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"We're developing the transport of the future"

After impressing the judges in the ClimateLaunchpad Scotland final, hosted online by ECCI last week, Scotland winners Lenz, Quoin and ReturnToNature are today pitching in the European final of the global green ideas competition.

If they can follow in the footsteps of previous ECCI-backed start-ups and make it all the way to the global final, they're in with a chance of winning the €10,000 top prize and a place on the acclaimed EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator at ECCI.

We caught up with Lenz Co Founder & Director Hamish Geddes to find out about their hopes for the final and what makes them tick.

What is your company and product all about, in a nutshell?

During autumn and winter seasons, railway stakeholders face the challenge of operating railway services under low adhesion conditions, resulting in reduced grip that means problems such as "leaves on the line” delay your train. We provide a novel, patent pending product that offers predictable braking and improved acceleration performance for locomotives irrespective of these weather conditions - all the while improving the vehicles energy efficiency.

In the UK, this is a problem that has plagued the industry for decades. When low adhesion occurs, operators must impose speed restrictions on 10% of services that reduces the number of trains passing through stations. Economic analysis shows that this costs the economy a combined £345m annually in addition to fines of £300m a year distributed to Network Rail and Train Operators for poor service reliability. 

Our product will keep your train on time and save each operator spending £2m on average for systems that are yet to solve the problem, by providing an engineering-based solution that tackles “leaves on the line” at the source whilst improving energy efficiency in braking and acceleration by up to 12%.

Tell us about your background.

The founding team originally built Hyperloop prototype vehicles during their time leading the University of Edinburgh’s Hyperloop Team from 2016-2019, and pioneered the use of magnetic wheels as a high-speed propulsion system within their roles. Through these positions, they garnered experience with the design, build and testing processes for producing high-performance systems. 

The blue-sky concept of Hyperloop alerted us to how far behind current technology stands, and that such a system would have low chances of success in today's climate. This inspired us to apply the technology conceived in developing the transport of the future to solve problems that have remained stagnant in industry for decades.    

What plans do you have for expansion?

The problem of ageing infrastructure coping with increased passenger demand and a changing climate goes far beyond the UK. Today, 2.7% of the EU Rail Supply Industries’ annual revenue - equivalent to €780m - is reinvested in research and development, with a significant portion of this funding going towards solutions for improving reliability.

Rather than enter the market with the intention to produce and distribute the product to the industry, we plan to partner with railway leaders to tailor the device to their needs and aid their existing suppliers in procurement. In this sense, we can deliver value to rail stakeholders across the board, position our dynamic team as the innovation leads to our customers in meeting their climate responsibilities, and ultimately implement the product on the world's railways from the US to Japan.

What’s your ultimate goal?

To implement our range of innovative products that provide economic incentives to the rail, robotics and aerospace industries, whilst reducing their operational carbon footprint.

What is your greatest achievement?

Being crowned one of three winners in Scotland’s ClimateLaunchpad 2020 is a great achievement, and only the beginning of our work with the ECCI as we look to compete at the European finals.

We are also incredibly proud of the work conducted to date in producing hardware prototypes of our products, with support from various partners including the Department for Transport crucial in achieving this. We are grateful for this engagement and the active interest the railway family has taken in supporting climate conscious initiatives from young entrepreneurs entering the industry.

Your views on Scotland and Edinburgh’s sustainability scene?

Scotland is a climate full of energy, with the potential to harness our dreich weather to make a hugely positive impact on the world’s effort to become net zero. From experiencing the entrepreneurial scene first hand, we have seen fellow startups embrace the challenge and proactively take risks to ensure this potential does not go to waste. This attitude is instilled across Edinburgh’s emerging business leaders, with the ECCI and ClimateLaunchpad giving us a platform to launch on.

What role did the support offered by ECCI and ClimateLaunchpad play in your success?

Support from our mentors in Gordon and David of Ashburn Energy made all the difference in preparing our pitch for success, and the ClimateLaunchpad Bootcamp introduced us to new ways of expressing our offering - particularly around climate forecasting.

Why are competitions that support green innovation important during Covid-19?

COVID-19 has affected everybody in some way, with tragic consequences in so many cases. Our society has made a collective sacrifice that has presented an opportunity to rethink our cities and rebuild on the foundation of green technology that previously faced hurdles to implementation. We believe there is no better tribute to society’s effort than to invest in these ideas through competitions such as Climate Launchpad.

How do you relax?

I love spending time in the outdoors, whether that be walking, cycling or going on a camping weekend. I really can’t wait to get back to watching Junior football at the ground once restrictions have been fully lifted.

Get behind Scotland's ClimateLaunchpad European finalists!

Keep up with the action in this year's ClimateLaunchpad, including keynotes, workshops, interactive sessions and of course Europe's Top-8 start-ups pitching in 8 green business themes.