New Climate-KIC Accelerator recruit SolarisKit - an early stage start-up working to decarbonise heat in the developing countries - was recently selected for the prestigious GCRF Energy Catalyst trade mission to Nairobi, Kenya.
We caught up with CEO & founder Dr Faisal Ghani - also a Research Associate of Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt - to get the lowdown on his remarkable trade trip.
What is SolarisKit in a nutshell?
The SolarisKit collector is a unique solar thermal collector capable of converting solar radiation directly into heat. The flat pack kit can be easily assembled, reduces manufacturing and shipping costs and is ideal for use in developing countries in the global solar belt, such as India, Bangladesh, Mexico, Brazil, and sub-Sahara Africa.
What was the purpose of the GCRF Energy Catalyst trade mission?
The key objectives of the mission, part of the Energy Catalyst programme, were to help organisations gain an understanding of the energy access issues in Kenya and find links to potential partners.
The Energy Catalyst programme was set up in 2013 to support UK-based businesses to develop highly innovative, market-focused energy technologies. The programme will enable them to commercialise sustainable energy solutions faster than they normally would.
In 2019, the Energy Catalyst programme partnered with the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) which resulted in a focus on developing technologies that meet energy access needs of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Kenya is the largest GDP economy in South East and Central Africa with a population of approximately 41 million. The UK is one of the largest foreign investors in Kenya, with total bilateral trade of over £1.3 billion and foreign direct investment in Kenya, as well as foreign ownership, are not subject to any restrictions.
On top of light regulation and tax exemptions on imports, the Kenyan Government’s “Vision 2030” plan aspires to develop Kenya into a “newly industrialising, middleincome” economy.
Kenya is a member of both the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) which gives enhanced access to a market of over 300 million people through Kenya, as well as free movement of goods and services within the community.
And Kenya is pretty sunny! As SolarisKit is ideal for use in developing countries in the global solar belt this was a great opportunity for us.
Tell us about the mission.
After the pre-mission briefing and pitch training in London I spent a week pitching to potential customers and commercial partners in one of our targeted markets in Nairobi.
It was a great opportunity for the company and the trip went very well, providing me with significant insight into the Kenyan and sub-Saharan solar thermal market, the issues facing the industry, and a chance to establish relationships with potential partners in the region.
One highlight is that I now have a partner that is keen to work on the installation of a pilot project to supply clean, solar heat for an orphanage in Nairobi.
There are approximately 29 orphanages in Nairobi most of which are dependent on biomass where the children have to collect firewood to heat water. The children need to spend time looking for wood and suffer respiratory problems from the burning process. Installing a solar hot water system is generally not considered due to cost, but based on the price point of our low-cost, flat packable collector, this hurdle is at least reduced.
We are now seeking further funding from Innovate UK to fund this pilot project.