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COVID funding for technology that can cut older people’s heating bills

Written by Georgia Riley on 24 September 2020

Enterprise Europe Network helps Yorkshire firm win Innovate UK COVID-19 funding to explore new markets for novel heating control system.

Image library picture of older woman sitting in her armchair with persian cat on the armrest.

© Getty Images: library picture.

Enterprise Europe Network has helped an electric radiator manufacturer in Leeds to gain a £50,000 Covid-19 support grant from Innovate UK to help older and vulnerable people heat their homes more efficiently.

 

Trust Electric Heating Ltd, which produces a novel radiator made of aluminium, has been receiving innovation management support from EEN for more than two years.

 

In July 2019 Trust Electric launched a Bluetooth thermostat for student accommodation. The Radiator Buddy allows students to control their heating with an app and yields energy savings for universities and landlords because the heating only comes on when it detects the student’s mobile.

 

After the lockdown began in March the only sales inquiries were from people shielding from the virus, who were having thermostat programming issues. Trust Electric could not help them because of the isolation measures in place.

 

COVID-19 support grants

 

Fiona Conor, managing director of Trust Electric, said: “Our company was in a vulnerable position, but this became an opportunity.”

 

Having had support from EEN in building awareness of and capacity for innovation, the management seized on the potential for income from a new product, CAVE, catering for ‘Confined Adults, the Vulnerable and Elderly’.

 

EEN adviser Iain Edwards said: “When the pandemic struck, we quickly pointed the company in the direction of the Covid-19 support grants available from Innovate UK. We also helped them to engage with potential investors and there are ongoing conversations there.”                                

 

CAVE is a digital thermostat that can be managed remotely, together with an algorithm that can advise customers on reducing their bills through a small adjustment on each heater in the home.

 

Innovation support

 

It will allow a group that is not ‘tech savvy’ to have their heating controlled remotely in an efficient and affordable way and to enjoy significant energy savings.

 

Fiona added: “This grant gave us the ability to add another product into our portfolio quickly, also helping us to become more future proof if we were going to survive instability like this again.

 

“This is our first Innovate UK grant and it has made a huge difference to our company and not only in the short-term. The launch of CAVE will change the business immensely.”

 

Trust Electric’s IP-protected aluminium radiator already has nearly three times the heat conductive properties of steel.

 

The other key component is soapstone, a volcanic rock that heats up very quickly but also retains and disperses that heat for up to 40 minutes after the radiator is switched off.