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Caventou is June's Featured Business of the Month

Tue, 07 June 2016

Marjan van Aubel won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in July 2015.
Caventou, named after the French scientist, Joseph Bienaimé Caventou, who co-discovered chlorophyll, integrate solar technology naturally into our daily lives by creating everyday objects that are independent power sources. Caventou’s products – 'Current Table', a table with integrated solar cells, and 'Current Window', a modern version of stained glass – both generate their own electricity.
 
Caventou use Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells, a 3rd generation solar technology that uses the properties of colour, mimicking photosynthesis, to create a current. The cells are so light-sensitive they even work in diffuse light, making them ideal for less sunny places and, for the first time ever, capable of harvesting energy indoors.
 
Caventou’s functional living objects are intelligent and are able to pass on information such as light intensity, optimal light conditions, how much energy they are harvesting and how much energy they have stored to users.
 
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Marjan to catch up with her and to see what’s next for her business, Caventou.
 
How is your business helping to create a smarter future?
The fact that in just one hour, the sun provides enough energy to supply the world’s electricity for an entire year made us realise we are only using a fraction of this naturally abundant resource.

Our climate is changing and resources are running out. We need to radically rethink our relationship with energy. Sunlight is available to everyone and there are enough techniques that can capture this. The problematic issues are adaptation and integration. By pioneering a new approach to smart, sustainable living combined with design and technology, we will enable individuals to effortlessly tap the sun's abundant energy.
 
How is your business helping us transition to a low carbon society?
The first way is by nurturing a relationship between humans and the energy their devices use. With this connection, the concept of energy is made tangible, and users of Caventou are made more aware of the value of the energy they use, and are empowered to take steps to reduce their energy usage.

The second is that Caventou's products generate more energy over their lifetime than the energy taken to manufacture them, making them energy-positive. The third is using low environmental-impact materials and production-processes.
 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
By graduating from the Royal College of Art, I disqualified myself as an employee. I developed too many of my own ideas and my own way of working. As a designer, I learnt how to see things differently and see extraordinary links in seemingly ordinary things.

It is not difficult to come up with new ideas. The hard part is getting things done and remaining persistent. This is what makes the difference.
 
What challenges did you face when setting up your business?
Finding funding and finding the right team.
 
What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement with the business?
When we had our first installation of Current Windows and being nominated for all these amazing awards: Wallpaper Design Awards, Design of the Year, Shell LiveWIRE.
 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award back in 2015 how have things changed for you since then?
After winning the Shell LiveWIRE Award we created an installation of Current Windows at 19 Greek Street during London Design Festival. People were able to charge their phones on the street by the window. Here I received a Swarovski Young Emerging Talent Medal.

We changed to a new three-headed team: consisting of an engineer and technologist Peter Krige, a RCA and Imperial Graduate, and Samira Ann Qassim, a strategist, with global business experience.

Together we are setting up a new production process for both the Window and Table with new partners.  We won the prestigious Dutch New Radical Award Entrepreneur Award and will deliver our first 10 tables in September to our customers. Most of all we are extremely motivated and hugely excited!
 
What’s next for Caventou?
Caventou creates twenty-first century products and puts them to work. A table is not simply a table anymore, but also generates electricity.

We create well-designed, smart self-powering objects by integrating Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells. DSSCs are a coloured and transparent 3rd generation solar technology expected to usher a new era of added functionality and lowered costs, adding to the many benefits of solar power. We combine sustainability together with design and technology. We design living objects and the future.

Bringing the promise of the IoT (Internet of Things) to life, a software experience will match the hardware. Through R&D we will develop new design-focused electronic products integrated with their own unexpected energy supply.
 
Entrepreneurs drive innovation. How do you think this can be used to help create a smarter future?
To create a mentality change, everyone must contribute in their own way. Entrepreneurs are driven, see things differently and have the courage to want to make change and impact.
 
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Be hardworking, be a rebel, and have no fear of failing. Don’t try to do everything by yourself – that is the biggest mistake you can make. Don’t give up.
 
Got a Smart Idea for a Business?
Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding!


 

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