Start-up secures £1 million funding to develop new heat pump technology

A Bristol-based start-up has raised almost £1 million of investment, including a grant of more than £700,000 from the Government, to develop new heat pump technology.

A photo of six members of the Nusku team.

It’s a major boost for Nusku, which was formed in 2022 after a casual chat over coffee about why heat pumps aren’t more popular led to its founder Russell Murchie taking a leap of faith and leaving his job at Dyson to tackle the problem head-on.  

Two years later and Nusku has six employees, a workshop and office space at Future Space – the University of the West of England’s innovation centre – and now a huge funding injection thanks to a £727,000 grant from the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ).  

This follows £245,000 of pre-seed funding from key people within the energy sector, including Kate and Andy Rankin, the founders of Midsummer Energy, Lee Sutton, founder of MyEnergi, and Michael Sweeney and Owen Coyle, the founders of installation company Union Technical.

Russ, who worked as a fluid dynamics engineer at Dyson for 17 years, during which he led its product performance team, founded Nusku with Matthew Whitefoot and Andy Mckay who have experience within the renewable energy, finance and start-up spheres. 

New solution will be ‘cheaper and quicker to install’

Russ said: “It’s been a whirlwind few years building a company from scratch and I’m still pinching myself at what’s been achieved. While we had confidence in our idea, if you’d told me two years ago that we’d raise almost £1 million to develop it, I’d have struggled to believe you!  

“It’s testament to the hard work of the team, who have designed a truly innovative heating system which we feel confident will have mass appeal once it’s on the market. The fact the Government and leading figures from within the industry are backing us is a real vote of confidence.”  

Although Russ can’t divulge the exact details of the Nusku system as patents are currently being applied for, he revealed it would be based on air source heat pump technology but be cheaper and quicker to install – taking a few days rather than over a week – as well as more attractive, than existing heat pumps.

They feel this will specifically appeal to homeowners whose existing gas boiler has broken and want a hassle-free and environmentally friendly replacement. Another key ambition is for the Nusku heating system to be the smartest, most connected and efficient on the market when it launches in the next few years.  

The Government grant, awarded via their Heat Pump Ready Programme and part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, will enable the product to be tested at the University of Salford’s Energy House – a unique research and testing laboratory with an early 20th century two-bedroom terraced house within an environmental chamber allowing an accurate and rapid assessment of energy efficient retrofit technologies.  

To help hit net zero targets, the Government wants to grow the market in heat pumps to 600,000 installations per year by 2028 and is offering grants of £7,500 to property owners through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.  

Reinventing heat pumps

Russ said: “The idea for Nusku stemmed from a chat about why heat pumps are so popular in other countries, but not in the UK. There’s no real alternative to gas boilers at the moment in the UK, even though they will gradually be phased out and more environmentally friendly solutions are needed.   

“Heat pumps have been promised as the alternative for more than 20 years, so why does a homeowner who could afford one, not want one?   

“We got talking about what needs to happen to change this, to give a better offering to UK homes and the idea for reinventing them began to form.”  

Being based in an enterprising city, with a strong green ethos, has also benefited Nusku at this early stage. Not only has Future Space offered office and workshop space, the team has accessed free support from the innovation team and their advisory network, worked with interns from UWE Bristol and received technical advice from university staff, all while being located alongside other green tech businesses.  

Russ added: “Bristol being a city with a rich engineering history suits Nusku very well and we’ve been able to recruit some excellent staff who are not only technically competent, but have a strong desire to use their skills to help make a difference in the world, which is ultimately what we hope our heating system will achieve through cutting carbon dioxide emissions.” 

Caption: The Nusku team (pictured left to right): Dan Lawton, Amy Stoker, Russell Murchie, Henry Morgan, Matthew Whitefoot and Andy Mckay. Image credit: Nusku.