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Adaptavate is May's Featured Business of the Month

Fri, 06 May 2016

Tom Robinson won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in June 2015 before going on to win the 2015 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Adaptavate are completely rethinking and redesigning how the new generation of building materials are made. Adaptavate are developing bio-based building products that lock carbon into the fabric of buildings, helping to mitigate CO2 driven climate change. Their first product, Breathaboard, which was developed and tested by Tom during his MSc in Sustainable Architecture, is a bio-based alternative to the ubiquitous building material used for internal lining in buildings: plasterboard.

Adaptavate was set up to be a positive inspiration and force for change – particularly environmental and social change. Tom describes Adaptavate as ‘positively disrupting the material flows of the future’ because they are designing and commercialising materials that can be mainly grown and composted – this is fundamentally changing the way materials are currently made.

Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Tom to catch up with him and to see what’s next for his award-winning business and their game-changing product, Breathaboard.
How did the business fare in its early days and how is it doing now?
As always with new ideas, new products, and new concepts, it’s a long old bumpy road – that’s especially true in a construction industry that is inherently conservative! I think the thing that has stood true the whole way through my Breathaboard journey though, is that people think we have a good idea that they want to buy. This has always been the case – people believe what we stand for and what we are trying to do – we have to overcome the commercial challenges to make that happen and that’s the exciting thing about it! Now we are getting more and more attention for the progressive nature of our concepts and products and that is super encouraging.
What was the inspiration behind Adaptavate and Breathaboard?
I was working as a builder whilst I was studying my MSc and was completely fed up with seeing skips full of plasterboard waste go off to landfill. When I heard that plasterboard was actually a hazardous material and has to be contained in its own cell at landfill, I thought that there must be a better solution. At the same time, I was seeing a lot of homes that were having a problem with mould and condensation and this leads to unhealthy living environments. It was then that I really started looking for an alternative to plasterboard, but there was no viable solutions that really address these two issues well. This is where the idea for Breathaboard came from.
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
I have worked for myself in various businesses most of my working life. I have always said that I probably wouldn't get a job at a 'proper' company. Since reading a book by one of my main inspirations: Yvon Chouinard (the founder of the clothing company Patigonia) I realised that I too could go from being a climbing bum, living in a van, to create my own company culture and inspire people that through business – we can be a force for good! I guess I kind of slipped into so called 'entrepreneurship' but I have a long way to go, but I am enjoying the ride.
What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement with the business?
I think this is still to come! There is a long way to go on this journey and it’s only getting started. Proudest moments so far have got to be some of the awards that we have won and the Shell LiveWIRE Award was a real high – both for Adaptavate and Tom Robinson!
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award in 2015, how have things changed for you since then?
Gaining recognition like the Shell LiveWIRE Award has really increased the exposure that Adaptavate and I get. We are also really looking forward to collaborating with some really cool people and on some really inspiring projects…. so watch this space!
What’s next for Adaptavate and Breathaboard?
Full steam ahead with production development, product testing and certification and getting Breathaboard off the line and onto your walls! This is the sole focus and it’s a really exciting part of the journey.
Entrepreneurs drive innovation. How do you think this can be used to help create a smarter future?
I think 'entrepreneurs' do to a certain extent drive innovation, but they need a good balanced group of people around them to really make it happen. People with game-changing ideas are desperately needed with the entrepreneurial drive and resourcefulness to bring them to life – that’s a powerful combination to make a smarter future. I guess it also shows that ideas can come from the strangest of places. I was a builder working on a building site a couple of years ago – now I am on the verge of commercialising Breathaboard. I guess you have to stand up and 'make it happen'!
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Start, and keep going, even if everyone else thinks you're crazy! There is only one way you will find out!
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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