Introducing CRL Accelerator Cohort 10: Makers of Net Zero

CRL Accelerator cohort 10

Climate change has brought the need for sustainable solutions to the forefront. From energy-efficient appliances to renewable energy sources, there are many ways in which individuals and businesses can contribute to a greener future. One key concept in this effort is the idea of Net Zero, which refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.  

While many large corporations are acting towards this goal, the power of hardware startups to drive positive change cannot be underestimated. By leveraging innovation and technology, these small yet mighty companies can make a significant impact towards creating sustainable products that benefit our planet.  

That is why, to celebrate our anniversary 10th cohort of our flagship CRL Accelerator programme, this year we decided to introduce a new programme theme and structure. Born from the internationally recognised CRL Accelerator programme, CRL Accelerator: Makers of Net Zero offers hardware startups 3 months of intensive product development support to test and validate an innovative technology that contributes towards the Net Zero mission.   

We believe that Net Zero is the ultimate goal for a sustainable future; a call to action that offers us a chance to collectively shape our future. At its core, Net Zero is a journey that starts with small steps but leads to significant change. At Plus X, we believe this complex challenge cannot be solved by software alone. This is why we are thrilled to empower and accelerate hardware startups who want to drive this change and make a difference in the world. 

Selecting the Cohort

To select the most promising companies for this cohort, we held a rigorous CRL Accelerator selection bootcamp earlier in March. We invited 14 hardware startups innovating for Net Zero to exchange ideas, share insights and learnings, and pitch their businesses to our team.  
CRL Accelerator Selection bootcamp participants
CRL Accelerator Selection bootcamp participants

We then handpicked seven exceptional startups who are ready to embark on an exciting journey with us towards a greener future. With a focus on efficient and innovative solutions, these seven startups are building innovations that not only have tremendous growth potential but also contribute to Net Zero, creating a lasting positive impact on the environment.  


Meet the Startups

CRL Accelerator cohort 10


Founders: Abiel Ma and Anthony Ma   

Vuala is making food waste recycling easy with Vuala X1, which automatically separates food waste from other waste, turning them into raw material for energy production within hours on site. This saves 95% of logistics and labour costs, while reducing 75% of carbon emissions.      

Vuala operates on a utility-subscription model for its one-stop food waste collection and recycling service. Vuala has been granted a three year waste treatment permit by the environmental agency, and will be running four agreed pilot trials in 2023.


Founder: Nicholas Purcell 
Purcell is developing sustainable smart inhalers and AI/ML-enabled Digital therapeutic (DTx) tools to alleviate the unmet needs of patients, HCP, and pharma. Purcell holds a granted GB patent with submissions in ARIPO, China, India, Europe, Japan, and the USA.


Fasster is building an autonomous smart spraying and mowing robot for vineyards and perennial farms.  
Pesticide spraying is the costliest activity during the growing season. Fasster is building a cheaper, faster and simpler robot than the current products in the market, by adopting a new approach to agricultural spraying to massively reduce power and encourage precision. 


Celsius is developing innovative wearable cooling technologies to help people stay cool and cope with heat more efficiently and more sustainably. The Celsius device has an innovative cooling mechanism that applies cold on the inside of the wrist. Via a safe, natural and proven process, it helps people cool down when they’re too hot.  
The company was co-founded by a former Dyson and Formula 1 engineer and an R&D entrepreneur.

Applied Atomics

Applied Atomics’ mission is to reduce the human environmental impact on space, by developing novel and high-performance space propulsion technologies that do not use hazardous and toxic propellants (such as hydrazine), whilst delivering unmatched performance to unlock the next era of space. 
Applied Atomics is developing an innovative environmentally-friendly hybrid propulsion system for satellites and probes to enable advanced in-orbit manoeuvres and deep space missions – providing best-in-class performance, efficiency, and cost.  

SolarBotanic Tree

Team: Gerard Jansen (CPO) and Christopher Shelley (CEO) 
The SolarBotanic Tree is a highly innovative, efficient and aesthetically pleasing renewable energy power generator delivered by harvesting the sun’s power. To limit lifecycle carbon emissions of the product, raw material extraction, manufacturing and recyclability of materials and components will be considered during the product design, ensuring a low-carbon footprint of the finished product. 


Founders: Michael Crouch and Jon Fidler 
ModlaPPE designs high-performance, low-cost, circular and sustainable PPE products for healthcare, industrials and government procurement. ModlaPPE is on a mission to transform PPE from wasteful, single-use products to a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future. 
Over the next 3 months, these startups will be sprinting their way through the product development journeys with the support from our dedicated in-house product development team. Watch this space – sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest from the CRL community. 
CRL Accelerator is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund. 

Congratulations to CRL Accelerator Cohort 9 

CRL Accelerator Demo Day Gala 2022

Reducing plastic waste in skincare, making technology more accessible, improving our mental health, ensuring safe and sustainable use of space, enhancing VR with scent, and connecting people with portable 3D printing solutions are just a few of the challenges founders on the CRL Accelerator programme are tackling with their products.  

Having spent six intense months working on their physical products and deepening their knowledge on the business side of running a startup, founders Disruptor London, Feathertail, Deep Sym, Lumi Space, Scentient, and fotostax have now officially graduated. 

To recognise the progress and milestones of the 9th cohort of the CRL Accelerator in the last six months of the programme, we threw two bigger-than-ever Demo Day events this November. Missed the online Demo Day? Watch the replay below.  

Following an invigorating online event with more than 200 attendees, the founders and CRL Accelerator team unlocked the power of Interconnection at the Demo Day Gala in Central London.  

This year, we chose to embrace meaningful connections with our broad network of inventors, mentors, investors, and founders.

It was a truly magical night packed with thought-provoking conversations, product showcases, and new connections – a true reflection of the brilliant community we strive to foster across our innovation hubs. Ginny Radmall, Director at the Ivy Way, said “The atmosphere in the room was electric, which perfectly mirrored the theme of the night – Interconnected.” 

As the dust settles from the excitement, the inventors are thinking deeply on their next steps. See how you can stay in touch with Cohort 9 to see what’s next for these innovative products. 

Just before we waved farewell to our founders, we spoke to the cohort to find out what they found most useful about their time on the CRL Accelerator.

For Kira Zhigalina, Founder at Deep Sym, the community was the key highlight of her time on the programme: “CRL provides you with an opportunity for self-growth in a supportive environment with people who want to see you exceed.”  

Ivan Novikov, Co-founder at Scentient, praised our product development team, “The product development aspect exceeded any expectations we had. We were hoping to come away with essentially a box that let off smells but due to the Product Development team’s work and enthusiasm, we have come away with a works-like looks-like model!” 

Interested in our future innovation programmes? Register your interest for the next cohort now. 

CRL Accelerator is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund.  


Win a Resident Desk at Central Research Laboratory

Resident desk at Central Research Laboratory

At Central Research Laboratory, we believe in the value of a strong, collaborative, and supportive company culture which might not be easily accessible for creative workers and freelancers who spend most of their time working alone.

Win your very own Resident desk at Central Research Laboratory for an entire month in our exciting new competition! With five prizes available, the lucky winners will claim a dedicated desk in the Central Research Laboratory innovation hub in Hayes, West London.

Kickstart the New Year with an inspirational new workspace – complete with a personal induction into our hardware workshop and creative community.

Enter the competition in just 30 seconds, and we’ll pick five lucky winners at random on 10th January 2023.

What’s Included in the Prize?

🖥️ FREE Resident Desk membership for a month, with 24/7 access to your dedicated space – worth £200!

💡 FREE use of our event space, and private meeting rooms

👀 VIP tour of Central Research Laboratory – including a visit to our product development and PCB workshop, and photo studio

🥗 Welcome breakfast and midday lunch provided by The Pantry on your first day

🧰 1:1 general induction to our hardware workshop with our Workshop Manager – including 3D printers and laser cutters!

☕ Complimentary tea and coffee for the duration of your stay

💌 Starter pack with exclusive Plus X merchandise

🏋️‍♀️ FREE use of the gym room and shower

Winners will be announced 10th January 2023

What is Central Research Laboratory?

Opened in 2015, Central Research Laboratory (CRL) is an innovation hub that unlocks potential, drives business innovation, and creates positive local impact.

We provide inspirational workspace with specialist maker facilities, innovation support programmes, and an incredible community of makers and innovators. Central Research Laboratory is part of the Plus X network of innovation hubs.

A Resident Desk at Central Research Laboratory would be the ideal New Year boost if you’re a talented individual in need of a month chock full of:

🎨 Inspiration and creativity

👋 Collaboration potential

✨ Space to focus and create

👏 Support from likeminded innovators

Want to See the Space for Yourself?

Don’t want to leave it up to chance? Get your own Resident Desk at Central Research Laboratory by becoming a member today!

Competition Terms and Conditions  

  • The FREE Resident Desk prize is only available for individuals, and companies requiring up to 5 employee desks.
  • The competition will be running until Monday 9th January 2023, with the winners being drawn at random by a third party on Tuesday 10th January 2023.
  • The winners will be chosen at random and will be contacted directly via the email address supplied.
  • The winners will have one week to respond to the email accepting the prize. If one week passes by, Central Research Laboratory reserves the right to contact another person/company chosen at random to claim the prize instead. This process will continue until one company/person accepts the prize.
  • The away day prize is valid until 31st August 2023. Away day must be booked before May 2023, any bookings made after that date will be invalid.
  • One entry per company only – duplicate entries will be removed.
  • Additional charges might apply to further machine training after the induction.
  • The use of event space, meeting room and photo studio are subject to availability. Each winner receives two uses of the event space during the course of their prize, as well as one meeting room booking per week.
  • Central Research Laboratory can suspend or terminate the competition or users’ eligibility at any time, for any reason.
  • Central Research Laboratory reserves the right to remove any tenant or referred customer from this competition if we notice any activity that is against our policies that could include abusive, fraudulent behaviour or any violation of our terms of service.
  • Central Research Laboratory reserves the right to review and investigate all competition activity.
  • Entries into the competition should only be used for non-commercial purposes. The entry form should not be published or distributed on commercial sites (such as coupon websites).
  • This competition is not available for Plus X or Central Research Laboratory members of staff.
  • This competition is not available for existing Plus X or Central Research Laboratory members.

What to Do if Your Business is Stuck in an Innovation Rut?

Post it notes

A business that is not recognising the importance of innovation in their product and service range, or in their business processes is a business in decline. 

Keeping up with the latest technology, changing customer demands, and how your organisation can keep innovating to reduce environmental and social impacts is the difference between a business that will survive and thrive year to year, decade to decade and one that will not. 

Charles Darwin once said, “The species that survived were not the most intelligent – they were the most adaptable to change.” 

The pace of change is increasing, are you keeping up, or is your business in an innovation rut?  

This blog will explore what might be preventing innovation in your business and what you need to put into place to get fresh ideas over the line. 

What’s hindering your innovation goals? 

Recognising the factors that are preventing innovation from happening in your business will enable you to overcome them, and build a culture of innovation within your organisation which will therefore help your business keep up with customer demand and become more successful.

Courage in Leadership 

Leaders who are not open to new ideas can negatively impact your team. Discouraging creative routes or ideas to innovation can lead to employees becoming less motivated, and less likely to speak up the next time they have an idea. Opportunities are also lost by leaders who do listen to new ideas but do not have the courage to take them further.

Team buy-in is one of the common themes that differentiates ideas that work from those that don’t. Leaders need to ensure that innovation is built into the mission of their organisation with the right incentives, targets, and budgets available. 

It’s important to remember that innovation will require courage, a willingness to experiment, and teamwork, all of which need to be led by example from those at the top of the organisation.  

The right resourcing  

Is your team incentivised in the right way to offer new ideas? If your company doesn’t have an innovation mindset and the right processes to bring them to light, it could deter employees with an already busy work schedule from bringing new ideas for change forward.  

Having a dedicated innovation budget, and a team responsible for pushing innovation through will ensure there is enough time and resources available to take ideas forward. This team should deal with any associated risk and work to get sign-off from stakeholders to put ideas into action.  

Your answers may also lie outside your organisation. Keeping abreast of the innovators and startups that have the technologies that can transform your industry and having the willingness and ability to collaborate with these startups could be the key to unlocking your next big break.  

Expectations of ROI 

The return on innovation investment may take months or even years to see. Having a short-term focus when it comes to seeing change or an immediate return on investment is the wrong approach.  

For a team to make the most of the resources invested into new ideas, technology and processes, leadership must take a long-term view and understand the nature of innovation. This will encourage those making these changes to feel motivated and valued, and lead to more thorough work.  

Innovation direction 

Innovation requires creativity, but it also requires direction and process. Being strategic about where your company focuses time and money is vital.  

This is where companies can come undone after investing in the wrong ideas that do not support overall company strategy or recognise the importance of a customer-centered approach. Innovation management and structure is needed in order to ensure the right ideas are being prioritised and time and resource is not wasted.  

The final step 

You’ve spent the time and money to get to that crucial final step to begin to engrain the new service, product, or innovation into your business. Having all the above in order will help ensure you generate a profitable return from your innovative ideas.  

Having that all-important plan for scaling the innovation as well as making a case for the return on investment for each department as demonstrated through the pilot phase will help each team understand how it will work for them.  

Do you think your business is stuck in an innovation rut? The team of corporate innovation experts at Plus X can help deliver your innovation strategy, connect you with the innovators and startups with the technologies to address your challenges, help train your team to think with an innovative mindset, and engrain innovation further into your business.  

Contact us today to explore where we can help you on your innovation journey.  

What Small Businesses Should Know About Pitching to Corporates

Better World Collective

So, you’ve written your business plan, developed and tested, bought the domain and designed your website, worked around the clock, and taken however many other steps forward and knocks backwards. Now you’re looking to find big business to pitch to – whether you’re looking for clients for your business, or partners to help you grow. And it’s not just any pitch; it’s to a career-defining, large corporate. And, quite possibly, you’re feeling a little nervous. 

Remember, when you’re pitching to corporates, no matter how big or small, you’re pitching to people. These decision-makers are looking for partners who can solve their problems. These companies accept pitches because they need new ideas and skills that don’t exist in their company, and you’re there to fulfil that need. It’s a mutual exchange, and, although you might be the one selling, the want is a collaboration, helping each other to work towards a common goal. 

Here are some critical tips to help small businesses get ready to pitch to corporates, and how to nurture the business relationships you’re potentially entering into. 

Working with Corporates as Clients

When heading into your pitch, you need to know what relationship you’re aiming to enter. Corporates can become your clients, or they can become partners. One of the main distinctions between these two is that as clients, the project may be more short-term, depending on their needs. However, don’t let this put you off. According to a survey from the Centre for an Urban Future, SMEs who supplied large corporations reported average revenue growth of 266% between one year and two years after their first sale. 

Although the initial project may be short-term, there is plenty of potential for future work, whether in different departments or other projects within the business. Also, working with high-profile clients can boost morale within your team, and impresses other potential investors and clients, so make sure you put them on your website!

Working with Corporates as Partners

Corporate partnerships, by nature, tend to be long-lasting relationships. Corporates will look to work closely with a startup or SME to innovate and develop new, exciting solutions and products that will mutually benefit all businesses involved. Although a mutual partnership, there is still a degree of freedom in the relationship, as creativity and freethinking are most definitely encouraged. 

As a small business, you’ll be provided with financial investment and space and time to experiment, develop and test, and can help to take your business to new heights. You should expect this relationship to be a profoundly collaborative one based on achieving long-term success and should be willing to adapt and move with what the corporate’s needs are.  

Understand The Business and Their Audience

Now that you know what kind of relationship you’re looking for, it’s time to do your research. Ahead of your pitch, learn as much as you can about the business and who its audience is. Then, to give the best pitch, you need to prove to them how your visions align and how your business can solve its audience’s problems.  

We’re not suggesting scrolling back to the beginning of their social media, but it’s essential that you have a sense of whom you will be selling to. Try and find out what kinds of businesses they have invested in before, how they tend to work with partners and what sort of topics they’re interested in. Understanding and having an awareness of their positions within the business will help you humanise them and enable you to tailor your content to their interests.

Tell A Story and Provide the Facts

In your pitch, it’s good to have a balance of relatable content that humanises the product whilst ensuring that the proof of value is rooted in fact. 

In pitching, you’re not only selling your product or idea; you’re selling yourself. By utilising storytelling in your pitch, you’re showing your potential client or partner who you are. Sell your agility, your ideas, your expertise, your USP. Authenticity and passion are some of the most robust tools in your arsenal when pitching. One study found that 90% of decisions are based on emotion, with them returning to logic to justify their decision. If you’re selling a product, make sure to include a demo of it being used, it’s much more memorable than being told what something does. 

That being said, not knowing your facts and figures is pretty unforgivable when pitching. However, if you know your numbers, have identified KPIs, have done your due diligence, and can roll all of these out off the top of your head during a pitch, you’ll be sure to impress your audience. 

Be Flexible

One of the significant parts of entering a corporate partnership or gaining a new corporate client is collaboration. This means you’ll need to show in your pitch that you’re an agile thinker and you’re adaptable. Don’t go in with a fixed idea and a stubborn attitude towards change. 

Modifications to your vision will be inevitable, so ensure that you prepare yourself for that and show the pitching room that you’re open to negotiations that will work for both parties. Just make sure you think beforehand about how far you’re willing to go and set that boundary.

Be Open and Bring Questions 

The relationship needs to work both ways. Although the idea of having a corporate client or partner might be initially exciting, you need to want to work with them too. So bring questions to ask during your pitch to discover whether you share values and have a similar outlook and ethos on conducting business. Are they going to be the right fit for you? And will they want to do the best by your product or idea? You can also request a debrief to review the pitch and learn how you matched up against the competition.

Make sure you leave time in your pitch to answer questions they have at the end – this is a crucial part of the process.

Check the Small Print

Although pitching to a big name is exciting, make sure you’re not blindsided by it. Keep a clear focus on your goals, and make sure you’ll be able to achieve those things within whatever their terms might be. Whilst these relationships can be invaluable, they need to be the right fit for both parties involved, so make sure the figures are correct, and you’re getting paid exactly what you and your vision are worth.

Plus X innovation hubs facilitates connections between corporates and innovative startups and scaleups. Become a member or join an innovation programme to join our startup network.

For corporate innovation, find out more about how we can support your organisational or sustainable materials challenges with our expert team of innovation specialists. 

Preparing for Manufacture with Cohort 9

CRL Accelerator cohort 2022

This June, we welcomed six ingenious hardware innovators to join our signature six-month CRL Accelerator programme at Central Research Laboratory in West London. The programme kicked off with a customer discovery module, teaching the founders to identify and understand their customers. The entrepreneurs then dove deeper into business modelling and startup funding.  

In September, cohort 9 started preparing their products for manufacture. Founders learnt how to find, assess and successfully engage with manufacturers: from evaluating suppliers to negotiating terms, prototyping their product for manufacture and creating a solid production timeline.  

As part of the module, the cohort and the CRL team headed north to meet two manufacturing factories – Protolabs and Studio 29 Factory 31. Not only did the founders go on tours to explore their manufacturing facilities, but they also built a strong network of contacts that will fast-track manufacturing journeys in the near future 


Founders visiting Studio29 Factory31 facilities.