Energy is wasted on a vast scale every day in commercial premises all over the world. 70% of commercial buildings are empty but heated and 40% of the energy is wasted. Whilst new build premises have much more efficient thermal performances, an overwhelming majority of buildings are old and inefficient.
The financial savings from a solution developed by Oxford-based EcoSync are huge and its additional contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of buildings can make a significant contribution to climate change targets.
EcoSync’s founder, Dr. Zsuzsa Mayer tells us “I set the company up in 2018. My background is in engineering. I’ve spent my career developing green technologies, but I now focus on saving energy. This is the future challenge – how not to waste fossil fuel. The best energy is not green energy, it’s the energy that we don’t use.
I became really interested in how the large, ancient buildings around Oxfordshire planned to reduce their carbon footprint. So, I got on board with the sustainability team at the University and began looking into the energy consumption pattern of the buildings. We discovered 70% of rooms were empty which was wasting energy when being heated.
We saw the exact same figures outside Oxford, in commercial buildings such as hospitals, factories and office buildings – wherever you have occupancy levels changing. And these were pre Covid figures, in fact some have now risen to nearly 90% in many buildings since Covid due to hybrid working.
This was a fascinating problem for me, I wanted to help make buildings more energy efficient. Initially we began by collecting data using sensor equipment which gave us a profile of the use of space within a building. Once that was known, we could direct the existing heating system to warm spaces only when they’re used. However, we soon realised that using sensors was not scalable for us. A lot was involved in maintenance, installation and battery changes.
So, we are now unique in how we collect data without sensors. We work with data already in the building, for example from room booking information and mobile phones etc. We pull that data – without using personal data – and then communicate this directly with the individual heating devices within the rooms to control the heating. This dynamic energy management platform is resulting in over 50% energy saving during the heating season for some of our clients. We’re also now developing ways to use WIFI-based data which will be available soon.”
According to Zsuzsa Mayer, the OxLEP Business eScalate and ISfB programmes have been a significant help. “We’ve had a lot of support from OxLEP over the years which has been a huge help. From the start, we knew if we wanted to be scalable we needed help on the business side of things. I was looking for business support opportunities and discovered OxLEP. Their support was just perfect for us. I attended some support and mentoring sessions which gave me a great insight on how to develop a business, talk to investors and fundraise. We also met people who’d been on similar paths to ours before who offered valuable advice. Plus, we had access to all sorts of resources which helped us get ready for commercial growth.”
A business like EcoSync, in the early stages, needs to access financial support and investment as well as expertise. OxLEP helped here too. Dr Zsuzsa explains “We were fortunate to be awarded our first grant from OxLEP which helped us build the business and develop our technology. It was a really straight forward process."
EcoSync have reached a stage where they are generating revenue and scaling up. They are creating and securing jobs, as well as making a significant contribution to the more efficient management of old commercial and public buildings – last winter they had savings up to 53% for some of their clients.
Dr Zsuzsa tells us “We are making a significant impact for our clients now. And with the help of our second OxLEP grant, through the ISfB programme, we now have a commercial team of developers and engineers in place. This is huge step up for us. We have a specific sales strategy now that we are executing. This is focusing on Universities and Colleges in Oxford and Cambridge as we know that landscape so well. It’s a really exciting time for us and we feel very positive about the future.”
When asked if she would recommend OxLEP to other businesses, Dr Zsuzsa replies “Yes we would definitely recommend OxLEP’s support. Their expertise is extremely valuable. The support they offer is great and they’ve played a big part in our success story. I hope to continue to work with them as we continue to grow.”