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SHIFT announces winners of second innovation challenge for London SMEs tackling the climate emergency


SHIFT, east London’s innovation agency based at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has today, Tuesday, May 7, announced the five winners of its latest innovation challenge. The organisations will receive funding and support to help them scale up their projects helping to tackle the climate emergency.


The successful organisations in this second round of funding looking at sustainable structures, are:

  • Carbon Cell provides a sustainable alternative to traditional polymer-based foams. Their high-powered expandable foam is fully compostable and locks in carbon for centuries. Using this foam in collaboration with Decarbonate and Millimetre, Carbon Cell have produced a Carbon Structural Insulation Panel, which addresses the drawbacks of Structural Insulation Panels and sequesters CO2.
  • Map Mortar offer a virtual modelling and simulation platform to transform retrofit planning and management for large property portfolios.
  • Material Index enables the reuse of construction materials at scale. They offer advanced pre-demolition audits and rapid materials brokerage of reclaimed materials.
  • Seastex addresses the lack of innovative, circular, and sustainable materials within the architecture and design industry. Their solution involves extracting, processing, and incorporating mussel beards into insulation panels and furniture.
  • Shaded produce demountable external awnings that can be easily fitted from inside by a single person. Shaded provides an easy and affordable climate adaptation solution to tackle overheating risks, future proofing against the climate emergency.

Abdul Rahim
, Chief Innovation Officer of SHIFT, said: “Our thanks go to all those who submitted bids. It was an incredibly hard but exciting process to choose the five winners from such a high quality field. I believe we have some truly inspiring and innovative ideas that are ripe for development and have the potential to make a dramatic impact at the local, national and international scale.”

As well as receiving a £20,000 prize, SMEs will receive up to £5,000 to facilitate innovation trials to validate their solutions. In addition, each business will benefit from a bespoke accelerator programme, Venture Creator, powered by innovation company Plexal. The programme will launch on Thursday 9 May 2024 and will see the businesses come together in person to further assess their business needs and get to know the various partners involved in the Future Industries Demonstrator.

Andrew Roughan, CEO at Plexal, said:
 “We’re excited by the vision of all of the companies participating in Venture Creator. As a founding partner of SHIFT and with its mission to foster innovation that can drive benefit for society, Plexal eagerly anticipates the impact that these ambitious organisations can have through the programme.”

The Future Industries Demonstrator Programme provides pioneering start-ups and SMEs with financial backing, as well as linking them to the collaborative networks, workspaces and local knowledge resources that give them the best chance to succeed. The themes of this second challenge is “Sustainable Structures”, which focuses on issues around the built environment, including, construction, materials, retrofit, and energy use. Organisations that were chosen all demonstrated significant growth potential and capability to deliver impact across east London and further afield. The project is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and supported by the Mayor of London.

The first innovation challenge: “Natural Cities” saw five innovative businesses operating within the circular waste space receive eight weeks of Venture Creator support, leading to trials that are currently ongoing around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The third Innovation Challenge will be open for applications in Autumn 2024. The Open Innovation Challenges will focus on food systems – a key area to address the climate emergency. Interested SMEs can join the waitlist to receive updates on this Challenge.

Successful applicants will receive:

  • £20,000 grant to supplement scaling plans
  • Access to £5,000 budget to support a ‘testbed’ project
  • Access to world-class workspaces, including The Loop, east London’s hub for circular economy businesses
  • Expert support from specialists at innovation company Plexal and University College London
  • 1:1 coaching with a circular business specialist
  • Support programme facilitated by SHIFT
  • Businesses based in the Hackney Wick & Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone will be considered for an additional capital grant up to £10,000 to supplement their scaling plans after completing their initial development through the programme.

Organisations can also apply to become a Member of SHIFT to make connections, learn from local innovation projects and get more involved in SHIFT’s cross-sector innovation ecosystem.

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