This article was published on 2 July 2020
When taking innovative technology to market, sometimes less is more. Misagh Ebrahimpour, of environmental innovation venture SES, shares this lesson – and others – from his team’s journey so far as finalists in the C-Prize 2019 Challenge.
As a couple of University of Auckland Faculty of Engineering PhD students, along with our Professor, we were excited to be counted among the next generation of environmental innovators when our venture SES was named a finalist in the C-Prize Challenge at the end of 2019.
We were already familiar with Callaghan Innovation as a government agency that supports and helps businesses grow faster, and we felt the C-Prize Challenge could not only help us develop our technology, but also provide networking and funding opportunities.
Our journey with C-Prize since then has certainly borne this out – but, maybe more importantly, it’s helped us gain crucial insights into our potential markets, leading us to hone our offering further.
C-Prize 2019 has focused on finding teams with world-leading innovative solutions to environmental problems
So what exactly does SES do?
Our technology is a Smart Energy Storage (SES) solution that combines an advanced control system with energy storage tech. It absorbs natural cool or warm energy from the environment, stores it, and releases it when needed.
With the building sector in particular responsible for about half of the world’s energy consumption, this technology not only reduces energy consumption and CO₂ emissions, but it also offers substantial energy savings.
Our C-Prize Journey
Matching what our tech can offer with the needs of the market, however, has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve encountered during the C-Prize competition phase.
In particular, contacting a range of building companies and owners has been challenging – especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
Interviewing potential customers has helped us identify their energy-related concerns more comprehensively. But it has also highlighted that there are a variety of buildings with different functions facing different energy problems.
Additionally, we discovered that companies’ decision-making processes regarding the adoption of green energy solutions is complicated. While the payback time of the SES technology is reasonable, the capital cost is relatively high, making it challenging for companies to change from their current systems.
Gaining greater awareness of these issues has led us to make some key changes.
We are now trying to narrow our target market to commercial buildings. We are also aiming to eliminate some components of the technology, while focusing on its main features. This would reduce the payback time to just three years, making adopting the solution more attractive to building owners.
The commercialisation boot camp and online sessions offered to C-Prize finalists definitely helped us through this process.
So too have our mentors, who have both helped guide us through various technological and business challenges, and ultimately led us to a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of SES as we negotiate our path to commercialisation.
What's next for us?
The next steps on our journey include bringing in more business expertise by extending our team. On the technology front, we also plan to test and analyse new features of SES that we want to develop as a result of our market research.
As for our ultimate goals, we hope to launch our product in NZ, and then on to international markets. The journey continues.
We’ll be sharing journey blogs from our C-Prize finalist teams in the lead up to the announcement of the 2019/20 C-Prize supreme winner on Friday 14 August.