Barclays supports 'disruptors of tomorrow' with green innovation scale-up scheme

Hydrogen vehicle pioneer Riversimple, London's first subterranean farming concept Growing Underground and tree-planting drone developer BioCarbon Engineering are among 10 British green business start-ups that look set to undergo a period of intensive scale-up after taking part in a new accelerator scheme launched by Barclays Bank.

Prototyping expert Tom Chi was among the mentors of the inaugural UK Unreasonable Impact programme, which provided eco-entrepreneurs with resources and mentorship to scale-up. Photo: @UnreasonImpact/Twitter

Prototyping expert Tom Chi was among the mentors of the inaugural UK Unreasonable Impact programme, which provided eco-entrepreneurs with resources and mentorship to scale-up. Photo: @UnreasonImpact/Twitter

The banking group has partnered with start-up business support service Unreasonable Group to develop Unreasonable Impact – a social and environmentally-focussed network of accelerator programmes which will allow green innovations and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses through support, advice, and guidance from experts.

The inaugural Unreasonable Impact programme targeted ventures from the UK and Ireland, with additional programmes launching in the US later this autumn and in Asia in spring 2017.

During the two-week intensive UK programme, which ended on Saturday (8 October), the start-ups received focused and bespoke support to help them scale their ventures. Each company that has gone through the Unreasonable Impact programme has been positioned to create 500 jobs within the next five years.

Richard Heggie, head of high growth and entrepreneurs at Barclays, said: “Scale-ups are vital to spurring economic growth across the UK. This programme is another example of our focus on energising and supporting ambitious entrepreneurs in their challenging scale-up stage.”

The UK companies involved in the Unreasonable Impact programme focus on a diverse range of global challenges, including food production, remote healthcare support, deforestation, water shortage, wastewater treatment, and sustainable recycling. The 10 UK Unreasonable Impact-supported companies are: -

Agrivi – A farm management software that helps farmers change the way food is produced, positively impacting more than a billion lives.

Andiamo – A company that has developed 3D printing technology that revolutionises the way orthotics and prosthetics are manufactured and delivered to families with disabled children. 

BioCarbon Engineering – A firm that implements drone technology that harnesses remote sensing to reverse deforestation by delivering precision planting and mapping, with an aim to plant a billion trees a year.

Desolenator – A patented solar technology that can turn saltwater into drinking water. Running 100% on solar, the device produces enough daily water for a family of five.

Elvis & Kresse – An organisation that repurposes seemingly useless waste material such as fire hoses, coffee sacks, shoe boxes into handcrafted luxury items. 

Exergyn – An engine that runs on hot water (80-120C) – offering a commercial solution to converting low-grade heat into power.

Growing Underground – A facility that grows fresh greens 33 metres under the streets of Clapham in London, using 70% less water than traditional open-field farming. 

GrowUp Urban Farms – An organisation that builds and operates Aquaponic and vertical growing technologies that ultimately provide year-round fresh fish, greens and herbs for local communities.

Recycling Technologies – A technology that offers the cheapest and most environmentally responsible solution to recycling end of life plastic, working toward a zero-waste world.

Riversimple – A Welsh start-up that provides innovative and affordable hydrogen fuel cell cars, which eliminates the environmental impact of personal transport. 

Unreasonable Group founder and chief executive Daniel Epstein said: “Everything that Unreasonable and Barclays are doing in this partnership is entrepreneur-centric and based on the needs of the companies we serve. By supporting entrepreneurs who have developed scalable solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, we will not only scale up technologies that address significant societal and environmental issues, but we will in turn be accelerating the creation of millions of new jobs.”

Innovation Gateway

Unreasonable Impact can be likened to the Innovation Gateway established by fellow bank RBS in 2014. The Innovation Gateway offers a direct route to market for sustainability start-ups and SMEs. New technologies were initially installed exclusively on the RBS estate, leading to expected annual savings of more than 40,000 tonnes of CO2 and 200 million litres of water - equating to £7.5m – for the Bank.

The scheme has since grown to involve a host of other organisations that are trialling new concepts on their buildings. After receiving more than 120 applications for the first round of the 2016 Innovation Gateway, 11 eco-entrepreneurs have been selected to trial their eco-innovations with one or more of the round one 2016 partners: RBS, supermarket group Sainsbury's, construction firm Carillion and catering company BaxterStorey.

Applications are now open for round two of the 2016 Innovation Gateway, with Heathrow Airport adding its name to the partnership.

The founder of the Innovation Gateway, Marcela Navarro,has since left the banking group to launch Business Cubed – a consultancy dedicated to accelerating innovation, driving performance and helping multi-nationals around the world address imbalances in the value chain. Read more here.

Luke Nicholls


bank | Innovation | smes | technology | green innovation


Technology & innovation
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