Consultancy secures £30K to help tackle UK energy challenge

An energy business and data analysis consultancy has secured £30,000 in phase one funding thanks to the help of innovate2succeed.

Totem Sustainable Solutions were awarded the funding by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for a feasibility study, which forms part of BEIS’s drive to enable a smarter, more efficient energy system. 

Depending on its successful completion, this could provide the company with an extra £1m to take its technology through to commercialisation. 

The Wells-based company, run by energy management specialist Richard Ryan, is developing a self-learning Demand Side Response (DSR) system, called gridIMP. 

gridIMP founders Richard and Ed Ross, a machine learning specialist at Analytic Eye, were introduced to project partner EDF Research & Enterprise Development by Bristol Universities Research & Enterprise Development department – an institution with whom the consortium maintains an ongoing relationship. 

DSR is a way of meeting energy needs by financially incentivising consumers to lower their electricity use at peak times to prevent their demand outstripping the UK electricity grid capacity to supply. Getting DSR right is seen as key approach to tackling the current UK energy challenges.

The gridIMP prototype will be tested in eight properties owned by Wells Cathedral School, representing a diverse range of commercial energy uses. 

gridIMPs approach to enabling DSR is revolutionary in that it takes a consumer-led approach by removing the traditional barriers to entry – namely complexity and cost. 

This increases the number of participants and the availability of a reliable demand side response at the right time and place for the grid. It uses machine learning and sophisticated communication systems to ensure the response is automated when a call for demand reduction is made from the grid. This process doesn’t require end-user action and doesn’t impact operations. 

Whilst the company generated the concept it recognised the value in working with innovate2succeed (i2s), who could offer professional assistance and access to a valuable network of contacts both in the UK and across Europe. 

i2s spent time with Richard Ryan, Director of Totem, to get to the heart of the business. This revealed the need to focus time on the streamlining and structuring of the business plan, to ensure a comprehensive bid for the funding competition, and plot a chart to develop the new idea. 

In particular, this included the strategy, sales and marketing, access to finance, and innovation and change. 

i2s helped Totem map out its financial forecasting, as well highlighting the various funding avenues available. It also drilled in to the business, helping it to develop its strategy and define its messaging to customers. 

But crucially, it helped fully outline the new product’s value proposition, which allowed Totem to refine who the future customers will be. The support from i2s has provided Totem with a strong platform on which to launch its bid and secure funding. 

Speaking of the help received, Richard said: “i2s is really challenging, it forces you to focus on your offering and messaging to customers.”

“For an SME to be innovative it can be frustrating because of the practical challenges, such as funding. i2s has helped us navigate that period and generate more ideas of how to move our product forward. I would absolutely recommend it to others.”

Moving forward, Totem is looking to use the last of its i2s hours in a more targeted way to review its IP strategy, so it can expand, in the future, into European markets. 

Richard added: “We see i2s as a valuable partner in helping us to deliver on our original concept.”

It’s also looking at two other sources of EU funding, and through Enterprise Europe Network partnership database, find European partners to collaborate with. 

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