Concrete Canvas: Driving Innovation with Deploy

Concrete Canvas Ltd was founded in 2005 on the back of incredible innovation; engineering students and co-Directors, William Crawford and Peter Brewin, had developed a concept for a rapidly deployable shelter for disaster relief as part of a university competition. They later discovered that the cement-filled geosynthetic that they had developed as the outer layer of the inflatable shelters could revolutionise civil engineering works across multiple sectors worldwide.

From the very start, innovation has been embedded in the heart of Concrete Canvas Ltd; from those initial product developments in university, to the design and construction of bespoke production machinery enabling manufacture, right through to ongoing investment in Research & Development. Today, over 20% of annual turnover is funnelled into R&D.

Not only does Concrete Canvas Ltd. look to promote and encourage innovation from within, but also aims to support and encourage talent outside of the company. The Directors discovered early on that the possibilities for the material are vast; while working on establishing Concrete Canvas® (CC) as a channel lining solution, they began receiving requests from creatives across the world for the opportunity to work with the unique material in design and art projects. Over ten years on, while the company is continuing to develop products and applications internally; several designers have found success with the use of CC. Designers including the UK’s Frances Richardson, Swedish student Nadia Zabihi and US-based designer Neal Aronowitz have won awards for their work using the material.

In 2017, a partnership of a different kind began to form between CC and Ecuador native Paul Mendieta. Much like Will and Pete, Paul has studied at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Supported by InnovationRCA, Paul has developed an innovative solution to the world’s water crisis as part of his double master programme in Innovation Design Engineering. We had a chat with Paul to find out more about his invention, Deploy, and his unique relationship with Concrete Canvas Ltd.

Paul, can you tell us about Deploy?

For my graduation project, I needed to combine innovation and design engineering to develop a new product for a vast market. From that Deploy was created. Deploy is the first-ever air-deployed, ready-to-use water tank which is manufactured with Concrete Canvas.

Where did that idea come from?

This venture is built on three generations and over 50 years of experience in water infrastructure. My expertise of six years in water-related projects as a trained Civil Engineer in Ecuador follows my family’s work in the field. My family has been trying to address water storage necessities since 1969 when my grandfather used his tipper truck to help communities build water tanks. Then my father took over and dedicated 33 years of his life to help rural communities that never expected to have any level of access to clean water – now they do. So, I decided to contribute and in summer 2019, I began developing a water storage unit.

Why a water tank specifically?

2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water. This affects people on every continent and it’s forecasted that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. That’s a huge problem.

That’s a scary statistic. Which areas are most affected?

The most vulnerable areas are within the Sub Saharan Africa region, the East and South-East Asia and Latin America.

What problems are you hoping to address with Deploy?

The world’s water crisis is more relevant now than ever. Areas without access to clean water means that millions of people living there are at risk from infectious diseases. Cholera, dysentery and typhoid are ongoing problems and they are very serious and need to be addressed, but now we also have COVID-19.

Of course, we’ve also been witnessing the massive and terrible wildfires affecting huge areas of land all over the world. More than 350,000 wildfires happened in 2019, and this year hasn’t been an exception. In Australia, between June 2019 and May this year, over 10 million hectares of land were destroyed by the wildfires early this year. Nearly 6000 buildings were destroyed – almost half of those were homes – and some species of wildlife are thought to now be extinct.

What are the primary uses of the Deploy tanks?

At the moment we are focusing on applications in rural areas including irrigation systems and feeding livestock in the agricultural sector.

Our long-term and immediate goal is to develop the product so it can next be used for rural water systems in developing countries. We want to help vulnerable populations around the world that don’t have access to safely managed drinking water. We have calculated that a single Deploy water tank could help communities of up to 2000 people.

We are also starting to look at the use of Deploy for fire mitigation programmes following the horrible wildfires witnessed in the last few years. We’d love to be able to provide easier access to water sources for firefighters when wildfires occur.

In a nutshell, we want to help vulnerable populations around the world that don’t have access to safely managed drinking water.

How did you become aware of CC?

During the summer of 2017, I was looking for Masters programmes in the UK. After seeing the success that Concrete Canvas accomplished after joining the programme Innovation Design Engineering at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, I fell in love with the company.

How did your relationship with Concrete Canvas Ltd develop?

It was extremely natural, I applied for a summer internship and Will contacted me a couple of days later. My background is in Civil Engineering; therefore, I worked closely with Concrete Canvas [Ltd] and conducted some market research for them. After that project, it seemed like a natural progression to merge my ideas for Deploy with their existing CC Hydro™ product and we started working on and exploring the possibility of developing a water storage unit with the material.

Besides the development of Deploy, what has this partnership brought about?

The material is completely revolutionary and opens up the possibilities for a variety of applications in the civil engineering field. The combination of the CC material and the manufacturing process I have developed for Deploy, has allowed us to create something that allows us to break down the pre-conceived idea that concrete infrastructure is bulky, heavy and expensive.

Do you plan to continue your partnership with Concrete Canvas Ltd?

I love everyone at Concrete Canvas and Will has been a mentor to me. I have all the intentions to continue working with the company. What this will look like is something I’m sure we will discuss and develop over time, but I hope to be able to continue to develop the Deploy products in partnership with Concrete Canvas.

You’re aiming to gain equity investment funding. How much are you hoping to secure?

We need to raise £250,000, which will fund us up to launching the product and get us to our breakeven point. We have already secured £30,000 and we are getting a new investment offer from the British Design Fund.

What will the funding be used for?

It will be used to implement the production line, carry out pilot programmes or trials, and to fund R&D.

You’re going from strength to strength at the moment – you’ve recently won an award – tell us all about it!

Yes! We were shortlisted for the ARTSTHREAD global design graduate show 2020 under the Design for Social Good category. It was an incredible category and an honour just to be nominated. We were announced as joint winners, alongside Sophie Horrocks for her Sensaura project.

So, what’s next for Deploy?

The next steps will be continuing to develop the product, working on and building a manufacturing line and eventually commercial launch of the product. I think we will be launching in the next year!

Thank you so much for your time and for chatting with us Paul! We hope to see you soon.

Thank you!

You can find out more about Deploy on their website. Deploy is also active on social media – they would love for people to follow them on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and connect with them on LinkedIn.

For more on Deploy’s award win, see Paul’s interview here: https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/4adg8n/meet-the-winners-of-the-product-architecture-and-interiors-categories-in-the-artsthread-graduate-show

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