Innovating vaccine, medicine and food storage with Coolar

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Coolar is the winner of this years SET Energy Efficiency, Smart Devices & Storage Award. They develop a system that can provide the cheapest, most durable and sustainable solution for vaccine, medicine and food storage in regions with unreliable or expensive electricity. Their system uses warm water that is easy to generate through solar energy and easy to store in a water tank. It does not use any moving parts, hazardous cooling fluids or lubricants. We spoke with Christoph Göller, Co-Founder and Business Developer about their product. Find more information about them here:

What motivated you (or the founders) to start the company?

During her studies at TU Berlin, Julia Römer discovered the technological principle that became the basis of the Coolar refrigerator. Her background in environmental advocacy as a board member at Friends of the Earth Germany motivated her to look for sustainable technologies during her engineering studies. When she came across the 100% water-based adsorption cooling process in large scale industrial cooling machines, she became fascinated with the opportunity that this technology holds for bringing sustainable cooling without any climate harmful or otherwise hazardous cooling fluids into mainstream applications like refrigerators. This vision motivated the founding team of Coolar to pursue the development of an electricity-free and water-based refrigerator.

What was the process for coming up with your product/innovation?

While working on downscaling the adsorption cooling process to fit compact-size cooling devices for the first time and making it completely electricity-independent, the team conducted additional market research on where this technology could provide the highest value. The Coolar refrigerator is a cooling device that is inherently more robust that conventional cooling devices and also does not depend on electricity. By looking at where electricity was the most unreliable and expensive and where the biggest need for reliable cooling was, the team discovered the challenge of maintaining cold temperatures for lifesaving medicine and vaccines in health facilities that do not have access to reliable electricity. This problem is huge, as in 75% of the cases vaccines cannot be stored at the required 2-8°C in developing regions, mainly due to unreliable electricity. This leads to enormous economical and unacceptable humanitarian consequences.
The Coolar team decided to dedicate their resources to solving this problem and to bring Coolar’s innovative cooling technology to where it is needed most. In off-grid settings the electricity-free and highly robust Coolar cooling system had strong advantages over conventional cooling technology and the need for a solution of the problem is strong.

What do you love about the sector you work in?

Cooling technology has many faces: simple clay pots, stone structures designed to capture the desert wind, the fans in your laptop, giant cooling towers used in industrial plants, …keeping things cool is a fundamental problem of societies everywhere.

Cooling is central to quality of life. It ranges from conserving food to life critical cooling for medicines, vaccines, blood or plasma. It corresponds to the very basic needs for food and health care and in a lot of ways also provides comfort through enabling cold refreshments or air conditioning in hot weather conditions.

In the face of climate change and increasing populations and economic activity in the Global South, it is of critical importance to find sustainable ways of solving the world’s cooling needs. Due to their warmer climatic conditions, the emerging economies of the Global South will have a much higher demand for cooling relative to the size of their economies than the Northern industrialised economies located in temperate climates. Yet harmful cooling fluids are already the single biggest driver of CO₂ levels in the atmosphere.

In the face of this explosion of demand for cooling and the necessity of fulfilling it in a way that does not push us over the brink of disruptive climate change is a daunting challenge, fascinating problem and promising business opportunity all at once. That is why we love finding sustainable ways to keep things cool.

What keeps you up at night?

That political and social structures may be too rigid to deploy technological solutions fast enough to achieve a global energy transition and the transition into a more sustainable global economy before the effects of climate change irreversibly disrupt life on Earth as we know it.

How did you find your overall SET experience and what was your favorite part?

The experience at the SET Tech Fair and award ceremony were great. The best was meeting the other entrepreneurs from around the world that are working on sustainable solutions. They were an inspiration and having met them will keep motivating our team to keep working hard on Coolar, as well. The award ceremony and especially the number of high-level officials in attendance was impressive as well. The event also added a few names to our investor pipeline, as we are currently fundraising.

What do you think your start-up will look like in three years?

Providing electricity-independent 100% water-based Coolar refrigerators for medicines and vaccines across the globe and expanding its sustainable cooling technology to various use-cases with different partners, aiming to establish a new standard for sustainable, water-based cooling.

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