Demand led approach helps bring new climate change innovations to market

The Sustainable Innovation Forums (SIFs) are buyer networks of commercial property owners and managers, set up to bring climate change adaptation and mitigation innovations to market more quickly.

Funded by Climate-KIC and led by the Institute for Sustainability, SIFs provide active support to these large buyers of climate change innovation products, technologies and services.

The climate change issue

Non-domestic buildings represent 18% of the UK’s carbon emissions. By improving the sustainability performance of building fabric and services, owners, occupiers and managers of commercial buildings can play an important role in helping the UK Government achieve its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

Although pressure on energy prices and raw materials, coupled with regulator and competitor actions, are spurring organisations to adapt their assets to cope with climate change challenges, end-users of energy efficiency products and services can be deterred from deploying new and emerging solutions due to lack of awareness or insufficient confidence in performance and pack back.

The project solution

SIFs demonstrate how a demand-led approach can accelerate time-to-market of new climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions. Led by the Institute for Sustainability, SIFs work with buyers of climate change products, technologies and services in the built environment to identify their innovation needs and shape new market opportunities.

The Institute has established two SIF buyer networks: Retail, led by supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, and Commercial, led by the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP). Initiatives include research to understand the state of the market and help shape activity to meet the needs of members, challenge-led competitions to identify relevant solutions, and active brokerage to bring innovation suppliers and end-users together.  

To date, there have been five competitions: reducing energy use for lighting in retail stores; reducing water use in retail properties; improving commercial building envelope performance; innovative photovoltaic solutions; and metering and monitoring solutions to support energy and resource reductions.

Minimise Energy Ltd was a winner of the Commercial SIF building envelope competition in 2013. As a direct result of the competition, Minimise Energy has since met with 16 BBP members and property management firms. It carried out trials, with BBP members, of LED lights showing 59-76% energy savings and window film which maximises use of natural daylight whilst reducing solar heat gain. Minimise Energy is also in talks to deliver LED retrofits at a number of London’s commercial properties, including car parks and offices. 

Chris Danielson, of Minimise Energy, said: “Overall, as an SME our experience of participating in the competition with the Institute for Sustainability and BBP has been valuable and resulting conversations and activities have the potential to prove very important to building up the Minimise Energy business.”

The BBP’s Programme Manager, Chris Botten, said, “Our members are committed to improving the sustainability of existing commercial building stock. The Commercial SIF has given members access to cutting edge innovation and insights into technologies that can help them address their climate change challenges.”  

Alpha Nano Solutions was also a winner of the 2013 Commercial SIF competition. As a result of contacts brokered by the Institute, the company has begun work with major supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and building materials company Kingspan Group to demonstrate how its innovative nanotechnology coatings can protect photovoltaic (PV) panels, enhancing their performance and reducing cleaning costs. It is also in talks to supply two major property owners, as well as another innovator introduced through the competition.

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, at Sainsbury’s, said: “Being part of the Retail SIF has allowed us to connect with innovative suppliers, such as Alpha Nano Solutions, to trial new technologies that can help us reduce our operational and embodied carbon footprint. PV supports Sainsbury’s 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan, of which one of the targets is to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 30% in absolute terms by 2020 compared to where we were in 2005/06.”

Energy monitoring systems provider Argand Solutions was one of the winners of the June 2014 Commercial SIF metering and monitoring competition. The company was one of four given the opportunity to pitch to over 30 demand side buyers, as well as gaining greater insight into the needs of end-users in the commercial built environment. 

Fraser Durham, Commercial Director at Argand Solutions, said: “The event allowed us to engage with key decision makers from the largest potential clients in the UK. This face-to-face time has led to a substantial number of high-value introductions and potential innovative work as a result.”

Through an introduction facilitated by the Institute, Argand Solutions is also working with a metering supplier to further enhance its product.

The role of Climate-KIC

The SIFs are one of Climate-KIC’s 12 current Climate Market Accelerator (CMA) pilots. The CMA is a pan-European project, working with leading experts to help demand side partners define real world challenges in ways that will stimulate suppliers, innovators and researchers to respond with effective solutions.   

Through its pilot activities, CMA brings together end-users and suppliers of climate innovations to speed up the time it takes for climate change adaptation and mitigation innovations to reach the market.

“By working closely with potential buyers to understand their requirements, we are stimulating suppliers to respond with innovations that solve real world climate change adaptation and mitigation challenges. SIF innovation competitions provide the opportunity for innovators, with products at various stages of development, to gain added insight into the needs of buyers.”
Ian Short, Chief Executive of the Institute for Sustainability