Flexible PV wins UK innovation prize

A UK company developing a flexible photovoltaic technology that could one day be integrated into building materials has picked up the £10,000 top prize in a competition looking for great ideas from start-ups in the energy and smart technology sectors. Competition organiser Engie (formerly GDF Suez) is also giving the winner of its Big Pitch contest the chance of backing and support from its New Ventures Investment Fund.

Big Solar, developer of the Power Roll PV technology, was formed in 2012 and is based in Sunderland. The company says its product offers benefits over silicon PV, being cheaper to manufacture and install, 145 times thinner and 48 times lighter.

Through the Big Pitch, Engie was hunting for fresh ideas in energy and services for cities, communities, buildings and people. Ideas pitched to the expert panel had to relate to one of four themes: energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart technologies or smart cities.  A special award was given to another finalist, The Great Outdoor Gym Company, in recognition of its community benefits and contribution to the drive towards a greener economy. The business is an outdoor gym concept that harnesses human energy and turns it into electricity. It has installations across the UK, including Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Other finalists included a home appliance solution that incentivises users to consume less energy, a company that pays domestic consumers not to use energy and flywheel energy storage.

The competition was judged by a panel of clean energy and smart technology experts including Ian Ellerington of Department of Energy and Climate Change, Hugh Parnell of Cambridge Cleantech, and Gregor Paterson-Jones of Green Investment Bank as well as Engie executives.

Wilfrid Petrie, Engie’s UK representative, said: “The way the world generates and consumes power is going through an unprecedented transformation. To successfully navigate what Engie describes as ‘the energy transition’ requires innovative thought and a fresh perspective. Big Solar demonstrated these attributes with their unique and exciting PV offering.”

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