Three innovative, low-carbon start-ups have won at the Shell Springboard semi-final in Manchester, each receiving an award of £40,000 to help scale their business:
BioCarbon Engineering (Oxford) – BioCarbon Engineering is a low-cost automated planting system for use by forestry organizations, plantations, and restoration projects, that utilises drones to plant trees. It aims to enable industrial-scale reforestation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and counteract the impact of worldwide deforestation.
Eight19 (Cambridge) – Eight19’s Photon Multiplier Film (PMF) addresses the problem of limited efficiency in silicon solar cells, the vast majority of cells used for solar power generation today. Applied to a photovoltaic module, it splits high-energy incoming photons, most of whose energy would otherwise be lost as heat in the module, into two lower-energy photons. This increases photon flux and generates more power.
Anakata (Oxford) – Anakata employs novel aerodynamic technologies and techniques from motorsport and aerospace to improve rotor blade performance. Anakata has developed products for large OEM manufacturers including full blade design and factory fit add-ons, and now offers its retro-fit components direct to wind farm owners and operators.
The judging panel, comprised of Professor David Newbery CBE, FBA, University of Cambridge; Irene Maffini, Portfolio Cohort Director at Sustainable Accelerator; Amanda Lea-Langton, Lecturer in BioEnergy Engineering at the University of Manchester; and Ross Bruton, Incubation Manager for Carbon Trust, looked at three key criteria in making their decision – the carbon saving potential of the businesses, their commercial viability, and scale of their innovation.
Professor David Newbery, chair of the judging panel, praised the performance of the semi-finalists: “The quality of pitches today was consistently high, and the judges were impressed by the innovative ambition and commercial rigour on display. At a time when gender balance in STEM is under fierce debate, it was also heartening to see a number of pitches fronted by female founders and presenters. With such a diverse range of businesses to consider, deliberations were tough — we eventually decided on three very different winners, all with rich potential. We congratulate BioCarbon Engineering, Eight19, and Anakata as they advance to the final of Shell Springboard, and wish all the semi-finalists the very best of luck as they continue to grow. We will watch their progress with interest.”
Gareth Thistleton, Shell’s Head of UK Social Investment said “Shifting the UK to a low-carbon economy presents an enormous challenge; one that is much bigger than any single company or solution. This is why, alongside the steps we are taking within our own business, Shell is committed to supporting low-carbon entrepreneurs at every stage of their journeys. This year’s cohort of finalists are all hugely exciting prospects with the potential to drive the UK’s low-carbon transition – and we are delighted to be part of their growth journeys.”
Founded in 2005, Shell Springboard has since provided more than £4.3 million of no-strings-attached funding to over 100 start-ups, supporting the creation of 350+ new jobs. In addition to funding, the programme also helps winning SMEs open doors and attract investor interest by generating positive publicity and providing a respected ‘quality assurance’ stamp. This support creates impact, with more than eight out of ten (84 per cent) of Shell Springboard supported companies still in business five years after starting up, compared to the national average of around 45 per cent.
This year’s competition saw a very high standard of applications, with more 100 entrants offering technology solutions for a huge array of areas such as renewable energy systems, sustainable agriculture, green buildings, and electric vehicles among many others. BioCarbon Engineering, Eight19, and Anakata will join the winners of the Aberdeen semi-final at the national final, taking place at Shell Make The Future in July, where one overall winner will be able to ‘top up’ their prize to £150,000.
Shell UK also hosted a panel debate at the awards ceremony, on the theme of The Mobility Revolution: How soon could all road vehicles be electric? Panellists included Sinead Lynch, Chair of Shell UK; Kevin Toye, Advanced Solutions Manager, Transport for Greater Manchester; Charlotte Green, Director of EV Charge UK; and Dr. Rebecca Todd, University of Manchester. The panel discussed the benefits of electric vehicles as they become more prevalent in cities across the UK, as well as who will benefit from such a change. The panel was part of Shell UK’s sponsorship of the “Electricity: the spark of life” exhibition at Manchester’s Science & Industry Museum, which runs until the end of April.