GravityLight: GravityLight: a clean, safe & affordable lighting from the lift of a weight

London, Reuno UnidoQuênia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

GravityLight offers a clean, safe and affordable alternative to kerosene lamps, used by over 1.1 bn people without electricity.
With the lift of a weight, GravityLight provides instant power, to light up a room.
GravityLight needs neither batteries nor sun: a storable light for any season.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if over a billion people without electricity could have clean, safe and affordable lighting, anytime, whatever the weather?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Kerosene lamps are used by over 1bn people without electricity and millions more with unreliable supply. However these lamps are expensive, dangerous and polluting: - consuming up to 25% of a families income, ongoing - causing eye irritations, cataracts and respiratory diseases - causing burns and fires - emitting 150kg CO2 / lamp p/a and black carbon, an intense, localised ‘climate pollutant’ GravityLight’s aims to eliminate kerosene lamps

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

GravityLight is a clean, safe, low cost and reliable alternative to kerosene lamps. It’s an innovative device, providing instant power with the lift of a weight: a bag of rocks or sand. GravityLight is unique in having no batteries – enabling it to be stored long-term and avoiding their toxic waste. It works independently of the sun – providing a year-round, universal solution. GravityLight produces an ambient light as well as powering a string of up to 4 ‘SatLights’ providing flexible, task lighting around a home. It can also power a radio. Replacing kerosene lamps starts a positive cycle of benefits: - saving families money - increasing ‘light hours’ - enabling work and study - improving health - eliminating carbon emissions


Innovate UK SMART grant, Nominet Trust 100, Nesta New Radical, D&AD White & Black pencils. Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, Aidex Innovation Challenge, Ben & Jerry's Join Our Core
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In the words of those who trialled GravityLight: “Our family has limited income so spending $2 a week on kerosene is too much. Kerosene also caused lot of health problems and has damaged the interior of our rooms. As GravityLight has no running cost, it really joyful. Thanks to GravityLight my son is using SatLights for reading, he liked it very much.” – Saidul, Bangladesh “The first time I tried GravityLight I was so happy that our dark night was brightened by these little lights. This light helps us a lot especially at night when we are doing our household tasks. It really helped to make our food preparation easy, and also while we cook and eat. We also save money because we don't need to buy kerosene anymore.” - Beng, The Philippines

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

1200 GravityLights (GL01) have been trialed globally with off-grid and ‘under-electrified’ households. Over 4 months, we tested the concept, the extent to which GravityLight replaced kerosene lamps, and gathered insights on what could be improved. Across 366 households, 92% said they would use a GravityLight instead of a kerosene lamp. GravityLight’s were used for studying, working, cooking, eating, socializing and more, for an av. 4 hours a day. In contrast to solar solutions, people noted a reduced risk of theft, with no need to charge outside, and no batteries, a common cause of failure. Before launching GravityLight on a large scale, we needed to: - increase brightness - increase longevity - make it easier to use We have since developed GL02, to be launched in Spring 2016. Within 3 years we plan to sell 450,000 GravityLights, reaching 2.25million people across >5 countries.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Scaling is central to our success–for large-scale impact and reaching a sustainable model. We’ll be working across many channels and countries, chosen by 1) demand/ electricity access, 2) established distribution networks, 3) operational considerations. Starting in Kenya, we’ll work with distribution partners (Eg. farmer networks, teachers and door-to-door sales) with operations across sub-Saharan Africa. Using demos, trials, local influencers and financing options, we aim to build trust and word of mouth among consumers to grow reach, with regular after-sales service to ensure adoption.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

To date, crowdfunding, grants and awards have enabled us develop, trial, re-design and launch GravityLight. Scaling, to reach economies of scale, will be central to establishing a financially sustainable model within 3 years. In parallel, 20% of sales in ‘western’ markets, through Deciwatt Ltd, commercial and soft funding, will provide the capex and working capital needed to scale and expand our product range. Eg. Radio and Torch accessories.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

GravityLight is unique. In contrast to other mechanically-powered devices, eg. wind-up torches, GravityLight has a much lower effort: reward ratio. It takes seconds to lift the weight that generates 20 minutes of power. Unlike solar lanterns, GravityLight has neither battery nor PV panel: it provides light on demand, year-round and can be stored long-term. GravityLight is easy to disassemble, to harvest and recycle parts, and has no toxic battery waste to dispose of. Starting in Kenya, our approach is to create skills and livelihoods locally through in-country assembly and sales networks.

Founding Story

Having planned GravityLight’s field trials, the feedback that over 92% of people would use a GravityLight instead of a kerosene lamp was extremely encouraging. However, it was my own visit to a family without electricity outside Nairobi that really convinced me of GravityLight’s huge potential. At 5pm, dark outside, GravityLight transformed a home with one flickering, dim and noxious kerosene lamp to three lights around the room, lighting a woman preparing Ugali and her husband reading. This experience turned trial results into reality for me – GravityLight had huge potential to make a difference for millions of people. I also saw the importance of investing in improvements for GL02.


The current team of 4 FTEs (Commercial Director, Technical Director, Design Engineer and Communications Manager) is supplemented by freelance designers from award-winning consultancy, therefore ltd, to support the development and delivery of GL02. GravityLight’s trustees bring experience of starting and scaling organisations across charity, social enterprise and business sectors. All have worked and lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Across 2016, we are building a Nairobi-based team of a Regional Manager, Finance Manager, Operations Manager and Administration support to lead business development and order fulfillment. We are also growing our trustee board, recruiting a treasurer, lawyer and product designer, all with senior-level, international experience.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka UK team

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder, Commercial Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Affordable and Clean Energy, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Leaving the structure and security of Procter and Gamble, I took a sabbatical to work for UNICEF in Laos in my search for a job with a social mission at its core. This also meant moving from a highly structured, commercial role in the UK to being a communications consultant working with donors, much longer-term goals and within a highly political context.
Working with UNICEF across the country reinforced my desire to work addressing the causes of poverty internationally, and also confirmed that I value the speed, results- focus and efficiency mindset of the private sector. I sought to combine the best of both worlds, apply my commercial, corporate experience to developing and scaling solutions to tackle poverty, but with a more agile, responsive and smaller team. To make this transition I joined On Purpose, a leadership programme for social entrepreneurs.
My first placement was with the inventors of GravityLight, with whom I co-founded both The GravityLight Foundation and social enterprise, Deciwatt Ltd. Over the past 2.5 years, starting up two lean organizations with international scope, I have been responsible for our business strategy, partnership development, fundraising, HR, finances, legal and risk management, and more. To do so takes a combination of my corporate, NGO and social enterprise experience, with an ability to rapidly re-assess and adapt, a drive to learn, and to connect with others who can help make my vision for GravityLight a reality.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are working with a number of experienced partners across the design, manufacture, assembly and distribution of GravityLight.
Award winning design consultancy, therefore, has incubated GravityLight, provides consultancy on its development and invaluable experience across a number of products and ventures they have taken from concept to commercialization.

Hogan Lovells provide pro-bono legal support and we have several technical advisors including Dave Tupman (Apple’s ex-VP of engineering) and Lionel Wolovitz (ex-Technical Director of Psion Dacom).

We are developing partnerships with the University of Edinburgh, and others, offering placement to MA students to support our monitoring and evaluation activities and analysis, for example.

To assemble GravityLight in Kenya, we are working with Burn, who create clean-burning Cookstoves and bring experience of transitioning operations from China to Kenya and similar consumer groups and sales channels.
We are in discussions with a number of experienced distribution partners, selling clean energy solutions to under-electrified households across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa. Our approach is open and collaborative, working with distribution partners to understand what they need from their suppliers and with consumers, to shape the development of GravityLight and future product range.