18 November 2019
Richard Greenwood is the founder of Radic8, and the creator of social initiative We Share Clean AirTM. Through this and other campaigns, such as Fight AsthmaTM and CancerairTM, Richard and his team are working hard to protect as many people as possible from the dangers of indoor air pollution.
Kamila Knap: There are plenty of large corporations that offer air purifiers. How do you manage to compete with them?
Richard Greenwood: While there are many large corporations that offer air purifiers, being a relatively small company means we can innovate faster and respond quicker to market demand. The large companies are working with a similar model to ink printers – sell the machines cheap and profit off sales of the filter replacements. They are either not interested or not able to invest in advanced technology, and that’s where we stand out.
Our technology is the first in the world to combine cutting-edge technology with world-class filtration. Most of the big brand air purifiers only use filtration, and there are several problems with this. Firstly, they are only able to catch larger particles of air pollution. The smallest (and often the most dangerous) can get through. Secondly, without a sterilizing UV light, organic matter can build up on filters making them breeding grounds for bacteria and mould – the last thing you want to blow around in the air! Finally, carbon filters are often used for removing toxic gas, but on their own they quickly get blocked and become ineffective. Filtration might be a good business model for big corporations but isn’t good for people relying on them to provide clean air. Combine filters with UV light – and now you have something that will work safely and effectively for thousands of hours – and that’s exactly what we do.
Samantha Kitchen & Richard Greenwood, Radic8
What makes Radic8’s purifiers unique? How does your technology work?
Our purifiers are unique because they sterilize the air, as well as purifying it. In addition to catching large particles such as dust, pollen and dander in our filters (the same as most other air purifiers), we also destroy the tiny particles, such as gases, viruses and mould spores. We catch dirty air, neutralise toxic air and kill sick air.
At the heart of our patented technology is an advanced photo-catalytic oxidation (PCO) chamber – the ViruskillerTM. PCO technology was developed by NASA and perfected in South Korea by our partners, INBair. It replicates a natural process where UV light interacts with a catalyst (titanium dioxide in this case) to create a super oxidant. The oxidant breaks down air pollution particles in an instant, leaving only carbon dioxide and water behind.
Do you think that air purifiers will soon become a standard equipment of any building? Is there even a chance for a smog free future?
They should be because the benefits are amazing. Living and working in a clean air environment can make us happier, more productive and certainly a lot healthier.
We are busy working on a cost-effective, low-maintenance air cleaning unit that can easily be retro-fitted into the existing ventilation system in buildings. As air quality in our towns and cities gets steadily worse, we definitely see a future where air purification is standard in every building.
As for a smog free future, we’re optimists so we believe there will be. The first step is educating people about the causes and danger of smog. Then the challenge is to change our societal norms and encourage behaviour that reduces air pollution. This kind of change will take time, right now we just need to use technology to clean the air in our immediate environment.
What do you consider as your biggest achievement so far?
I think our biggest achievement so far is protecting thousands of school children in the UK with our technology. Despite being our home market, the UK is actually one of the more difficult markets for us. People here are quite resistant to new technology and usually prefer to buy brands that they know and trust. As a new company, with a new technology for a new problem, we had a big job persuading nurseries and schools to invest – but we are doing it! We are excited to create even more We Share Clean Air Schools in Europe and around the world.
Can you tell me a bit about the beginnings of your entrepreneurial journey? Who are the co-founders and what made you work together?
Before I started Radic8 I was consulting for other clean technology companies. I was always good at finding unique solutions to problems and at coming up with creative routes to market. After having a couple of consecutive successes, I decided it was time I started my own company.
I had to search for a few years to find the perfect manufacturing partner, I knew that having a good relationship with them was absolutely essential. As soon as I started talking to Kenn at INBair in South Korea I knew I had found them. But before I signed anything, I made sure that my partner and co-founder Sammy was fully on board. As well as my partner she is also my best friend. Trust and friendship are so important when choosing your business partners, I think too many people choose their business partners for financial reasons. We have never gone down that route; our motto is that we only work with nice people.
Richard Greenwood (Radic8) and Olivier Le Roux (Johnson Matthey) as experts at Smogathon 2018 Krakow Finals
Your purifiers are specially designed for medical places. Did you see this niche from the start, or it happened somewhere on the way?
The core technology in our products is called ViruskillerTM. As the name suggests it was originally designed to kill viruses, however it proved to be very effective at destroying all other types of air pollution. The medical sector is one that most needs effective air sterilization but isn’t the easiest market to break into. We saw air purification as a necessity for everyone, so set out to tackle the mass market right from the beginning.
What are the next steps for Radic8?
Things are happening so fast we never really know what the future holds! We are going to carry on working hard to install our technology in schools, elder care and the medical sector. We are also really excited to introduce to the market our new range of probiotic air and surface cleaners, called WearePROBIOTIC®. We realised that chemical cleaners and air fresheners are a big source of indoor air pollution and set out to offer people an affordable alternative.
As the clean-tech entrepreneur, what are your thoughts on climate change?
I find the lack of urgent action on climate change a concern. The team and I do everything we can to limit our own contribution to global warming. We have a lot of vegetarians amongst us and we avoid business travel as much as possible (Skype is a great tool!). But more needs to be done. Radic8 technology can help reduce heating bills and WearePROBIOTIC is a really environmentally friendly concept, but in the future when Radic8 can continue without my day to day involvement I would like to dream up some even more ambitious solutions to climate change.