Glenn Melvin had the idea for his energy-saving invention, a new insulating plaster called Wall Reform, while studying for an HND in Building. Glenn describes how he got support and advice to get his idea off the ground and into full commercial production.
Research support options
“My HND course included a module on environmental awareness. One of the things I learnt was that heat loss through single-thickness walls is one of the biggest contributors to energy wastage and carbon dioxide emissions. With my background as a plasterer, I started thinking about developing a wall coating to cut heat loss in buildings.
“Like most inventors, in the early days I was going it alone – I put in a lot of my own time and effort to see whether my idea was viable. However, once I was convinced that it could work, I needed support to take things further. I researched grants and other sources of help, and a contact at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform recommended the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).”
Apply for funding
“NESTA sent round a consultant to talk to me and assess whether I met their criteria for financial support, which I did. There were lots of funding forms to complete, but nothing too onerous.
“It’s important to be able to show funding bodies that you’ve thought things through, including cost projections and a breakdown of how you intend to spend the money. I was awarded £59,000 to cover the first year’s research and development costs. NESTA subsequently made another award of £50,000 to get the product into production.”
Get plenty of advice
“NESTA has been a great source of advice throughout. For example, they found me a patent attorney who helped to determine the originality of my idea and apply for a UK patent. They also advised on trade marking and other forms of intellectual property protection.
“I also approached Newcastle University and was lucky enough to collaborate with a professor who specialised in thermal materials. He assisted with testing product samples and helped me attain further certification from the British Board of Agrément, the accreditation body for new construction products.
“Having NESTA support, plus independent certification for the product, has been invaluable in finding a manufacturer and a distributor to take the product on. It’s also meant we get taken seriously by the government – we’ve been lobbying with some success to include Wall Reform in their eligibility criteria for energy-saving grants.”
“When I applied for the patent, I was only thinking about the UK market. In retrospect, I should have applied for patents in other countries at the same time to increase the options for future expansion.”