Invest to Grow: Lessons learned on developing digital technologies


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.

At SIG, we have a real passion to reshape the customers relationship with the energy market. We believe that through the power of new digital energy management and

control technologies, we can help to create a future energy system which is cleaner and more affordable for all. In response to this future market opportunities we have designed, developed and manufactured, our own advanced digital energy technologies, which are set to revolutionise the UK’s energy market.

The future consumer relationship with energy will be digital, where new technologies will be connected, in real time, to the energy use and demands of customers. Embedded digital energy tools in the home and business will create value for customers and communities alike, reducing energy costs, cutting carbon and opening-up opportunities for new services and revenues.

Over the last 5 years, SIG has been developing digital technologies that are low cost, incredibly flexible and easy to install, and most importantly, provide an invaluable tool for customers to cut their energy costs, save carbon and get, future energy market ready.

The emergence of what are known as IoT (Internet of Things) digital energy technologies now offer opportunities for customers to become “Prosumers”, where they can self-control their energy use. The SIG’s digital energy management and control solution is the ‘digital glue’, and connects industrial, commercial and residential customers to future opportunities; keeping our customers ahead of the pace of change. We believe that this digitised energy market is growing in the UK, and globally accelerating.

That’s the pitch done, so how have we managed to get here? Well, after some relatively small investor seed funding of £125k in 2011, we have managed, just about, to self-finance the development of these future ready digital energy technologies and to do this have had to reinvest sales revenues of our earliest 2G models, which we sold to large industrial and commercial customers who were looking for a low cost solution to digitise their existing plant and equipment and access real time performance and operational data via the Cloud. 

The benefit of this approach in reinvesting sales revenues and funding product development through profitability, is that we have been able to control the timing of the design, development testing and manufactured of our technologies. However, the downside is, that our ability to move as quickly as we are able and would like to, has been restricted through the relative health of our balance sheet and our own ability to drive sales growth. 

We have partnered with other SME’s to develop digital technologies for them and through this have created revenues through development work and subsequent sales of the products. However, as with all new technologies the development and testing cycles take much longer than anticipated with the downside of this is we were, and still are to some extent, reliant on another company and their own investors to drive our own sales growth and profitability.

Although, creating partnerships and collaborations with other 3rd party organisations can be an important part of business growth, we have learnt one key lessons: If business drivers and focus are not aligned then commercial tensions arise related to the development of the product, the ownership of Intellectual Property (IP) and finally, the expectations on sales growth v actual delivery. So, metaphorically speaking, if you can’t paddle your own canoe, make sure that you are in control of its direction and its speed of travel; otherwise it will take you much longer to get to where you need to get to. 

About SIGinside

SIGinside provides future ready digital energy technologies, today. The SIG unique micro 4G ‘real time’ monitoring and control system, known as DEMS (Digital Energy Management System) is designed, developed and manufactured here, in the West Midlands. The SIG DEMS in an incredibly small footprint, provides a low cost and future proofed, flexible digital energy management and control system which connects industrial, commercial and residential customers to their energy use and gives them the ability to control it. DEMS is market leading, low cost, simple and quick to install and enables our customers to digitally connect and remotely control their use of energy, exchange information with the market and visualise actionable insights via the Cloud. 

Jim Allen