STEPPING ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
There has been much talk about green technology being something of a cure to the UK’s economic woes. In theory at least it should offer what we all need at the moment: jobs, cost and carbon saving technologies.
Well, we’ve done our bit by having solar panels installed at home a few years ago. However there was a complete debacle over solar feed-in tariffs and the coalition’s apparent U-turns – such as roads and planning policy and the return of expanding aviation with a new airport in the South East. This saw the green economy cast once again as a luxury, disposable in recessionary times, rather than a foundation for future sustainability.
It was therefore interesting to read an interview in London’s Evening Standard, with Laurence Kemball-Cook founder of Pavegen a renewable energy business who have bucked the current gloomy outlook for green technologies and gone from strength to strength.
So how exactly did he do this? Well we thought we’d take a look at some of the factors that we believe have contributed to the continued success of the company.
Do your homework
Whilst working as an intern at a leading energy company Kemball-Cook identified the fact that many of the problems associated with producing renewable energy arose because of the unreliability of the power source – for example lack of sun or wind.
He discovered the fact that in an average lifetime a person takes 150 billion footsteps – enough energy to power a house for three weeks. This technology was therefore far more reliable, because you are far more able to provide power when and where you want it.
He left the big corporate and decided to spend a year developing his technology at Loughborough University where he was studying industrial design and technology. He managed to obtain a £5,000 grant which enabled him to develop the technology, go to a factory and build a prototype.
Create a “wow” factor
In June 2009 Kemball Cook launched the idea for his product – a tile which converts kinetic energy (from footsteps) into electricity, at his graduation show.
However this was no ordinary graduation show. It was specifically for New Designers and held at The Business Design Centre in London. This is one of the most prestigious exhibition centres in the UK and the show received a lot of press coverage and this in turn generated a huge amount of publicity for his product.
He consequently started his own company – Pavegen Ltd, with the help of friends and family and completed his first installation of the tiles in a school corridor. By doing this he was able to present a working case study to prospective clients.
He was also able to demonstrate that it was possible to develop a workable renewable energy product at modest cost – something of a rarity in this sector. This generated further interest and as a result he was able to obtain additional funding company from Business Angels to grow his at a lightning pace.
By clever use of marketing Pavegen has continued to generate interest (and revenues). For example at the WWF’s recent Earth Hour, a 16 tile dancefloor was used to power tweets about the cause worldwide.
“It was a fun way of building the brand. Obviously permanent installations are vital but this is key part of getting the word out there,” Kemball-Cook points out.
Winning awards also helped raise the company’s profile and gain contacts, winning business overseas (the tiles are used to power street lights in the centre of Sofia, Bulgaria) as well as in the UK.
The company are also looking at transportation sites where they can install an off-grid energy solution. Just think of a busy, bustling city commuter railway station where the possibilities could be endless – after all where you have people walking you’ve got power!