Business Journeys: PiedPiper
Pest control might not be the most glamourous industry, but it is a crucial one to prevent potentially devastating effect pests can have, not just on the environment, but the global economy. Inspired by a vitamin and solvent formulation and a desire to bring a more ethical and environmental, pest control solutions to the market, Steve Goode and a consortium of researchers and scientists set to work creating PiedPiper. Fourteen years, £6m in funding and countless awards later, PiedPiper is a revolutionary technology that Steve and his team are ready to bring to market. Here is the PiedPiper story so far.
What is PiedPiper?
PiedPiper is a transdermal aerosol technology that offers a more efficient and environmentally sound solution to pest control.
It consists of a trap that emits pheromones which attract rats. Once the rat enters the trap, sensors locate the animal’s exact location and sprays it with chemicals.
Recent research shows that the traditional snap traps kill only one in 10 rodents and the current toxins (anti-coagulants) kill around 25%. PiedPiper kill rate has been 100% in two independent studies. Its chemicals also work within 48 hours, far shorter than the six-week time frame of traditional rat poisons.
The revolutionary technology had been developed by our sister research and development company, Biotronics Ltd, which has provided innovative products to multiple businesses.
We founded Biotronics in 1997 and immediately began work on several cryogenic innovations. One of which was a new aerosol product for a client and, little did we know, this would be the key in developing PiedPiper technology.
What makes PiedPiper unique?
As well as a more effective and efficient method of pest control, we decided a more humane approach was necessary. Our product uses vitamin D3 as its main toxin, which rats and mice metabolise slowly.
In addition, our product degrades in a few days, while current toxins can be present in the environment for over 40 years. PiedPiper technology also requires fewer service visits, reducing vehicle costs and carbon emissions.
Reducing the risk of poisoning of pets and humans was also a big factor for us. There are no antidotes to the toxins currently used in current rodent repellents. If anyone is exposed to our product, they will get a taste in the back of their throat in seconds and the effects can be counteracted with a steroid injection.
You have raised over £6m in funding so far, what has the fundraising journey been like?
Funding is always an issue for innovations of the magnitude of PiedPiper and initial funding came from within the company.
We then applied for and won several grants from Advantage West Midlands, Manufacturing Advisor Board and later, Business link and ERDF funds.
These were all very useful but required a lot of downtime to produce the proposals.
Our next step was to go for some bigger investments. We applied for a Seventh Framework Grant, which required us to form a consortium across the EU of the best talents to develop our technology. The group, which comprised Dutch, Spanish, French and British companies and universities, applied as the PiedPiper consortium and we were successfully awarded a $1.5m grant. This was followed by further EU grants, the last of which finished in 2019.
What was the Research and Development (R&D) process like for PiedPiper?
PiedPiper is now proven technology, and we are currently planning to take it to market.
The whole R&D process started with the formation of the PiedPiper consortium. We had to lay out a programme of work to develop the aerosol system, the pest control device case, the electronic control systems, the attractants to get the rodents into the device, and finally the formulation chemistry to make the spray and ensure it travels through the skin.
Like most science – it was essential we had a team with the right skill to carry out the research and deliver the results.
Companies can often be reluctant to fund and support development, but I am hoping that post COVID, more realise that green, environmental innovations can completely change the world.
During lockdown, we continued our R&D and we’ve expanded the range of species we can control to include grey squirrels – which can have a large impact on timber yields and costs.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced developing your product, and how did you overcome them?
With all scientific projects there are challenges. Our specific challenges were not only to manage the expectations of the financiers, but also the regulatory processes we had to deal with.
Tell us more about the awards and accolades you’ve achieved?
During 2020, we were awarded an EU Seal of Excellence for our COVID response (rats can catch and transmit COVID to humans).
We also received a second Seal of Excellence for pest control in the green deal, the circular economy, carbon sequestration and environment.
This brings our total to seven Seals of Excellence.
To date we have received numerous grants, assessments and awards. These include three major EU grants of more than £2m and successful business assessments from an independent business advisor Professor Anna Daniels, NY State University - who carried out an assessment of our technology, structure, and investment readiness.
The EU has also cited us on their independently assessed Innovation Radar as successfully concluded research in the rodent control sector. We are currently the only company in this rodent control sector within the EU.
We also received a Innovate UK award and were invited to exhibit at the NEC, Birmingham.
You have gained patents in several countries. Why is it important to seek so many international patents at this stage?
PiedPiper currently have two patents issued in the UK and our transdermal patent has also been granted in Singapore and Australia.
Additionally, we have patents in various stages of examination in the EU, USA, China, India, Hong Kong, and New Zealand.
People often ask, ‘why so many at an early stage of development?’. The honest answer is, you don’t have a choice. If you have a global product you need to file under PCT (Patent Convention Treaty) when you apply for your first patent because you can’t apply for the same patent in other countries after your initial filing. We have around six new patents yet to file on associated technologies that will make pest control safer. We also have an EU wide trademark.
What are the next steps in PiedPiper’s journey?
The hard work is done – but now the really hard work starts. We’re ready to take PiedPiper to market and need to raise additional finance for marketing, selling and associated activities. These would all be preferably done alongside an industry linked partner or partners.
The problem with this is there are very few big pest control companies, and the decision-making process can take a considerable amount of time. So, a financial investor may be the best route forward. People need to understand the enormity of the market. The EU pest control market is valued at £2bn plus per year, and globally the market is over £20bn and increasing at 5% each year.
- PiedPiper is an innovative transdermal pest control technology that offers a more ethical, environmental and profitable solution to pest control.
- Over the past 14 years, PiedPiper has received over £6m in financial backing, gone through rigorous testing and regulatory processes and developed a product that is now ready to be brought to market.
- Due to its global potential, PiedPiper has had to file under PCT (Patent Convention Treaty). For more information visit https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/
- For more inspirational stories around tech and innovation, head over to the UMi platform: https://www.weareumi.co.uk/webapp/.