Spark: Project Spark

Cambridge, United KingdomCambridge, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Software to turn EV's mainstream by matching passenger requests to EV's based on battery,journey and driver data. Removes 'range anxiety' for drivers, eradicates tailpipe emissions and boosts driver / fleet profitability.

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

We remove all tailpipe emissions from towns and cities across the globe?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Spark seeks to encourage taxi/delivery vehicles to wholesale adoption of electric over diesel vehicles in the next five years. 9,500 premature deaths occur in London each year from long term exposure to diesel fumes and the World Health Organisation has found $1.6 trillion is spent on healthcare services linked to poor air quality.

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

Our software monitors battery life and sends this information wirelessly to a dispatch system, which then allocates a driver based on proximity to customer, remaining battery life, and length and nature of the requested journey using combined datasets. Once the concept and software has been proven, Spark intends to license the software to dispatch system providers and taxi companies, as well as individual drivers, so integrating with ridesharing firms like Uber and Lyft. We believe that the regulatory and media pressure to reduce transport-related emissions in towns and cities creates a substantial commercial opportunity to prove the software locally through Spark Taxi and then license the software globally.


Finalist Shell Springboard 2015, EBBB finalist 2015
Impact: How does it Work

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

After working with the council and conducting our own research, taxi and delivery drivers wont use electric vehicles in towns and cities because of: - range concerns on battery and running out of charge midway through a journey; - perceived high costs of EV's; - complexity running additional software on their tried and tested systems Spark solves these issues by only delivering jobs to vehicles that can comfortably complete the journey(s) and return to a charge point. Removing this enables them to convert to EV and save between £5-8,000 a year in running costs and remove all tailpipe emissions from their fleets. For a diesel taxi, this represents 10.24 tonnes per vehicle per year of vehicle emissions (AA/DEFRA) removed.

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

The project is in early stage with recent investment to fund our MVP going into 4 vehicles in Cambridge. We intend to use this as an economic and environmental case study on running an EV fleet from off-grid energy sources. The predicted future impact will be 10.24 tonnes of emissions removed per vehicle per year. This will lead to vastly improved air quality in towns and cities and will have a real knock on effect for healthcare services across the world.

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

After running the test phase our software will be sold and licensed on a per driver model to fleets across the globe via partnerships with existing dispatch/telematics software companies. We have two launch customers in Nottingham and Cambridge and two dispatch companies interested in partnering with us. Our vision s to have 15% of all licensed taxi and delivery vehicles using our service in the next five years. The business scales pretty quickly as the hardware is off the shelf and the software can be licensed and installed over the internet via our subscription model.

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

We have raised a small investment from the profits in my other company GreenAir Cars, have received investment from Low Carbon Innovation Fund and currently working to raise remaining funds to finish development and market the software. Our finance director and I have put together 5 year cashflow forecasts and budgets as we scale the business.

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

There is one other company looking at this in the north of England but they are using 'virtual fleets' to identify delivery vehicles which based on their journey patterns could move to electric. We differ from this as we use real time information for ad hoc journey requests which makes it more novel. The use of machine learning to update the range prediction also gives greater accuracy. We filed a patent for the data extraction and algorithms within the software in June 2015.

Founding Story

Founders Justin and Martin Ott were in traffic and detested pollution being pumped out of diesel vehicles in cities and the vehicles sitting idle. It's a waste in every aspect. We started GreenAir Cars to enable corporates to go to and from airports and events using cofortable hybrid vehicles. We partnered with the Wildlife Trust and donate the cost of 200% carbon credits to the Great Fen Project every 6 months. We have been ISO14001 certified by the BSI and commended locally and nationally for our approach which has one us many high profile customers. We now want to build on our transport and software experience to create Spark.


Justin Ott (Managing Director), obtained a first class degree in Business Information Systems Management from Bournemouth University and then worked in financial technology and database software. David Blair (Finance Director), MA FCA MBA, obtained a degree in Chemistry from Oxford, an MBA from Manchester Business School and then qualified as an accountant with Price Waterhouse in 1987. For the past 15 years, David has specialised in advising SMEs in the life science and technology sectors. Martin Ott (Co-founder & Operations Director) has worked in sales and marketing roles, founded an aviation business buying and selling light aircraft and worked for Essex County Council. David Russell and Lindsay Manning (Development team) have 20 years’ experience managing software and system build projects overcoming many technical challenges in developing Spark’s software.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Cambridge Accelerate Programme

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


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]

Climate Action.

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

Bootstrapped GreenAir Cars from savings from £0 - £200k, added 15 jobs locally and enables two miserable accountants to get out of the office and have a job which gave them greater freedom. To date, we've donated £100's to the Great Fen Project from journeys completed by GreenAir Cars and we now want to do much more with Spark.

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

We have an advisory board comprising of:

Hugh Parnell, a seasoned angel investor and advisor across Cleantech and other industries has helped raise awareness locally and prepare for investment.
Carrie Bedingfield who is an investor and marketing expert with a passion for enhancing company culture has helped shape the plan and approach.
Richard Stobart (CEO of Unboxed Consulting and lean start-up specialist) has been advising on technology strategy and approach.