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Invest to Grow: Finding support for investing in innovative technology

Aceleron

This case study is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Invest to Grow campaign. Invest to Grow aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in R&D, innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity through case studies, expert opinion pieces and briefing information. Click here to find out more and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media with #I2G18. Part 2 of Invest to Grow focuses on investment in technology and machinery and is sponsored by MCS Corporate.

I came to the BizzInn in 2013 with the aim of running a market intelligence company to service industries adopting new technologies in their supply chains. 

The idea for a second business came about when I met my co-founder, Carlton Cummins, while undertaking a consulting project.  We quickly identified shared values, a complementary skillset and a shared vision, and we decided to set up a business that would upcycle used lithium ion batteries for use as affordable energy storage in the developing world.

By mid-2016 Aceleron was born.  We had a full technology roadmap, and a clear idea about the markets we wanted to reach, but we were less informed about the funding landscape.  At this point the BizzInn mentors proved invaluable.  They advised us to take a staged approach to funding, to grow our networks, and seek partnerships with large corporates and charitable foundations so we could raise our profile.

Validating our technology required much higher levels of investment, and for this we were advised to apply for funding from the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK, whose funds are purposed for hi-tech innovators. 

In the next six months we entered and won a lot of awards, which provided us with competition prize money, and this was a handy boost to our cash flow.  It also helped our credibility with external investors, and in fact it was the publicity about the Shell Live Wire win that introduced us to our first investment from a high net worth individual. 

The awards are normally by competition, and it is essential to get the written ‘pitch’ as compelling as possible.  At this stage we benefitted hugely from our previous experience of filling in award entries, and the pitch training provided by the BizzInn.  By December 2016 our diligence paid off and we were awarded Innovate UK funding for technical feasibility studies.

My business partner Carlton Cummins was dedicated to these feasibility studies, which involved dissembling and reassembling 1,000 lithium ion batteries.  This was a time-critical task as the next stage in our plan was to apply for grant funding from sustainability and environmental bodies – and this would involve leveraging the interim results of the feasibility studies.  

It was a lot of work to get to this stage, but this paid when we were accepted as partners by the Shell Foundation, a charity that leverages contacts and networks to deliver impact in the developing world.  This allowed us to pilot our battery assembly technology in Africa, and we now have some great stories to tell when we meet commercial partners and funders.

Meanwhile we applied for and were accepted into the ClimateKIC Clean Tech Accelerator Program, which will give us access to more networks in the sustainability space. 

We are now in the fortunate position of having completed proof of concept, and have extremely wide networks in the battery technology and sustainability space.  We have also launched our first product – an advanced, completely reusable, lithium battery pack designed for use in homes, businesses, e-bikes and the electric watercraft used by lifeguards and rescue professionals.   We have called this battery Circa as it contributes to the circular economy. 

The BizzInn is based at the Birmingham Research Park.  To enquire about BizzInn programmes or incubation contact Andrew Cruxton, Incubation Manager, at a.cruxton@bham.ac.uk

About Aceleron

Aceleron is a cleantech start-up that produces circular economy enabled, high performance battery packs.  It is the brainchild of Dr Amrit Chandan & Carlton Cummins, whose passion for affordable energy storage was encouraged by the University of Birmingham’s business incubator, the BizzInn. 

The BizzInn was also instrumental in ensuring Aceleron was investment ready – and introducing the company to networks and investment possibilities to ensure planned growth. 

Dr Amrit Chandan
CEO

Aceleron