Judges pick two winners at Big Innovation Pitch

In a first for the competition, judges have chosen two winners in this year’s Ecobuild & M&S Big Innovation Pitch.

From a shortlist of five finalists, the panel chose a joint entry from Arup and Airedale, and a second from Protomax Plastics as the winners at the event. Both will now go forward into discussions with M&S and have the opportunity to become one of their suppliers.

The first winning entry was from Arup and Airedale with the Artus Hybrid FCU, an innovative air conditioning product invented by Arup, and taken to market by Airedale, with a launch date of July 2017. It is the result of thinking about how we can do air-conditioning better; saving energy, money and space.

Joining them on the podium was Protomax Plastics with Storm Board, a sustainable alternative to plywood produced from mixed waste plastics. Much plywood is used for temporary works such as hoardings and needs to be clad in costly PVC and paint before ending life in landfill.

Commenting on the decision to choose two winners, Imogen Cust, Engineering R&D Manager for Property, Development and Facilities Management at M&S, said: “The standard of entries was brilliant this year - so good we had to choose two. The winners stood out because they have used their industry knowledge and their passion to solve real life M&S challenges in two very different fields.”

Speaking after winning the Big Innovation Pitch, Nico Stillwell, Imagineer from Protomax Plastics said: “I didn’t expect to win at all. Our idea was so different because no one else was talking about recycling but it seems to have captured the imagination of M&S.”

Commenting on behalf of the Arup and Airedale entry, Roger Olsen, Associate Director at Arup, said: “We’re so pleased that we’ve been chosen as a winner. Our solution could be used in many building sectors to make air conditioning much more energy efficient.”

Ecobuild’s Big Innovation Pitch is in its third consecutive year and provides the industry with a platform to pitch innovative building products and engineering solutions. The initiative supports M&S’ Plan A sustainability strategy: to source responsibly, reduce waste and help communities, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world's most sustainable major retailer.

This year’s competition was judged by Imogen Cust from M&S; Chris Vallis (Director at AB Group), John Field (President of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers), Rick Holland (Innovation Lead for Infrastructure Systems at Innovate UK), and Julie Hirigoyen (CEO of UK Green Building Council). Chairing the session was TV broadcaster, Cathy Newman.

Previous years have seen innovative companies Waterblade and Endotherm take the top spot. Since the Pitch, Endotherm has been trialled across 25 M&S stores, and Waterblade trials are about to start.

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