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Introducing the 2019 Shell Springboard and Shell LiveWIRE finalists

Thu, 27 June 2019

Meet the 12 finalists vying for the Shell Springboard and Shell LiveWIRE annual awards.
With the UK government committing to a target of 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050, it is important to recognise that innovative solutions from companies of all sizes will have a part to play in taking us in the right direction. Shell’s two start-up support programmes, Shell Springboard and Shell LiveWIRE, are aimed at innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups that have the potential to lead the UK towards a low-carbon future. This year’s finalists for both programmes are making waves across three areas of sustainability. 
 

Circular economy

The importance of fostering a circular economy - characterised by the development of more sustainable materials, and particularly by the reuse of products for novel applications at the end of their original useful life - has been brought into focus in recent years.
 
One sector where circularity is coming to the fore is the built environment, which currently accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the UK's carbon footprint. Three Shell LiveWIRE finalists are breaking new ground in this space to make it more climate-friendly. Two of these companies, Biohm and WASE, are based in London. Founded in 2016, Biohm builds more sustainable and affordable living environments using bio-based construction materials. Its new form of construction, Triagomy, is modelled on biological entities and processes and reduces costs, build times, and overall environmental impact drastically in comparison with traditional methods. WASE develops decentralised wastewater treatment systems that embrace a circular economy to recover energy, nutrients, and water from wastewater, whilst removing pollutants. The technology treats wastewater 15 times quicker than the most commonly used system, anaerobic digestion. Finally, Cardiff-based CDB converts recycled shipping containers into high-quality, customised spaces for use as offices or for events. This creates less waste than traditional on-site building, uses land more efficiently, and prevents steel shipping containers from going to landfill around the world.
 
Meanwhile, the drive to reduce the use of plastics - in 2016, the global population produced over 320 million tons of plastic, a figure that is set to double by 2034 - is another key pillar of the circular economy. Shell LiveWIRE finalist Alterwaste is working to replace non-sustainable materials with calcium carbonate-based products. The Edinburgh-based start-up has embraced circular thinking to create its fully compostable material from waste eggshells. It plans to replace plastic and other non-sustainable materials in sectors such as packaging, cosmetics, and construction. In contrast, Blow Moulding Technologies takes a technological approach - using simulation software to optimise the design of blown bottles made from bioplastics. Based on two decades of research from the nearby Queen’s University Belfast, the effortless software is widely accessible via a license and should accelerate the adoption of more sustainable packaging on an industrial scale.
 

Energy

As fossil fuel supplies dwindle, it is crucial that we continue to make using renewable energy sources more efficient and more affordable. This year, Shell Springboard recognises three start-ups making this a reality. Since 2010, Anakata has been taking inspiration from aerodynamics in motorsport to improve the efficiency of rotor blades on wind turbines. The company’s winglets yield higher returns with minimal investment, and whereas it previously developed products for large OEM manufacturers, it is now offering retro-fit components direct to wind farm owners. Edinburgh-based ReOptimize Systems has created ACTOS (Autonomous Continuous Turbine Optimisation System). This revolutionary software platform applies machine learning techniques to adjust and optimise wind, tidal, and hydro turbine control settings. In the solar power sector, Cambridge Photon Technology  addresses the efficiency problem in silicon solar cells. The start-up applies its Photon Multiplier Film to a photovoltaic module, splitting high-energy incoming photons into two lower-energy photons. This prevents energy being lost as heat, therefore increasing photon flux and generating more power from the same input.      
 

Farming and forestry

Optimising agricultural and reforestation methods becomes more essential every day to sustain the demands of a growing population and regulate our climate. Both Shell LiveWIRE and Shell Springboard this year feature  companies using technology to do this. Since 1990, the world has lost 1.3 million square kilometres of forest - an area larger than South Africa. To counteract global deforestation, Shell Springboard finalist BioCarbon Engineering has designed a low-cost automated planting system for forestry organisations, plantations, and restoration projects. The Oxford-based start-up utilises drones to plant trees, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by enabling industrial-scale reforestation. In agriculture, the ag-biotechnology company Beta Bugs is capitalising on the rapidly growing trend for insects-as-feed. The Shell LiveWIRE finalist uses a state-of-the-art genetic breeding programme to create a library of high-performance insect strains. These breeds are much more space-efficient than soy, and can be reared locally on food waste - strengthening supply chains that have a positive environmental impact.   
 
Irrigation management is another major concern within the agriculture industry, and two finalists are endeavouring to tackle this issue. Shell LiveWIRE finalist LettUs Grow designs and develops indoor equipment that allows vertical farmers to grow more fresh produce near the point of consumption, reducing air miles and waste throughout the supply chain. Its aeroponics methodology uses 95 per cent less water and is much less carbon-intensive than traditional methods. In the running for the Shell Springboard prize, East Lothian start-up Farm-Hand has established a new method of pump control that reduces over-irrigation and increases crop yield by 30 per cent. It develops the system with the farmers, and delivers it - via aggregators - through the existing farm infrastructure with a two-year payback. 
 

Twelve finalists, Two winners

While all of these innovative startups have the potential to change the world – and Shell will watch the progress of them all with great interest – there can unfortunately only be two winners. After months of robust assessment, the winners of each programme will be officially announced on Wednesday 3 July. The Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year will receive a total of £30,000, while the national winner of Shell Springboard will receive an additional £110,000, bringing their total equity-free funding to £150,000. The equity-free funding will help the winners scale their businesses, as well as provide the exposure they need to access crucial future funding opportunities.
 

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