Do you want to be involved

Take an early stake, have a greater impact

We are seeking Partners and Investors in the start up and development of Solaesthetic Research and Design Limited.

Equity stakes are available in return for cash and in-kind investment

This is an opportunity to make a genuine, effective contribution to our environmental problems, and make significant returns – both personally and financially.

Read on if you are interested.

Solaesthetic R&D Limited

Solaesthetic (Sol-es-thé-tik) Research and Design is a creative and positive response to environmental necessities and to the opportunities that are generated by these necessities.

Solaesthetic is a new business, based on ideas and inventions that Dan Hughes-McGrail has been patiently developing over the last seven years. Solaesthetic’s intent is to make the world a better place, by producing renewable energy options that are beautiful and in sympathy with architecture and in harmony with the local ecology, We will overcome the raw functionalism that dominates the renewable energy market by providing aesthetically diverse alternatives. Critically, our approach treats aesthetic function as equivalent to utility function. Our focus is micro generation and localised energy production at the domestic and neighbourhood scales.

People are the power that alters the world. So to be truly sustainable, renewable energy systems must be designed so that people will really want them in their world. People love beautiful things, and they will invest in, and maintain beautiful things for the long-term. For Solaesthetic, beauty and aesthetic impact are fully part of and installations sustainability function. This concept is critical to creating the things that will become our sustainable heritage.

The business will consist of two distinct arms of activity that intimately depend on each other. One side is a design and installation practice, that specialises in producing beautiful, site specific, renewable energy installations. This arm of the business will be engaged in designing and project managing the installations.   The other arm is a Research and Design practice that invents and designs the devices and components needed to build the installations, but which will also work to create discrete products for licensed manufacture by third-party companies.

Our designs will be made in line with the Solaesthetic Ethos, a design philosophy developed by Dan Hughes-McGrail, which is an ecologically informed set of principles, whose purpose is to guide the innovation process and hold it to clear sustainability objectives.

Dan says “We want to make things that people want to live with for generations. To make them sustainable, we need to create the desire to maintain and sustain them – love them even. We can achieve this by appealing to the aesthetic instincts that motivate us to preserve and cherish beautiful artworks and old architecture. We can make things really well, that are highly durable, and built to be maintained indefinitely. We also need to create things that can carry meaning for people in the way that artwork can. By producing beautiful alternatives we can bring renewable technologies closer to people’s hearts and create a high value desire-led market”

In preparation for the start up Dan has selected four of his inventions that are the technically simplest of his ideas which will be the simplest to bring to market. Take a look. The Fluent Column and Solopticon devices are the most developed, having been taken through prototype phases. Vapour Stack and  Genius Foci still need work to bring them on. but this work needed is relatively straightforward.

Business Model

The Solaesthetic business model is part design practice, part innovation management system, part prosthelatyising educator, and part consultancy.

Solaesthetic will consist of a digital design studio alongside a fabrication workshop/lab. We will also use test places on the land. The digital studio’s core activities will be design, computer modelling, research and simulation. The workshop will be engaged with experimental model-building that uses practical techniques and high-level craft skills. The boundary between departments will be very porous with designer/makers moving freely between the two. The use of computer controlled production methods like additive layer and laser profiling, increase design freedom and accelerate the development cycles.

This organisational design accomodates Solaesthetic’s two main branches of activity.

The design and installation practice, will operate in a similar way to an architectural design business, but one that only develops renewable energy systems for specific sites, designing in order to solve the aesthetic and technical problems for that particular site, while fulfilling the Solaesthetic Ethos. This aspect of the business will undertake project managment and oversight of the installations.

Solaesthetic fuses techniques and methods derived from engineering, the construction industry, sculpture and physical sciences. It makes heavy use of 3D digital modelling, simulation in combination with real-world prototyping in a highly efficient iterative development cycle.

Installation projects will be discretely defined and self-funding. i.e. They will be one-off projects that will pay for themselves with funding, either from clients or sources like grants, competitions and/or Crowdfunded projects.

In approaching site specific installations, great care and attention will be given to response to the specific technical and aesthetic character of each particular clients site. Design criteria will be developed per project, inline with the clients needs, the Ethos, and the design team’s priorities. The Project work will generate the necessities that lead to inventions.

The product design branch of the business will identify candidate technologies for productisation. Its other  purpose is to produce intellectual property packages and licenses that are easy to propagate to third party businesses. Over time, we will generate a portfolio of original intellectual property, which will become a source of royalty/license based revenue. This is where the long-term revenue stability and profitability lies.

The two sides of the business will cross-fertilise each other. Installation Projects acting as powerful proof-of-concept and marketing tools for subsequent sales and licensing agreements. Our refined modular products will also make it easier to develop more creative scope in the site-specific insatllation practice and give us more off the shelf solutions to choose from for future designs.

These core activities of the business will be augmented with revenue from consultancy for third-party manufacturers and outreach/training programs for those who want to commercialise our IP.

The final specific structure for the business is still being worked on as you read this. We want to allow for input from the investors and partners who get involved. That said, the business structure is likely to resemble a blend of an architecture firm, a small fabrication workshop, an IT lab, and a product design practice. Additionally, the company’s articles of association will contain a statement of purpose that is in line with the principles laid out in the Solaesthetic Ethos.

Market Focus

The most impactful sector of renewable energy market is Heating and Cooling, which e.g. accounts for 65% of energy consumption in Europe and more in the USA. We will begin our efforts with solar thermal energy systems  for heating and cooling.The reason for this is that Solar thermal systems are also the simplest technologically and hence the easiest to bring to market quickly. Dan has developed several strong ideas in this area.

It is a very large marketplace and one that is becoming more important given the context of fossil fuel energy price trends and the generally recognised need for energy self-reliance at all scales of consumption.

When Solaesthetic is established, we can expand into more technical area, like sustainable personal transport and domestic heat and power; domestic scale wind generation and micro-steam power. Solaesthetic’s Ethos suggests a focus on providing localised domestic energy production, every property should be producing at least some of it’s own energy. So it will be our ongoing mission to produce viable aesthetically driven alternatives in all relevant areas.

At the outset we must operate in high-end architectural markets; Including historic houses, heritage buildings, hotels, leisure centres, high-end domestic and public buildings. Our projects and products are relatively expensive and this is the market sector that afford our high value installations. When we have established and proven the designs, we will spin out our systems and methods into more generalised markets via licensing arrangements with 3rd party manufacturers.

Dan’s research has shown that the market is substantially more developed and more receptive in Europe, North America, Middle East, North Africa and Nigeria. Solaesthetic will most likely become primarily active in European Market over time. However, the UK is also a very under-developed market and there is rich territory in the heritage, tourism, public buildings and recreational sectors, where our products could produce highly valuable USPs for buildings managers. The problem with the UK market is receptiveness to the ideas, but Dan is hopeful that Solaesthetic’s design will be attractive enough to break through an innate resistance to renewables that exists in the UK ‘domestic’ markets.


Dan has registered the company at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, (3MBIC) an innovation hub owned by Huddersfield University. He is setting up a design studio in Stroud, Gloucestershire, where most of the design and development work will be done. He also is currently looking at purchasing land to act as a testing station for the prototypes.

Both Stroud and Huddersfield offer uniquely sympathetic habitats to an innovation based business like this. They have long industrial heritages that stretch back to the very beginnings of water powered industry. As a result they are packed with small engineering firms, high end fabricators, art foundries, control electronics firms and high-level skilled craft workers in metal, glass, ceramic, textile and wood. Generally lots of extremely highly skilled people work at the right scale for Solaesthetic’s purposes. This enables an approach to design that is quite unrestricted.

Dan says, “If we can think something up, then we can find someone nearby who can make make it. In fact, just knowing that they are there and their skills are available extends what you can imagine making”

Having such a diverse manufacturing capacity on hand allows a business model that is highly efficient as we won’t need to develop all our capacities in-house. So we can concentrate on the skills that are critical to design, innovation, consultancy and Intellectual Property management.

Being a member company of the 3MBIC, means that Solaesthetic qualifies  for hugely valuable EU funded technical assistance and also gives access to specialist technical services and equipment, lab space, and scientific knowledge. Having a presence there also opens opportunities for collaborations between other resident companies and with Huddersfield University itself. 3MBIC has subsidised ACCESS TO additive layer manufacturing (3D printing) machines, super computing simulation servers, robotic milling, high accuracy measuring and testing equipment.

Stroud has unique features that make it an ideal base for Solaesthetic Design Studio/Lab. Entrepreneurialism is normal in this town (Remarkably, 42% of the working population are self-employed). It has an unusually high concentration people with very high levels of education and training, particularly in the creative, specialist fabrication and engineering fields. Stroud is a locus for renewable energy enterprises with several renewable energy related businesses based in the area. There is widespread understanding and acceptance of environmental and sustainability issues.

First Steps

Solaesthetic is right at the beginning of the start up. Now is the time to get involved to have the maximum impact on the course of the busineass.

Our first priority to establish credibility as an entity and the best way to achieve this is to make a very fine example of our design approach for peole to look at, touch and be persuaded by.

The first Installation Project will be based upon the SolOptIcon Solar Thermal Collector and the Genius Foci Product. It will be put up for subscription funding through the Crowdfunder website.

The SolOpticon Project aims to raise enough money to pay for the installation of a working model in a suitably beautiful site. This way of funding the proof of concept, provides creative freedom, and will help to demonstrate public support for the ideas behind it.

Please note that at this stage the Crowdfunder campaign is in development and is not live yet.

People Needed

Dan Hughes-McGrail and Anna Harvey (see Biographies) are the current owners (95% and 5% respectively). They are looking for partners and Investors. They are seeking people who are inspired and motivated by ecological and sustainability issues, especially they have architectural, design, legal and business skills to contribute.

We want to work with people who are prepared to take a both a practical and an emotional stake in this adventure. The best way to make a business succeed and protect its integrity is to have it run by people who have social, emotional and financial stakes in it. Who will want to nurture the business, make it thrive and survive.

Although Solaesthetic originates from Dan Hughes-McGrail’s inspiration, it will need the contribution of several people with differing personalities and skills in order to grow into living profitable business.

Solaesthetic needs you… if you can contribute with expertise in the following areas:

  • Architecture
  • Engineering design
  • Product design
  • Financial management, Ideally with IP experience
  • Surveying
  • Sales – Heritage / Architecture / Design sectors
  • Legal – IP / Contract
  • Digital 3D modelling/ Simulation / CAD / Generative design techniques
  • IT and simple coding
  • Prototype development / model making
  • Onsite project management
  • High level Craft Skills

Dan can contribute and give guidance in all of these areas, but the best use of his abilities is in the design process, project management and overall strategy.

In the start up phase of this business, some of these skills can be bought in e.g. legal services, IT support, and some CAD tasks. However, It is crucial that the design side and prototype development is kept under Solaesthetic’s control. It is best to bring these core activities in house as soon as possible.

If you are intersted, then it is important to be aware that this business is based on an ethical vision and hence our activities will be held firmly to an ethical framework. Investors and partners will have an opportunity to shape this framework and define the business in the early stages, but you should generally agree with the ideas and principles that Solaesthetic espouses. The starting points for these principles are outlined in the Solaesthetic Ethos.

If you are interested in joining the enterprise please contact Dan directly for a meeting.

Money Needed

Solaesthetic Research and Design Limited is seeking investment. Funding is needed during the start up period in order to pay for its activities until revenue streams are established from Project fees, consultancy invoices and license royalties.

We will need the money for:

  • Wages/Fees
  • Studio Costs
  • R&D materials/services
  • Promotions
  • Professional and Legal Fees

We will accept investment in the the following forms in return for equity:

  • Direct and personal cash investment
  • Investment in kind for work/services/goods for an agreed equity equivalent
  • Any combination of these

For the startup period the share of ownership available to individual investors will not exceed **% . After three years this will be renegotiated. The rationale for this is to keep a clear direction in the critical nascent phase of the business.

The notional value of the company at this point winter 2015 is approx. £***,000

Other forms of non sales based funding are:

  • Crowdfunding subscriptions for specific Projects
  • Grants
  • Competitions

These blocks of funding will associated with discretely defined Projects and will not effect equity allocation.

Please contact Dan Hughes-McGrail for full details of the business plan

Biographical Info

Dan Hughes-McGrail Originated the the ideas for Solaesthetic and been working on the Solaesthetic business concept for over 6 years between other work and projects. He has now fully committed to founding Solaesthetic Research and Design Limited as a permanent entity, and to prosthelytising and developing the ecologically informed design Ethos the business is based on.

Dan has been self-employed all his working life and has an entrepreneurial family. His background has exposed him to the start up, development and management of small specialised businesses that involved the renovation and repurposing of large historic buildings for mental health care.

Dan has the unusual ability to fuse artistic and technical disciplines. He is a highly original thinker and versatile inventor with a unique and diverse set of skills. His background includes:

  • Sculpture
  • 3D animation
  • Digital sculpture consultancy
  • Architectural restoration in the heritage sector
  • Practice-based research
  • Teaching
  • Training
  • IT consultancy

His career has exposed him to a multitude of one-off projects and consequently, his entire working life has been engaged with inventive problem solving and project management. Furthermore, In preparation for starting Solaesthetic, he recently undertook additional training to consolidate these qualities and elevate his  3D digital design skills, by taking a Masters Degree at Huddersfield University (for which he received a distinction)

Dr Anna Harvey,  has invested financially in the long process of preparing the ground for this business. She is a senior level Independent Consultant Social Worker, specialising in decision making and organisational dynamics inthe  Child Protection sphere. Her recent PhD was hosted by the Tavistock Clinic a centre of excellence in the clinical use of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.

She is also a part-time Senior lecturer and researcher at the University of the West of England