Image credit: eWater Services Ltd.
The importance of IP when disrupting a market
As an employee of a start-up, you often wear many hats to help keep things moving forward. True to form, Lucy Fenn, Head of Communications and Marketing at eWATERservices, does just that, having recently been tasked with helping to find legal support for the company.
eWATER is disrupting the way water is provided in Africa. With their operations underpinned by the software and technology they’ve created, along with their professional service, they want to ensure their business is protected if others enter the market.
We think it’s best to get ahead of any threat before it becomes a reality
said Lucy, who initially turned to their growth consultant, Stephanie Aldridge, at Innovate UK EDGE for advice on the best route forward.
Innovate UK EDGE is a key part of the UK innovation agency’s investment in the innovative businesses that drive economic growth and provides fully funded support on commercial strategy, funding, and international markets to high potential small to medium sized innovation-driven companies. Stephanie helped Lucy and the eWATER team apply for and obtain an intellectual property audit grant so eWATER could understand what IP they owned, and the steps to best protect and leverage it.
With the grant secured, Lucy needed a lawyer to conduct the audit.
Having never procured legal support before I started by searching online. I quickly found Harper James and from the moment I enquired, I felt reassured I’d found a law firm who understood our situation and needs.
The Harper James model for delivering legal advice is perfectly positioned to support start-ups and entrepreneurial businesses. Our IP audit service fits within the grant funding available through Innovate UK EDGE and it is tailored to the need of the client, taking into consideration their sector, operating model, and business strategy.
Rob Cobley, one of our Commercial Partners and an expert in IP, conducted the audit. He commented:
A vital step to accelerate a company’s growth is to de-risk and understand how their IP could create additional revenue streams. I wanted the IP audit to provide eWATER with a clear understanding of the reach of any protections currently in place along with a view on what else could be protected, how to protect it, when and why.
To do this we look beyond the ‘hard IP’ of registrations and consider other methods for protection such as commercial and employment contracts.
This was the first step in eWATER's journey to securing and exploiting their intellectual property. Since receiving our IP audit, and with the help of Rob and Stephanie, they have gone on to secure an IP Access grant of £5,000 to help implement our recommendations.
In her role as a Innovation & Growth Specialist, plenty of IP audits have passed through Stephanie’s desk, but she praised the quality of advice received from Rob and said:
Rob and Harper James provided an excellent IP audit report that covered key issues with a good amount of detail
The advice set out in Rob’s initial IP audit has helped us create a clear road map for our IP. It has also strengthened our case to get the follow-on grant and with that now secured, I look forward to working with Harper James on the next phase of our IP strategy.
How do you achieve 24/7 provision of water in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Tens of billions have been spent over the last 30 years with the aim to provide clean water services to Sub–Saharan Africa. Hand pumps and taps are not well maintained and 40% of all systems break within two years of installation. When water tanks leak or pipes split, the result is large amounts of water wastage, adding to the issues communities face.
When Alison Wedgwood, eWATER founder and CEO, was evaluating failing water programmes in her role as Environmental Economist for a range of government organisations and NGOs, she became frustrated with what she found in the data and realised that the model for water delivery needed changing to become sustainable.
In 2015, she teamed up with sustainable solutions and technology expert Rob Hygate to co-found eWATERservices; a company dedicated to providing the sustainable provision of water across Africa.
The company is leveraging mobile technology and the internet of things to dispense water and provide real-time tracking of systems to spot any operational issues. Local water operators are trained to provide maintenance and fix any issues at source, allowing them to run an efficient and sustainable supply of water that is available 24/7.
To date, eWATERservices have dispensed over 1B litres of clean water via nearly 1,000 Smart Taps installed across Tanzania, The Gambia and Ghana - you can check the most up to date minute by minute data here. However, their ambition to make a difference doesn’t end here and eWATER will soon be taking their operations into other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
As a dynamic start-up, they have subscribed to the Harper James Enterprise plan, allowing them to access our full range of services at discounted rates. While IP may be front of mind right now, this gives Lucy and the team at eWATER peace of mind as they’ll have access to the support they need when new requirements occur.