OXFORDSHIRE, England — Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), Aerofoil Energy, and Inovo Robotics are working together on an innovative, new research and development (R&D) program that uses robots to further improve the energy efficiency of supermarket fridges. 

Based at WAE’s site in Grove, Oxfordshire, the pioneering new initiative sees Inovo’s collaborative robots — called ‘cobots’ — repeatedly opening and closing the doors of test fridges to emulate real-world supermarket trading conditions. These fridges feature the revolutionary F1-inspired Aerofoil shelf edge technology along with Aerofoil Energy’s new “Vortex” energy efficient fridge technologies.

The three companies set up the robotic real-world supermarket emulating test program at Grove in 2019. It has delivered 10 new energy-saving technologies that have already entered the market and are delivering significant energy savings for supermarkets.

Aerofoil’s shelf edge technology, which has been rolled out across many of the U.K.’s supermarkets since 2017, is inspired by the design of a Formula One wing. This aerodynamic device channels the cold air that falls from the top of a fridge down the front, preventing it from spilling out into the aisle, saving up to 30% of a supermarket's energy costs.

Aerofoil Energy and WAE partnered together on this design in 2015, the collaboration inspiring the creation of the Foresight Williams Technology Funds with Foresight Group, which was launched in 2016 and helps grow small and medium-sized U.K. technology and engineering businesses, giving them access to expert technical expertise and investment.
In 2018, Inovo Robotics received investments from the fund in its collaborative robotic technology, whose USPs are its ease of programming installation and a versatile, modular robotic arm which can be adapted depending on the application.

“Inovo’s ‘cobots’ are designed for batch manufacturing,” said Henry Wood, cofounder, Inovo Robotics. “They are modular, versatile, collaborative robots with a user-friendly interface, which makes configuration for new tasks extremely easy. They are ideally suited to support the latest round of Aerofoil tests which require a repeatable and reliable system to open fridge doors, emulating in-store conditions and supporting round-the-clock testing.”

Paul McAndrew, founder and technical director, Aerofoil Energy Limited, added, “Aerofoil Energy designs and delivers energy-saving technology to the U.K.’s leading supermarkets to improve the energy efficiency of display refrigeration. In 2019, in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, we set up a cutting edge R&D facility. To date, this has delivered 10 new energy-saving technologies that have already entered the market and are delivering significant energy savings for supermarkets.”

WAE is delighted to support both Aerofoil and Inovo with a test program at Grove that is designed to emulate in-store conditions whilst measuring product temperatures and energy consumption, said Maria Nelson, senor partnerships manager, WAE.

“The robots have proved invaluable during this program, and we’re proud to bring two of our Technology Ventures companies together to support the testing of further energy efficient technologies.”

For more information, visit www.wae.com.