Reducing carbon emissions through tech

Digital Carbon Tech

This unique opportunity will enable innovative startups and medium size businesses to work directly with Digital Catapult and Sunderland City Council. In this exciting and ambitious carbon neutral challenge set by the council, you’ll be focusing on how technologies can help reduce carbon emissions on building properties across Sunderland.

To date Digital Catapult’s IoT for local authorities (IoT4LA) programme has supported innovative technology companies to work directly with 12 local authorities across the UK. The startups on the programme have successfully deployed internet of things (IoT) solutions that each solve some of the UK’s major challenges. Of mutual benefit for the startups, local authorities and importantly to local citizens the programme has driven improvements through increased understanding and adoption of advanced digital technologies into the local regions. 

This year, Digital Catapult has partnered with Sunderland City Council to help the council achieve ambitious plans to meet its carbon neutral targets by 2030, 10 years ahead of Sunderland’s city-wide target to be carbon neutral by 2040 and ahead of the UK Government target of the UK achieving net zero by 2050.

The beautiful coastal city of Sunderland is growing its reputation as a digital trailblazer and is actively exploiting the many benefits that connectivity and technology can bring to its people and businesses.

The vision is that, by 2030, Sunderland will be a connected, international and carbon neutral city.

For this unique challenge, the council is looking to join forces with the UK’s leading startups and medium sized companies. Successful applicants will need to work closely with the council and ultimately propose solutions that will help it gather and analyse timely data, to take corrective and proactive actions, from building emissions. 

The council is offering £10,000 to one company for a three to four month proof of concept (PoC) with the goal to trial the solution at a location in Sunderland. 

Why get involved?

  • Opportunity for up to six applicants to pitch their solutions to the Low Carbon team at Sunderland City Council
  • Opportunity for one company to progress to the PoC phase to trial their solution in Sunderland 
  • £10,000 on offer to the successful company who is selected for the PoC trial 
  • Showcase solutions in December 2021 at an IoT event in London
  • Raise company profile by gaining valuable presence on Digital Catapult social platforms
  • Gain commercially valuable feedback from Sunderland City Council about the viability of the solution
  • Gain an understanding of the problems faced by the public sector and apply products to real-world challenges

Who should apply?

Digital Catapult and its partners are looking for innovative startups in the IoT and AI space who have experience in working with utility companies, and local councils. 

This may include:

  • IoT solutions 
  • AI, edge computing and data analytics companies
  • Smart building and green technology 
  • Long term 5G integration 

Applicants must be a UK based registered limited company (or prove they have an establishment in the UK) and undertake the majority of the activity in the UK. It is expected that the majority of this work will be in the Sunderland area and so a willingness to travel to the trial site and work directly with the council (in line with the Covid guidelines as applicable) is a must.

Some useful information about Sunderland City Council and this challenge:

Sunderland City Council is responsible for approximately 450 properties in the city and 80% of the carbon emissions are generated by approximately 30 big properties. Heating and cooling are the largest consumers of energy for the council in these buildings. 

To date the Council has made efforts to gather and make use of the energy consumption data received from existing sensors and reports provided by utility companies, however the data is not received in real-time and in some cases the data does not specify how the energy was used (only that it was used).

Because the data is not responsive, the council is not able to take immediate corrective measures. On the other hand, once the data is received, the council representative needs to manually contact the building manager to get further information on why there was a spike in energy consumption. 

In addition there are a few actuators already installed in the environment but there is no automatic control loop implemented which can offer better control and management of energy consumption in buildings across the city.

What we’re looking for:

The council is looking for a data aggregation and automated decision making system which can give better visibility and control over energy consumption in buildings across Sunderland. For this, the council will be selecting companies with relevant IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to participate in a three to four month PoC, at a location specified by the council. 

Digital Catapult will select up to six shortlisted companies to pitch their solutions with the aim of selecting one company to go through to PoC trials.  On selection and contract agreements the selected company will be provided with the relevant context and any pre-existing data that they would like to build on and work closely with the council to develop the PoC for live trials.

The PoC needs to demonstrate the following:

  • Scope for wider deployability across the city
  • Scalable over the years
  • Customised to address the council’s growing needs
  • Different levels of access to data
  • Interoperability
  • Sustainability
  • Result based outcomes (before and after data)
  • Scalability
  • Secure 
  • Easy to use
  • Minimum maintenance for the council

Although this is a short trial, the council has ambitious plans to drive carbon neutral innovation across the city and empower its locals to be more environmentally friendly in the long run as part of the city-wide Low Carbon Framework which was adopted in December 2020. The council hopes to have a city wide network of data collection points that can give them a holistic view of the carbon consumptions across the city as a whole and within different clusters in the longer term. 

To know more about the selection criteria, solution requirements, key dates, FAQs, click here.

IMPORTANT: Applicants must read the programme competition terms and conditions before submitting a full application. Important legal information can be found here regarding how applications will be assessed. Submission of an application will be taken as confirmation that challenge competition terms and conditions have been read and accepted by the applicant.

Applications of successful shortlisted companies will be passed on to the council team.

Next steps and how to register 

Register your interest in this open call using the form below. Upon completion you will receive an email with a link to the full application form which must be submitted by 23:59 on 09 July 2021.

To know more about the shortlisting criteria please download the information pack here.

Digital Catapult and Sunderland City Council will shortlist the applications and will invite up to six proposals for a ‘Discovery Day’ (online via Zoom) where shortlisted companies will be able to ask further questions to the Low Carbon team and understand the challenge better. 

The Discovery Day should provide all the necessary information for the top five or six companies to prepare a pitch to the council’s low carbon team. 

One successful company will move to the trial phase where Sunderland City Council will provide £10,000 to the company to build and install a solution in a three to four month trial.

A successful trial could potentially lead to a longer engagement with the council. 

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