A smart grid for waste
Pitch us on your solution
Topolytics is a ‘A Smart Grid for Waste’. We aggregate data on the world’s industrial and commercial waste and use data science, machine learning and mapping to drive better commercial and environmental outcomes for this material. The waste management industry is not data driven and its business model is not fit for the demands of the ‘circular economy’. That is why Topolytics is creating a global, trusted data set on the generation, movement and fate of this material that will drive new models of waste management, recycling and recovery. Our data platform, WasteMap®, ingests and qualifies data then generates powerful insights into the type and quantity of this material, where it is generated and moved for processing and disposal. WasteMap® is used by waste producers to fulfil duty of care and drive waste and cost reductions. It is used by recyclers to identify feedstock and inform investments in capacity.
Film your elevator pitch
What is the problem you are solving?
The World Bank estimates that urban waste generated globally will total 3.4 Billion tonnes per annum by 2050. Currently, more than 50% of this waste is sent to landfill or waste dump - a significant economic loss, environmental and social problem. At the same time, the $400bn industry that manages and processes this material is not sophisticated and is struggling to change in the face of greater demands for recycling and a shift towards the circular economy – where waste is designed out of production systems. The waste system is incredibly complex, material is moved locally, nationally and internationally and the industry business model does not promote high quality data generation and transparency. This confused picture is an acknowledged problem globally, however, without this data and the analytical opportunities it presents, the outcomes will not be optimal and waste materials or used assets will not be maintained at their highest utility.
Who are you serving?
We are transforming the way that commercial and industrial waste is managed globally. Our primary customer is the waste manager within a large enterprise (private or public sector). They pay a significant amount for waste management - we take their data, normalise it, build a level of confidence in it and show them what happens to this material, the true cost of waste management and what this material is worth. The resulting insights allow our customers to demonstrate 'producer responsibility' (a growing regulatory demand globally), drive cost efficiencies, resource efficiencies, carbon reductions and drive more circular business models.
What is your solution?
Topolytics has built and deployed a big data platform, WasteMap® that ingests waste data, qualifies the data and generates powerful insights into the type and quantity of this material, where it is generated and moved for processing and disposal. WasteMap® has been developed over the past two years in collaboration with corporate waste producers and the waste sector – it is generating maps of waste flows and helping waste producers meet their duty of care on waste and identify ways that they can maximise the value of this material as a resource.
We triangulate on three areas of expertise – waste industry/circular economy, software development and data science. We are using AI and machine learning techniques to build a higher level of confidence in what the material is, how much of it is there and where is it moved. The more data we see, the more confidence we can build, the more patterns we can see and the more we can predict – all of which help to reduce unnecessary movement of this material and maximise the opportunity to make better use of this material.
In May 2019, Topolytics won the Google Cloud and SAP Circular Economy 2030 competition. This set out to find a commercially scaleable technology that could drive the circular economy globally. Topolytics was selected from 250 submissions from more than 50 countries.
In November 2018, we were selected by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to design a ‘smart waste tracking system’ for all of the UK’s waste. We are implementing this system in conjunction with the UK’s mapping agency, Ordnance Survey.
Additionally Topolytics has been recognised as:
A leading global circular economy innovator - invited to join the Ellen MacArthur CE100, alongside Philips, Ikea, Apple, Dell, HP (January 2017).
A leading tech disruptor at The Circulars – global circular economy awards (Davos, January 2019).
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?Edinburgh, UK
Our solution's stage of development:
Select one of the below:
New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
There is no single source of the truth on waste, therefore we triangulate on a higher quality, granular view on patterns of waste movements using data science.
Injecting spatial intelligence into the waste system promotes behaviour change, transparency and unlocks previously unseen insights into current and potential waste movements and processing solutions. This is our key innovation.
Working with the UK’s national mapping agency to track all of the UKs’ waste, we have generated effective protocols for ingesting and qualifying inconsistent addressing data – a protocol that we can apply in all countries. The latter remains a challenge when dealing with licensed and informal waste sites, ancillary sites and the many sources of waste, including companies, public sector bodies and local authorities.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
WasteMap® is built on a data lake that allows visualisation, processing and analysis of waste data at scale. We identify inconsistencies, leakages from the waste system and build a high quality picture of waste movements over time and support new approaches to waste reduction, waste processing and circular economy. In essence, we are building a smart-grid for waste.
We use Google Cloud, SAP and Amazon Web Services (AWS) components. We are using the range of machine learning, artificial intelligence and geospatial analytics tools from Google Cloud and SAP.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
We have learned about our market and developed our proposition over the past three years through discussions with waste producers and waste managers, augmented by a series of proof of concept projects.
We built an initial MVP with the support of Zero Waste Scotland, working with eight waste producers. The feedback was positive and the companies said 'we like the mapping', but they also asked about 'real time sensor' data.
We then created a project at Grangemouth - a major petrochemical facility - working with a chemical company, an environmental sensing company, the local authority, Scotland's sensing innovation centre and St Andrews University. Through this, we developed our understanding of the Internet of Things and algorithms that we use to assess the quality of data from sensor networks. We then took this capability to China, where we worked with 200 real time sensors.
In parallel we created maps of waste flows for companies such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Macsween (food producer).
These and more recent projects, plus ongoing collaboration with Innovate UK, UK Digital Catapult, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Ordnance Survey, Google and SAP have helped us to define our proposition - in terms of the technology and commercial model. We have also engaged with companies and government agencies in the UK, USA, India, China and Sweden and the Middle East.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Our existing business is primarily focused on the UK market, where we are working with waste producing companies.
In 2019, we have been working with Ordnance Survey, the UK’s mapping agency to develop a ‘smart’ system that can record and track all of the 23 million waste movements in the UK between the 100,000 licenced waste companies and 100,000 licensed waste sites. In early 2019 we start working with the Indian Government cGanga programme to help reduce leakage of materials into the River Ganges.
In April 2019, Topolytics has been chosen by Google and SAP as one of the five global technologies with the potential to enable the circular economy at scale by 2030.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our goal is to transform the $400bn commercial and industrial waste management system from its current position - which is not optimised for the effective recovery of these materials. In so doing, we will digitally enable the circular economy, through changing the behaviour of large and medium-sized waste producing organisations (companies and other public bodies) - helping them to devise waste reduction and recovery strategies. We will also empower new players in the waste management industry that have technologies and business models more in-line with the requirements of the circular economy. We will also arm policy makers and regulators with better data and insights, enabling them to devise new policies and financial instruments that further enable more circular behaviours and business models.
Within twelve months we will have leveraged the relationship with Google and SAP to take the company into a scale-up phase with a much greater data, sector and geographic footprint.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
There are two main barriers to implementing our solution, both of which we are overcoming.
The first is market acceptance that waste is an important enough issue that requires attention and investment – on the part of the waste producer. Over the past 18 months, the scale of waste and its impact has been brought into sharp relief by the spotlight that has been shone on the impact of waste and plastics in the oceans. This has started a shift in corporate and consumer interest in waste and what happens to this material.
The second barrier is financial. We have necessarily built and developed our proposition through a series of paid proof of concept projects with customers alongside grants from Innovate UK, Zero Waste Scotland and Scottish Enterprise. In addition we have been awarded $100,000 as winner of the Google Cloud and SAP circular economy 2030 challenge.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We continue to make the argument for data science machine learning to improve waste management. As a consequence, within the past 6 months, WasteMap® has been validated by Google Cloud, SAP, the UK and Indian Governments. We have also generated interest from a growing number of waste producing companies and this will continue to grow through our strategic relationship with Google Cloud and SAP.
Being bootstrapped has necessarily meant that we have taken more time to build to our current position, however, we have done this close to the market – we have therefore built slowly, but have built well. We continue to build the commercial model and investment case.
Select an option below:
If you selected Other, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
We have a core team of four and work with freelance specialists (covering waste management, bin sensors and data science). We also have advisors focused on circular economy and commercial software development.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Topolytics was founded by Dr Michael Groves, a Geographer with a PhD in geo-information and remote sensing. Michael’s expertise and capability in environmental data, sensing and real time reporting is recognised internationally.
The core team triangulates on three key areas: Waste management and circular economy; Data science and Software development. Our sweet spot is the intersection of these three disciplines.
This team includes:
Jane Stewart – Waste industry specialist – Jane has over 25 years experience in industry, private equity investment & corporate finance. She was finance director of a leading waste management company, driving it to over £100m turnover and sale to a private equity firm in 2017.
Ben Emson - Chief Technology Officer - Ben was former lead technologist at O2’s “the Lab” innovation department, and co-developed the ‘WhereonEarth’ mapping platform. Ben leads on the development of WasteMap.
Mhairi McNeill – Data Scientist - Mhairi is a data scientist with a masters degree in Applied Statistics and Data Mining. Mhairi has worked in the games and manufacturing sectors. She works across a range of analytics from Bayesian to frequentist and machine learning.
Josef Harbich – Geospatial Analyst – Josef has a Masters in Earth Sciences and has been generating waste maps and analytics for a UK-wide waste tracking project.
Topolytics' advisors bring strong experience in the waste and technology sectors with associated financial, commercialisation and scaling expertise.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
After winning the Circular Economy 2030 competition in May 2019, we are working with Google Cloud and SAP on developing our proposition.
We work with the UK Government to design a ‘smart waste tracking system’ for all of the UK’s waste. We are implementing this system with the UK’s mapping agency, Ordnance Survey.
We work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as a CE100 circular economy innovator - alongside Philips, Ikea, Apple, Dell, HP and other corporates.
We also partner with Zero Waste Scotland, Innovate UK, UK Digital Catapult, Strathclyde, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Stirling and Cranfield Universities (amongst others).
We are also working with the University of Strathclyde and an environmental charity on the island of Arran (Scotland). We are mapping the generation and movement of all food waste on and off the island.
What is your business model?
Our business model is built on a combination of subscription (recurring) revenues and bespoke reporting and analytics. Our customers include:
Environmental, waste or facilities managers in large companies that generate waste
They use Topolytics to meet 'producer responsibility' for their waste - i.e. showing where their waste goes and what happens to it.
Commercial and feedstock managers in waste and recycling companies
Aggregated data has value to recyclers and investors in the recycling sector for identifying sources of feedstock and generating robust business models.
Waste policy makers and environmental regulators
Greater visibility over waste flows supports more informed policy decisions, more responsive compliance and more efficient and targeted regulation.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We earn project and recurring revenues directly from our target customers, as described above.
Our market credibility and reach is greatly boosted through a our relationship with Google Cloud and SAP.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Over the past 18 months, the scale of the waste problem and its impact has been brought into sharp relief by the spotlight that has been shone on the impact of waste and plastics in the oceans. This has started a shift in corporate and consumer interest in waste and what happens to this material. If however, we are to shift, at scale, to a more circular economy, it will need all parts of the materials value chain to participate, from extractives, through primary production, manufacturing, distribution, retail/sales, use/consumption and waste management. This entails new business models, significant investment, financial incentives and behaviour change. We believe that Solve can confer further strong validation of what we do and open up connections into players within these parts of the materials value chain. It also offers us the chance to further expand our scale and market reach, develop our AI and ML capability.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We want to connect with the following:
Large and medium sized waste producing companies.
Large waste management and recycling companies and their investors.
National and federal governments with a waste policy and regulation remit.
If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.
The $400bn industry that manages commercial and industrial waste is not transparent, not data driven and struggling to extract the maximum value from this material. As the quantum increases and demands grow for more transparency, more recycling and a 'circular economy', there is an acknowledged need for more data and better insights into this complex system of materials movements. Topolytics is already one of the companies leading the charge in this growing $2bn 'smart waste' market - in our case using mapping and data science to drive better environmental and financial outcomes across the global commercial and industrial waste system.
Through our work with large companies, governments in the UK and India and collaborations with Google and SAP, we are driving behaviour change and enabling the circular economy at scale. We use AI and machine learning to generate a higher level of confidence in what the waste is, in what quantities, where it goes and, importantly, where it could go so that it is retained at its highest utility. To do this we ingest, normalise, analyse and visualise significant quantities of data. For this we are seen as a leader, but the AI Innovations Prize would significantly enhance our ability to apply more and better AI and ML approaches in order to become the global 'smart grid' for the world's waste.
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Circular Economy, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.
- Dr. Michael Groves CEO, Topolytics