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"I wanted to invent something that could change the world for the better"

Dr Lorenzo Conti is a University of Edinburgh student who has developed a robotic device to measure conditions in bulk grain storage and reduce waste. He is one of three innovative climate start-ups representing Scotland at the ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final, hosted by ECCI in Edinburgh this week.

In the last of our series of interviews with the Scottish start-ups competing at this week’s final, we caught up with Lorenzo to talk about his business and his ambitions.

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

Crover has developed a remote probing device that moves about in grain stores to monitor the condition of grains. Customers pay a yearly license fee for the device and data analysis service.

Was there a lightbulb moment at the start? Describe it

When I started my PhD I wanted to invent something novel and significant – something that could change the world for the better.

The ‘eureka!’ moment came when I took my head away from my usual research work. This is when I had the first idea for Crover’s technology.

I later went to LAUNCH.ed for IP advice and they helped me change my mindset from researcher to entrepreneur.

What is the market you are targeting and sum up the opportunity?

Our market is mainly large scale grain traders and co-ops – producers that use large grain stores of about 1,000 tonnes of capacity.

At the moment we’re focused on markets in Scotland – particularly malt and barley - and Europe, wheat for pasta in Italy, and Spain, France, the Netherlands and Germany. But we have global aspirations.

Tell us about your background.

I am originally from Italy and came to Scotland to study, initially for my MEng and then PhD in Engineering, investigating the physics of how granular particles move – eventhough the PhD project was initially quite different, being an expert in the field led me to discovering granular locomotion, which is at the basis of the work we are doing at Crover.

What plans do you have for expansion?

We’re at the product development stage and looking for SMART: SCOTLAND funding to develop the technology, and expand the technical skills of our team.

My aim is to apply to get onto the Climate-KIC Accelerator at ECCI even if I don’t win a place by finishing in the top ten at the ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final – Climate-KIC is the best option out there for businesses like mine.

What’s your ultimate goal?

I chose this market because of its potential social impact, especially in developing countries.

Ultimately our vision is to build a global business which is not profit-driven, but focused on environmental and social impact.

What is your greatest achievement?

With the potential we have, I feel the greatest achievements are yet to come!

Your views on Scotland and Edinburgh’s sustainability scene?

I was amazed to see how vibrant the scene is when I started out. Most companies seem to have their sights on a social impact too. This is just good business – the demand from the market is there for these types of business and technology, as well as the push from the entrepreneurs.

What role did the support offered to you by ECCI/CLP play in your success?

ECCI and the ClimateLaunchpad competition, we well as LAUNCH.ed, SIE, Edinburgh Innovations, the team at Converge Challenge, eClub and Aurora Sustainability have all been enormous help.

ECCI is a great environment and a great building to work in. I’ve attended lots of events and met lots of people and just enjoy being in the space. The architecture and design are really special, mixing old and new, and makes for a super vibrant place.

A lot of literature out there is focused on the USA so without the bespoke support and knowledge of ECCI and these other organisations, I would have been lost. Having the support, advice and belief from others is a massive motivator too.

What does it mean to you to be taking part in ClimateLaunchpad as one of the Scottish finalists?

It’s a real honour! The ClimateLaunchpadprocess has given us all great training and I’m really proud of the other finalists and all of the companies in the first round. It’s been amazing to see my fellow Scotland winners come such a long way in such a short time.

The training forces you to look at your business in a different way so the benefits were massive for all of us. It helped me to define my business model and is very customer orientated from the get-go. This is what sets it apart from other entrepreneur schemes.

What are you looking forward to most about it?

Amazingly I’m actually looking forward to pitching on the big stage. In Italy we have to talk and present from an early age in school so it doesn’t faze me. I’m going to get into presentation mode and go for it. Of course, I’m aiming for the best result but I’m happy to be in the final and doing Scotland proud.

How do you relax?

By working - otherwise I’ll get stressed out by the size of my to do list…!