Canary Control’s participation in Cognicity Challenge
The Cognicity Challenge is a project set up by the Canary Wharf Group, which aims to recognise and accelerate the development of smart city solutions. As such, it hopes to achieve solutions, which can be easily integrated into existing buildings, as well as taking into account future needs. Ultimately, the resulting technologies should help to improve efficiency, alongside a reduction in living costs.
The challenge was divided into six streams, each focused on a specific theme and consisted of 36 finalists, who had the chance to develop and enhance their technologies through an intensive 12-week programme, receiving guidance from both Cognicity Challenge partners and accelerator sponsors. Sustainable Bridges based venture Canary Control participated in the challenge and were involved in the ‘connected homes’ accelerator stream.
Canary Control is a unique venture which provides a cloud-based heating management system bought by social landlords to cost-effectively improve their tenants’ wellbeing, and to help tenants balance comfort and cost, with the potential to save up to 20% on heating bills.
We took the chance to talk to Canary Control’s operations director Ben Miller, to identify how the challenge has affected the venture, and whether he would recommend the accelerator programme.
How has Canary Control developed as a result of the Cognicity Challenge?
The accelerator was definitely valuable in the progression of Canary Control; we managed to develop our value proposition with the help of the Cognicity team. As well as this, there were a number of workshops, which served to be beneficial. The whole experience helped us to consider if and how we could align our products and services to customers such as the Canary Wharf Group.
What was your experience like taking part in the accelerator?
Overall, it has been an extremely positive experience; we’ve learnt a lot and as a result reaped the benefits. With a specific customer behind the program providing a focus, Cognicity Challenge excels as an accelerator program, it allowed us to exploit the exposure which inevitably followed from working with the group.
Would you recommend the accelerator?
Absolutely- it comes back to what I said earlier- the exposure and feedback on our offerings we received as a result, was definitely beneficial. Taking part in the accelerator enabled us to have regular contact with Canary Wharf Group executives at a top level; meeting them on a regular basis as part of the accelerator was immensely helpful.
Given the participation in the challenge, how do you see the future development of Canary Control?
Where the future is concerned, we don’t know the plans that the Canary Wharf Group have in relation to their affordable homes, however we definitely want to keep in contact with them. If the Group decides to become a social landlord, we would very much like to help them achieve their goal.
Were there any barriers that you had to overcome when participating in the programme?We’re always developing our product, especially at this time of year (just a couple of months before we have to deploy for the heating season), we are in a key period of development where Canary Control is concerned; we tried to take as much as we could out of the opportunity without compromising our timelines in product development. Therefore our main barrier was ultimately finding the balance between our time at Cognicity and our time in development.
More generally, do you have any advice for future sustainability entrepreneurs?
It’s always worth remembering what makes you innovative, and what aspects of your business will give it the best chance of success. Never take your eye off the ball where business development is concerned: in the early days when you’re focused on developing your product and getting it to market this is very easy to forget, but given how long sales cycles can be, you should always be developing your opportunity, partnerships and sales pipeline.