Their innovation journey with our programme began back in 2018 when they were referred to us by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth and Skills Hub. Throughout the past 4 years, both ATI2 and the University of Plymouth have had clearly defined roles to play in helping the Cleaner Seas Group take their idea from concept through to market.
Initially, the Cleaner Seas Group engaged with us when their business was in the early stages of a start-up, and their washing machine microplastics filter was a concept that needed prototyping, developing and refining. It was clear that our project could help in several ways.
To begin with, Cleaner Seas Group were able to apply for innovation grant funding to help develop a working prototype:
“Having access to ATI grant funding kept momentum within Cleaner Seas Group. Not having access to that funding; I’m still confident that the product would have got to market, but it would have taken a lot longer. In our line of business, early adopters are paramount”, explains Dave Miller, CEO and Co-Founder of the Cleaner Seas Group.
Through the project’s Innovation Grant Fund Manager, our network of business support partners and the University of Plymouth, the Cleaner Seas Group were also able to receive a variety of advice about grant funding that they could be eligible to apply for, as well as other routes to explore the funding and investment needed to support their innovation in these early stages.
“We needed access to sound, impartial financial advice and ATI were absolutely able to deliver on that”, says Dave.
The Cleaner Seas Group also made good use of working with the ATI team, notably their Business Innovation Advisor (BIA), who was able to consult on the phases of product and business case development, including materials research and providing access to academic research from the University of Plymouth.
“The ATI Innovation Advisor is an absolute encyclopaedia of knowledge and it’s been good fun! You get free, impartial advice and that’s really refreshing because in our line of work we are largely in a room of warmed-up people. Having impartial advice gives a slightly different picture to the reality of the world and helps you keep on the straight and narrow”, says Dave.
The first iteration of their product, which is now available to buy on their website, boasts being made of recyclable plastic and every component within has been thoughtfully designed with its end-of-life in mind. “We are really trying to promote that reuse, recycle or refurbish model, which is completely closed-loop”, says Dave.
“When you’re launching a new product, especially in the world of sustainability, during normal day hours you can take knocks and people telling you it’s not a good idea. But when you have access to ATI you get smiley, happy people who believe in your mission, and they empower you and they give you impartial advice, which helps support and recharge your batteries as a CEO – so that’s like a hidden benefit you get from engaging with organisations like ATI”.
As a project specialising in innovation and bringing new products to market, ATI were also able to assist with supplying guidance around intellectual property (IP) and patents, to protect their initial invention and future technologies.
Dave explains: “With any new product you have to protect it, that’s financially but also in terms of patents and intellectual property, and ATI can support you in that space”.
Despite Covid-19, which brought a number of challenges to the surface, the Cleaner Seas Group have managed to realise significant growth.
“Another important part of engaging with ATI is being able to support Cornwall. The grant funding and the access to financial support and advice has meant that we can recruit local people from Cornwall, and we’ve grown a team now to 10, from a start-up which was originally just me”, says Dave. “All of which are based here in Cornwall”, he adds.
More recently, the Cleaner Seas Group have engaged with the ATI2 internship programme, which funds 50% of an intern’s wage* and looks to place a University of Plymouth student with the academic skills needed to help with a short-term innovation project.
The business continues to enjoy making use of the world-class University of Plymouth’s research and innovation facilities, including access to the labs to test their prototype and using the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre to obtain some incredible images of the microplastics captured by their exciting technology.
For everyone involved, it has been a privilege to be part of the Cleaner Seas Group’s story. We would like to commend this trailblazing business which has achieved some amazing things on its own. In their mission to clean up our waterways, they have been busy beavering away to secure almost £1 million in investment from business angels, institutional investors and high net-worth individuals to help further develop new technology designed to significantly reduce microplastic pollution.
In addition to this, the company launched a successful crowdfunding campaign which sought to raise £460K but was overfunded to raise nearly £800K of investment from members of the public who share their ambition to stem the flow of microplastics polluting our oceans.
The Cleaner Seas Group has even been endorsed by one of the biggest bands in the world: Coldplay, who feature them on their website and have made them one of their “good causes” to support. We cannot wait to see what they do next – what a legacy!
* ATI2 is able to help with the cost of this external resource by funding 50% of the intern’s wages for a 2 month placement (based on a maximum contribution of £600 per month towards a salary of £1,200 pm for the student).