious ingredient to existing food supplement and fish feed markets, as well as pursue the alternative protein trend.
Market and business model – The microalgae growing process used by Firglas was initially developed for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics markets, but with the massive drop in the cost of the process over the past 15 years, Firglas can target markets such as traditional food supplements (e.g. Omega-3 and infant formula), animal feed (fish feed and pet food ingredient) and protein rich food (e.g. for veggie burgers) – tapping into the fast growing ‘alternative protein’ market, as the world needs to move beyond traditional meat and fish, for environmental and health reasons.
Firglas’s initial focus will be on cultivation and harvesting of the microalgae. Later, it could develop into downstream parts of the value chain, including product formulation, packaging and distribution.
What it’s achieved so far – The company was founded in 2013 and successfully demonstrated an algae production pilot for more than three years in the Netherlands. It has received customer interest including letters of intent. Management has funded the scoping, trials and project development over several years at a cost of over £1m.
Team – The founder and CEO is Fredrik Adams, an entrepreneur in bio and renewable energy with background in venture capital and finance. The team includes Peter van den Dorpel (Operations Director), Lysander Tennant (CFO), Jörgen Sandström (Business Development) and Christopher Wright (Chairman).
Fundraise – Raising £3m of equity (EIS) to build two commercial-scale microalgae facilities and start production.
Small Robot Company – Disrupting arable farming with precision agriculture
Ambition – Small Robot Company’s aim is to revolutionise agriculture with ‘farming as a service’, a solution for arable fields that will enable a large cut in the quantity of inputs (seeds, chemicals, water and energy) and improve yields – leading to more sustainable and more profitable farms.
Market and business model – The service links together a series of robots with an ‘operating system’. It starts by collecting accurate and up-to-date information about a crop, plant by plant, ‘digitising the field’. This information is then automatically analysed, leading to instructions on what should happen to each plant, and each patch of soil, for other robots to carry out. Eventually, each process – from knowing when to plant, to all aspects of crop care, to knowing when to harvest – will be automated.
Small Robot Company is targeting any farm size, ideally from 200 hectares of arable fields. It expects to charge its ‘farming as a service’ at £400 per hectare and says that adopting this solution would increase a farm’s profit very significantly – through an increase in revenues (higher yield) and a reduction in costs. The company’s long-term vision is to service 150,000 hectares of UK and EU arable farms by 2025, plus 200,000 hectares in North America.
What it’s achieved so far – Since its inception in 2017, Small Robot Company has delivered a proof-of-concept (PoC) autonomous monitoring robot (Tom), an early-stage PoC of its weed detection algorithm and an early stage PoC of its modular ‘big robot’ (Dick).
The company has secured prepayment from 20 partner farmers – and interest from farmers around the world has accelerated recently on the back of strong press coverage. To date, Small Robot Company has raised c.£1m of non-dilutive funding in founder investment, grants, competition wins and non-equity crowdfunding.
Team – The two co-founders are Sam Watson Jones, a fourth-generation arable farmer, previously project manager with Accenture, entrepreneur and angel in EdTech; and Ben Scott-Robinson, previously founder of TagText and We Love Mobile, creative director with Sapient, Digitas, and CXO at Ordnance Survey. Prof. Simon Blackmore is non-executive director.
Exit – Small Robot Company envisages an exit via either a trade sale to a ‘digital disruptor’ in the farming sector, or potentially an IPO.
Fundraise – Raising £2.25m (EIS), from an equity crowdfunding campaign, angel investment, a corporate VC and regional investment. The proceeds will be used to develop the service to launch, going to September 2020. The company expects it will need a £5m Series A investment thereafter.