CleanLaunchpad: West Midlands Bootcamp

Catherine Shelley, Climate-KIC’s Programme Development and Delivery Officer for the Accelerator Programme, shares her account of the West Midlands CleanLaunchpad Bootcamp in Birmingham.

One July day, 10 teams with 10 great ideas for a low carbon world descended on Innovation Birmingham Campus for the CleanLaunchpad Bootcamp. Fuelled by breakfast sandwiches with our expert coaches on hand, the teams sat down to think on the links between what drives them as people, and the ideas that they had entered into the competition.

They also started to consider the market for their ideas, particularly their ‘beachhead market’ – a targeted market which enables the company to learn and augment their strategy before opening out their offer to their wider market.

At the end of the first day, the participants were able to meet Climate-KIC successes Heat Genius, who gave a useful account of the realities of taking an innovative product into a highly competitive market. Their product enables households to use energy more smartly, by learning how the occupants use their home and setting temperatures based on that, the rate of heat loss and the external temperature.

As Day 2 rolled around, the time for final presentations drew near and the pressure was on, particularly for the newly-formed teams. The West Midlands Regional Innovation Centre team were particularly pleased when three current Pioneers made for a last-minute entry into the competition with their ‘Green Champions’ app idea: a way of encouraging green-minded people to compete with one another to save energy in the workplace. Each break saw them huddled round their laptop, perfecting their offer and pitches. Cameron from EnergyX – an online marketplace app for energy efficiency opportunities – was similarly absorbed in his presentation.

Regardless of the myriad ideas, all of the teams were starting from the same question: what ‘customer pain’ does our product relieve? A cold house? A lack of clean, readily available water? Intermittent and expensive power? They were also considering – with the previous answer in mind – how they would go about approaching those customers.

Partway through the day, the Climate-KIC team and other participants were thrilled when Lauren Beech (also on Pioneers into Practice) returned from the Birmingham Sustainability Awards a winner in the ‘Best Food and Growing Business’ category for her ‘Indoor Eden’ business.

At the end of the second day, everyone assembled to listen to the final pitches from each team. The atmosphere was contemplative, with each team listening carefully to one another. Follow-up questions and comments from participants showed that there had been shared learning, with lots of constructive suggestions on refining pitches and beachhead markets.

The coaches had plenty of feedback for all participants regarding their next steps: some needed to do more detailed market research, other needed to make new partnerships or to further refine their financial projections to make them more realistic. But the coaches’ high standards notwithstanding, the sense at the end of the day was that the whole cohort had achieved a huge amount in two days. The thought of where they could be a year from now is an exciting one indeed.

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