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Cambridge’s Cleantech Venture Day start-ups aim for pitch glory

Cambridge Cleantech Venture Day has been taking place this week, with three Cambridge start-ups in the mix – Camfridge, Archipelago Technology and Faradair Aerospace.

Faradair Aerospace’s hybrid-electric aircraft. Picture: Faradair Aerospace
Faradair Aerospace’s hybrid-electric aircraft. Picture: Faradair Aerospace

The trailblazing event has been an annual highlight for the cleantech community since it started in 2006. Over the last decade and a half, more than 275 companies have pitched at Cleantech Venture Days and more than €650million has been invested as a result of the events.

The event includes a pitching session, which involves innovative cleantech companies presenting to experienced fund managers, business angels and corporate investors.

Companies that have previously pitched include Airex, Cheeky Panda, Echion Technology, Oxwash, Sunswap and Zedify.

This year, there are 24 investment-ready cleantech start-ups pitching at the online event.

On day one – today (May 18) – they participated in an investors-only session and attended a networking event in London.

Day two (May 19) saw speakers followed by the pitches.

The three Cambridge start-ups among the 24 presentations at the event have emerged from very different markets.

Camfridge performance testing apparatus with core in the foreground
Camfridge performance testing apparatus with core in the foreground

Based at Babraham’s Copley Hill Business Park (for computer modelling) and in Bletchley on the edge of Milton Keynes (for testing and production), Camfridge is developing a new generation of low-carbon cooling products that dramatically reduce energy consumption and require no polluting gases.

“We use iron alloys which warm up near a magnetic field and cool down when removed,” says CEO Neil Wilson, who co-founded the business with Dr Alessandro Pastore, executive director of business development. “When they are cold they absorb heat from the interior of the fridge and move the heat from inside the fridge to outside.

“Our main motivation is to remove gases from fridges. The technology can also drive significant improvements in energy efficiency and is largely circularly recyclable, so it is part of the circular economy – not all of it, but most of it.”

Camfridge is aiming to use the technology in smaller appliances where conventional gas-based cooling technology is less efficient, rather than large industrial-scale plants. For these smaller units, Camfridge’s technology demonstrates up to a 40 per cent reduction in energy consumption; but having no refrigerant gases enables better appliance design, and these energy efficiency savings can be increased by a further two to three times.

Neil Wilson, Camfridge CEO and co-founder
Neil Wilson, Camfridge CEO and co-founder

The company, which was founded as a spin-out from the university in 2005, has the Cambridge Capital Group and the University of Cambridge as its principal shareholders. Camfridge has enjoyed significant collaborative R&D funding from the European Union, plus support from InnovateUK.

Testing is under way to prove the company’s products run efficiently for up to 10 years. Camfridge, which has a team of eight, intends to manufacture the core unit and is looking for funding “to finalise production within two years”.

Neil adds: “For Cleantech Venture Day, Camfridge is pitching for £7m overall, £2.3m is the goal this year, and we’re hoping to be talking to multiple investors about the decarbonisation of refrigeration. ”

The Archipelago Technology team
The Archipelago Technology team

Archipelago Technology, which is based at St John’s Innovation Centre, has developed technology for customers in precision printing and coating.

The company was founded in 2012 and has 10 staff. The CEO is Guy Newcombe: he previously ran TTP’s printing technology group.

Archipelago offers both products and a service. The products are based on technology for printing platforms to eject viscous fluids such as adhesives, paint and paste. The service is to enhance image quality and transform the reliability of industrial inkjet systems.

Guy explains that “everything in your kitchen is coated – the floor, chair, radiators, we call it varnish”.

Most of these varnishes are sprayed on, using a process which loses half the volume, creating a huge and unnecessary environmental cost. Archipelago has made two two 200mm print swathe Powerdrop machines – “the technology has been taken up by some very serious international players and a very large Swedish furniture manufacturer” – which are more accurate and less wasteful, says Guy. It can operate singly or via a drum with 100,000 nozzles drilled in.

Guy Newcombe, CEO, Archipelago Technology. Picture: Keith Heppell
Guy Newcombe, CEO, Archipelago Technology. Picture: Keith Heppell

“By using one of our machines a year customers save 6,000 tonnes of CO2 and £1m of paint – to give you a point of comparison, one Tesla car saves you two tonnes of CO2 a year.”

The “three big applications” for the platform are flooring and furniture, agriculture (halving the use of chemicals by more accurate applications), and replacing plastic with paper.

“The technology seals the paper,” notes Guy, “enabling it to be used as food packaging, and it can be recycled which is terribly important.”

Guy adds: “We’re looking to raise £1m in the next six months and another £1m thereafter: we already have one investor, the Low Carbon Innovation Fund, which is committed to putting in £330k.”

Neil Cloughley, CEO and founder, Faradair Aerospace. Picture: Keith Heppell
Neil Cloughley, CEO and founder, Faradair Aerospace. Picture: Keith Heppell

Faradair Aerospace is developing a hybrid-electric aircraft concept that solves three core problems hindering regional flight growth: noise, operational cost, and emissions.

Faradair was formed in 2014, originally in Gloucester, then went to Swansea for design of the aircraft, and now has its base at IWM Duxford, following a collaboration with IWM and Gonville & Caius College.

Faradair’s hybrid-electric aircraft is a clean-sheet design – it started with a blank sheet of paper, rather than modifying an existing design.

“Electric motors with just one moving part will propel our innovative BEHA aircraft, powered by a sustainable aviation fuel generator” says CEO and founder Neil Cloughley. “Compared to turboprops today, that saves roughly £8m on maintenance over a 30k hour period, helping to reduce costs, noise and emissions to allow regional daily air transport.”

Neil adds: “Covid has invigorated the market for sustainable mobility and whilst future power could be generated from hydrogen, battery or an ammonia fuel cell, our hybrid-electric approach in the short-term provides a realistic path for sustainable aviation.”

Faradair Aerospace’s hybrid-electric aircraft. Picture: Faradair Aerospace
Faradair Aerospace’s hybrid-electric aircraft. Picture: Faradair Aerospace

There are four phases of development ahead for Faradair: complete the design of aircraft including “a definitive flight performance envelope with data to be ready in the next six months”, complete the structural engineering for a first flight in 2025, two years of flight testing and certification, and production for commercial use in 2027.

The end goal is a London-to-Manchester hybrid flight for £25.

A new prototyping hanger is to be built at Duxford, subject to planning approval.

“Quite frankly it’s been 100 years since we started flying, so why are we still in our cars?” asks Neil, adding that “it’s a great honour to be showcasing our work at Cleantech Venture Day”.

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