/ Case Study / by KADA Research, April 2023
Pioneering Malvern SME brings Sustainable Innovation to Market with Support from BetaDen, Worcestershire's Tech Accelerator
Since being established in 2017, Malvern Science Park-based ChangeMaker 3D has provided consultancy, design and construction services for low-carbon 3D concrete products, producing temporary and permanent assets for rail and water-sector clients.
The 3D concrete technology allows for a diverse and wide-ranging application, with the combination of quick-drying, low-carbon mortar and state-of-the-art digital robotics delivering safer, quicker and more sustainable products compared with traditional construction methods. The company terms this process 'Printfrastructure™' and aims to capture a 2% share of the construction market by 2030, removing 5% of all carbon from the sector.
An exciting first five years of operation has seen ChangeMaker 3D enter into collaborations with HS2 and United Utilities, amongst others, with the company recently being awarded 'Best 3D Concrete Printing Company (UK), 2022'. Natalie Wadley, Co-founder of ChangeMaker 3D, confirms that Worcestershire County Council (WCC) support, via both the BetaDen and Proof of Concept (POC) programmes, has been invaluable to the company to this point. The company first engaged with BetaDen through an application for Cohort 5.0 and was then successful with a grant application of £10K. WCC then made the company aware that it was also eligible for grant support under the POC programme to help develop its novel printing technology.
"Becoming part of the BetaDen ecosystem made WCC more aware of ChangeMaker 3D and meant that they could signpost us more efficiently to relevant support programmes within their portfolio. We're a small start-up with high-growth potential. We have significant opportunities down the line but keeping the company going at this early time is challenging, as it is with all start-up SMEs. The impact of the BetaDen and POC support has been massive. Having top-up grant funding at those key points de-risked our projects."
The company is now working with HS2 Ltd's London tunnels contractor, SCS JV (Skanska Costain STRABAG Joint Venture), with the intention of harnessing 'Printfrastructure™' to help cut carbon on key elements of the project by up to 50%. It marks a UK-first within the rail sector for using reinforced 3D concrete printing in an on-site capacity. ChangeMaker 3D also brought another BetaDen cohort company, Wearable Link Ltd (trading as PLINX), into the 'Printfrastructure™' project, with PLINX developing a Health & Safety monitoring system for construction sites and carrying out trials with HS2.
Natalie confirmed hat the BetaDen grant funding was primarily put towards development of onsite printing systems for HS2, with particular focus on development of the retaining walls concept, taking the design from development through to construction. The company has now been able to take the concept forward as a developed product to the rest of the rail sector.
"WCC support has played a central role in our development to this point. We have applied for other support but have been unsuccessful so the BetaDen/POC grants really mattered! The process was relatively straight forward but the team at WCC would sense check everything for us and make the process and the payment milestones very clear."
ChangeMaker 3D is now planning for accelerated growth in the rail, water and road sectors, with BetaDen facilitating such growth by putting the company in contact with regional venture capital firms and a regional investment accelerator called Funding Hero, with the aim of working towards securing Series A funding.
"We've got highly ambitious growth strategy to take the company forward, but none of that matters if you can't meet your monthly requirements. In the type of work we do, t can be feast or famine, sometimes you're moving month-to-month and the grant monies gave us more runway and took the pressure off. This is equally important when starting your own business, a process which can be highly stressful."
Natalie confirmed that the company's headcount will increase by nine within the next financial year, more than doubling the current headcount and creating high-quality jobs within the region.
"Some of these jobs will be the first of their kind. 3D concrete printing is an emerging technology so we are developing job roles that do not currently exist. WCC support facilitated this growth by assisting the company in getting to where it is today."