A Christchurch inventor and a local plastics firm, with support from the city’s business support agencies, have developed a product that keeps a house not just warm, but also safe - and the product’s potential has been recognised at the New Zealand Innovators Awards.
The Cosy Dome is a downlight cover which sits over a downlight in the roofspace of a home. The cover improves the thermal efficiency of the home as its ‘Dynamic valve technology’ stops heat escaping through the downlights, while also reducing the fire risk.
The Cosy Dome has been named as a finalist in the Innovation in Sustainability and Clean-tech category of the New Zealand Innovators Awards, and the Plastics New Zealand Design Awards. These achievements have been made possible thanks to the support of Recover Canterbury.
The Cosy Dome was invented by Cantabrian Paul Hill, who came up with the concept after being up in the roof space of his own home and feeling the heat loss coming through the downlights. At around the same time there was a spate of house fires in Australia caused by downlights being covered with insulation, and it got Paul thinking.
Paul started designing the product and quickly teamed up with local firm Plastech Industries to discuss how to turn his idea into a reality.
Paul also started working with Russell Cull, Business Recovery Coordinator at Recovery Canterbury, along with the team at the Canterbury Development Corporation and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce. Through this support, his company Cosy Dome Limited received a grant from the Ministry of Science and Innovation to assist with the costs related to developing the tooling required to manufacture the first prototype products for testing and design refinement.
At the same time Recover Canterbury’s Russell Cull was also working with Plastech Industries, whose factory suffered major damage in the earthquakes. Plastech was granted $27,000 from the Canterbury Business Recovery Trust to help relocate and re-establish the firm and its 10 staff.
This support enabled Cosy Dome and Plastech to continue developing the Cosy Dome concept.
Plastech Industries General Manager Graeme Rickard has invested more than two years in Cosy Dome, an investment he says he happily made as he truly believed in what the product could achieve.
“When Paul first came to see me with this off-the-cuff idea I could immediately see its potential. We just had to work out a way to actually make it cost-effectively, and one of the biggest challenges was sourcing the correct material at the right price,” says Graeme.
The correct material turned out to be a highly flame retardant polypropylene which was not currently being used in New Zealand, so Plastech had to import it from offshore. Once the first Cosy Dome prototypes were produced they were tested in-house for functionality and sent for independent fire testing. It was this testing that proved to both Paul and Graeme that Cosy Dome really was commercially viable.
Cosy Dome went into commercial production in April 2012 and since then around a dozen installation companies have become re-sellers of the product, with several thousand units sold to date. Paul is working with Standards New Zealand and Standards Australia regarding the development of a specific product standard for barriers, and has been invited to be part of the NZTE stand at the All Energy trade show in Melbourne next month, which is one of the leading sustainable trade shows in Australia.
“The networking opportunities at this event will be tremendous, and the naming of Cosy Dome as a finalist in the New Zealand Innovators Awards really gives us that extra credibility we need to break into these offshore markets,” says Paul.
Recover Canterbury Business Recovery Coordinator Russell Cull says it’s enormously gratifying to see Cosy Dome and Plastech working together with such passion, determination and success.
“Paul and Graeme are two of the most enthusiastic and motivated people I have met in business. They have both truly believed in the Cosy Dome concept and what it could achieve and despite huge challenges have forged ahead, making the future for these two Canterbury businesses very bright indeed. We’re delighted that Recover Canterbury has been able to play a part in making that happen,” says Russell.
Paul says without the initial grant from the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the support from Recover Canterbury, the Canterbury Development Corporation and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce they would simply not be where they are now.
“Having these guys on our side, acting as a sounding board, providing advice and helping dismantle the barriers was hugely beneficial,” says Paul.
Graeme Rickard is also enormously grateful for the support they received from Recovery Canterbury which helped them get back up and running – even if part of their new factory has to be demolished and rebuilt!
“About six months ago my team and I made a conscious decision to shift from a disaster mindset to what I call a go and grow mindset, and that’s been a great move”.
“We consider ourselves manufacturers of ideas. We love it when people like Paul walk in the door with an idea and need our help to turn it into a reality – it’s what makes our business survive, and it’s those displays of entrepreneurship and Kiwi ingenuity that I love,” says Graeme.
The winners of the Plastics New Zealand Design Awards are being announced on 5 October 2012 and the winners of the New Zealand Innovators Awards are being announced on 12 October 2012.