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Energy-saving Midlands firm gains Growth Hub grant for solar project

A specialist in off-grid lighting in Warwickshire is powering ahead with an energy-saving solar project after receiving funding to help source research support.

Solar Vision Lighting Technologies, which is based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, specialises in providing off-grid solar lighting and CCTV for streets, residential developments, industrial parks, leisure clubs, schools and shopping centres.

The company, which has been operating for two years, is busy marketing a solar wrap that helps turn sun and day light into energy – but has unique features that makes it more adaptable to the climate in the United Kingdom.

Solar Vision’s solar wrap is a 360-degree hexagonal structure that is placed around a column and generates up to 280 watts of power – compared to the traditional flat panels that generally produce 80 to 100 watts.

However, the company has wanted to develop its current product so embarked upon a project to develop its own enhanced, more efficient product and called upon Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub’s Adam Plumb, who referred them to the Proof of Concept programme.

Solar Vision was successfully awarded a £4,918 Proof of Concept grant which forms part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme that is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is delivered by Coventry University Enterprises Limited.

A match-funded grant was awarded with Solar Vision’s 60 per cent contribution, which will fund a 12-week feasibility study and prototype testing at Exeter University.

Greg Ketteridge, Managing Director at Solar Vision Lighting Technologies, said: “With Proof of Concept, our ambition is to become more self-sufficient in terms of our products and as we develop the research  we will be able to apply for the IP.

“What we want to do is link up with a specialist in PV (Photovoltaic). Exeter University is one of the leading universities in the country that specialise in PV so we linked up with them.

“They’re going through concept issues where we’ve put our proposal forward about how we think we can develop our product and get an IP on that particular product. There’s a number of questions that we’ve posed for them which they’re now assessing and reviewing.”

Solar Vision’s five-year plan for a turnover of £2.5m and for this year they have targeted a turnover of over £750,000.  Two months into their financial year, which commenced in February, is already in excess of £200,000 in turnover.

But the Growth Hub’s support has been key to allowing Solar Vision to progress with a project that could see them fast-track their plans of reaching their target turnover figure.

“We’re a new, fledgling company, so cash flow is king,” Greg added. “Without the Proof of Concept grant, we wouldn’t have pushed forward as soon as we have done. It was the driver that actually pushed us to get on with it and start the initial phase which is circa £12,000.

“The last 18 months have been a big education exercise for us having to get out there and educate our clients, because their initial approach to PV lighting is that it doesn’t work in the winter. All they’ve seen are flat panels which don’t perform in the winter months because of dust, dirt, snow, leaves and bird droppings. Whereas ours is picking up the sun from all directions due to the 360 degrees wrap, as it is vertical it doesn’t suffer from the things a flat panel does.

“We’re now getting more and more repeat business. With companies strategies for zero-carbon or off setting carbon initiatives, particularly with developers and Local Authorities, we’re assisting them with their targets since we have a zero-carbon and sustainable product.”

Adam Plumb, Account Manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub said: “Solar Vision has come a long way in a short space of time and has big aspirations moving forward.

“The Proof of Concept grant has given them a significant helping hand in developing a product that will be fully theirs to market and sell, which if successful, will lead to business growth and more employment opportunities for people in the region.”

Ilektra Alma Fronista, Business Delivery Manager for Proof of Concept at Coventry University Enterprises, added: “With the Proof of Concept grant programme, we aim to support SMEs in the Coventry & Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham & Solihull areas with their pre-commercialisation projects, and prove the concept of the development of new technologies and innovative ideas.

“Solar Vision is developing its new more efficient product that will generate more electricity than a conventional flat solar panel which will help take pressure off the grid and allow more businesses to become more carbon efficient.

“The ‘Proof of Concept’ ERDF grant has enabled them to launch a feasibility study with Exeter University to create a prototype. The grant support has allowed them to move forward faster and reduce the financial risk.”

The Growth Hub is supported by funders including Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and Warwickshire’s District and Borough Councils.

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Photo caption: (From left) Ilektra Alma Fronista (Business Delivery Manager for Proof of Concept programme at Coventry University Enterprises Ltd), Adam Plumb (Account Manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub), Elena Diordieva (Project Support Officer for the Proof of Concept programme at Coventry University Enterprises Ltd) and Greg Ketteridge (Managing Director at Solar Vision Lighting Technologies).

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