Sowing the seeds of innovation at CATSeptember 30, 2023
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To tackle the climate and nature emergency, transformational change is needed in all regions and across every sector. Take a closer look at some of the innovative organisations born at CAT and started by our graduates that are helping to show what’s possible.
“Back in the early 1980s, a group of CAT engineers began to develop a variety of renewable energy products aimed at solving various issues around the world. In 1982, these engineers formed Dulas, and we have been pioneering products and services within the UK renewable energy and international humanitarian aid markets ever since.” – Ruth Chapman, Managing Director, Dulas
Founded within CAT in 1982 before becoming an independent company in 1988, Dulas has been at the forefront of the renewables industry for four decades. And the CAT connection continues, as current Managing Director, Ruth Chapman, is also a graduate from CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment.
Over 40 years, Dulas has grown with the demand for renewables, pioneering solar, hydro, wind and energy storage in the UK and globally, offering a range of consultancy services to help with the transition to clean energy.
The company also created the world’s first mass-produced solar powered vaccine refrigerators, originally based on a prototype created at CAT. Now accredited by the World Health Organisation, these solar fridges are providing life-saving medical care to people in off-grid and remote locations around the globe, including areas affected by disasters, wars and disease outbreaks.
Dulas now has over 50 employees both neighbouring CAT in Machynlleth in Mid Wales and further afield in Scotland and England.
Theirs is a story of how specialist knowledge can be used to develop real-world solutions that make an impact and create a better world for us all.
Passivhaus Homes & PH15
“I am very grateful for my time at CAT, which provided the space out of normal life to take a breath, have a think, and take a different direction.” – Jae Cotterell, co-founder and Director of Passivhaus Homes and co-author of the Passivhaus Handbook.
The Passivhaus Homes team currently includes four CAT graduates: Jae Cotterell (co-founder and Director), Anna Carton (Associate & Designer), Hannah Hunt (Structural Engineer) and Phil Neve (Energy Consultant).
The company delivers Passivhaus-certified and net-zero-ready housing, which incorporates innovative timber products to radically reduce emissions from construction. Their PH15 Construction Solution was developed to provide a complete Passivhaus-compliant construction approach that meets 2025, 2030 and 2050 climate change energy targets. In 2020, the system won the Ashden Award for scalable climate change solutions.
Projects range from one of the UK’s first certified Passivhaus refurbishments to beautifully designed suburban homes; the company’s first social housing scheme is due to be completed later this year.
Co-founder and Director Jae Cotterell is also co-author of the Passivhaus Handbook, a practical guide for anyone looking to build ultra-low energy homes.
“We are so proud of our CAT foundations. So many alumni are part of Adaptavate – we have supervised theses, lectured, visited and now work in the industry with so many people that pass through this transformative quarry. Adaptavate would not be here without them.” – Adaptavate
Adaptavate is an award-winning company developing low-impact, carbon negative building products including Breathaboard and Breathaplasta, offering easy-to-use drop-in alternatives to conventional materials.
Company founder and CEO Tom Robinson created the initial concept for their ‘Breathaboard’ alternative to plasterboard as part of his CAT Masters dissertation before going on to win a place on the Climate KIC accelerator programme, which supports innovative start-ups working on climate solutions.
In 2022, Adaptavate announced it had secured investment of £2.16 million to scale up production of Breathaboard. In the same year they were named as a ‘PwC Net Zero Future50’ company – one of 50 innovative start-ups identified by the accounting giant as having the potential to make a significant difference in tackling climate change.
April 2023 saw the launch-to-market of their new Breathaplasta range of products, which can now be found in builders merchants and DIY stores across the UK.
Founded by CAT graduate Agamemnon Otero, Energy Garden supports communities to install and maintain gardens on railway stations across London. These are funded by revenue generated by the sale of community-owned renewable energy. Once a garden has been set up, Energy Garden supports communities to improve biodiversity and grow food.
This innovative organisation aims to raise awareness of environmental issues, create real examples of what solutions can look like, and support communities to cultivate resilience, cohesion, innovation and hope. Energy Garden is the largest community energy organisation in London and the only city wide community gardening and community energy project.
The gardens in the network are run by and for the communities that use the stations, and each one reflects the people who live and travel there. More than 300 people are involved on a regular basis across 26 gardens, which are enjoyed by millions of London train-users every year.
Energy Garden is one of a number of organisations co-founded by Agamemnon, with others including Repowering, which specialises in renewable energy projects led and owned by Londoners, providing direct benefits including cost savings and community investment.
Cambridge Solar and Exeo Energy
Cambridge Solar was founded by Owen Morgan, a graduate from one of CAT’s early postgraduate courses in renewable energy, building on his dissertation which looked at the solar PV market.
The company has now been providing renewable energy consultancy, design and installation services for private individuals and professional organisations for over 13 years, winning various awards including the prestigious Renewable Energy Association Installer of the Year Award.
In 2013, to expand beyond Cambridge, Owen founded sister company Exeo Energy. Adding another CAT connection, in 2018 Owen was joined by Ben Robinson, a previous Dulas director, to help grow the company. The team has now grown to more than 20 full-time members of staff and has offices in Cardiff, Machynlleth and Oxford. Later this year they will be opening their first showroom – just down the road from CAT on the Machynlleth high street!
“The success of IndiNature is in a large part thanks to my time at CAT. Signing up for a CAT Masters degree was the best decision I ever made – a fantastic experience full of practical and theoretical work and, most importantly, I was studying amongst some really interesting students and lecturers from a wide range of backgrounds. In the Welsh hills to boot!” – Scott Simpson, co-founder and CEO of IndiNature
Natural-fibre insulation company IndiNature was co-founded in 2016 by CAT graduate Scott Simpson, based on his Masters dissertation research. In December 2022, the team opened the UK’s first dedicated natural insulation mill in the Scottish Borders, thanks to a £3m investment from the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB). This high-capacity factory produces IndiTherm, a flexible thermal insulation batt made from industrial hemp sourced from farms in the UK.
In early 2023, the company announced a follow-on investment of a further £2m from the SNIB to allow them to scale up production and bring to market their high-density thermal and acoustic IndiBoards and IndiBreathe, a full construction insulation system which combines IndiTherm and IndiBoards, due to be launched later this year.
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