New electric ‘Slant’ on getting the shopping home given funding boost

Entrepreneurs have won a £10,000 funding prize to develop their tap-to-rent electric trailer, which could change the way people travel and shop. The ‘weightless’ trailer clips on to a bicycle or e-scooter or can be pulled by pedestrians.

A team of innovation master’s students at the University of Bristol have developed a tap-to-rent electric trailer that can be attached to a bike or e-scooter.

The e-trailer could help cut the estimated 4.5 billion car journeys made to and from supermarkets in England each year, as well as assisting the millions of car-less shoppers who must either use taxis or buses or walk home carrying heavy bags.

Shoppers would merely unlock the trailer with a debit or credit card – much like renting a shared bicycle or e-scooter – before bringing their shopping home and leaving the trailer outside, whereafter a Slant (the name given to the e-trailer concept) employee would retrieve it and return it to the supermarket.

The team behind Slant say the trailers would be “weightless” due to their electric motors and trips would cost an average of £4 – cheaper than the taxi many currently need for food shops. The e-trailer could also easily be pulled or pushed on foot.

SLANT E Trailer Attached To Scooter Inline

Image credit: University of Bristol

The design concepts (pictured above and below) show the Slant trailer in a variety of configurations, such as attached to a bicycle and an e-scooter, as well as ideas showing the trailer with a retractable roof and a child’s seat onboard.

Bristol Innovation students are tasked with creating businesses that solve real-world problems. Slant has won £10,000 from the University’s innovation start-up incubator Runway, which they will use to build two prototypes to refine the design.

Artemis Fragkopoulos, a business innovation and entrepreneurship MSc student, said the number of car trips to UK supermarkets was “mind-boggling”, with 73 per cent of shoppers using cars to get to and from the supermarket, totalling 4.5 billion journeys each year.

“In England, 19 per cent of car journeys are made only to go shopping. If we could cut even half of these it would make a huge impact on traffic and the environment and could mean people don’t need to spend so much of their income on cars,” said Fragkopoulos.

The SLANT E Trailer Inline 1

Image credit: University of Bristol

Adopting a business model similar to that of Uber Eats or Deliveroo, casual workers would be hired to locate the Slant trailers and take them back to the supermarket for cash.

In the next few months, Slant will look to partner with a supermarket to trial the trailer. They plan to raise seed funding later in the year before pursuing a patent.

Unlike city-wide e-scooter systems, the team believe that Slant could keep its initial costs low by trialing the electric trailers at individual supermarkets, before rolling them out across the UK and Europe in the coming years.

The SLANT E Trailer Inline 2

Image credit: University of Bristol

Tarun George Maddila, a technology innovation and entrepreneurship MSc student, said: “We hope this sustainable solution will help the environment and consumers – and supermarkets, too – by increasing footfall, decreasing congestion and helping their net-zero commitments.

“I’m really excited by innovation and when I wanted to study it I couldn’t think of a better place than Bristol. Without this course, and mixing with students and lecturers with all sorts of expertise, we never would have come up with this idea.

“We couldn’t be happier to win this funding, which will help us build the next stage of Slant.”

The SLANT E Trailer Inline 3

Image credit: University of Bristol

Slant was one of six businesses to win a total of £69,000 in funding at a Runway pitching event held this week. The judges were all University of Bristol alumni who had achieved success as entrepreneurs and now want to support student founders.

Mark Neild, director of Runway and a senior innovation lecturer, said: “I feel proud to work with such a talented group of young innovators who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a wide range of endeavours.

“Our expert judges uniformly complimented them on the excellent standard of their pitches. I am grateful to our supporters who are empowering our students to achieve far greater impact than they could on their own.”

The SLANT E Trailer Inline 4

Image credit: University of Bristol

The founders of Slant are Tarun George Maddila, Artemis Fragkopoulos, Nigel Deshpande, Louis Cocking and Sam Bell.

Other winners at the Runway pitching event were:

  • Remap: Improving how people think, feel and perform through mental training routines (£10,000).
  • Ignaz: An innovative solution to reduce pressure sores in hospital beds (£10,000).
  • Impulsonics: Simplifying biotech lab automation by using sound waves to move cells (£12,000).
  • Mifu: AI automating micro-influencer marketing for better engagement with film audiences (£12,000).
  • Light Trace Photonics: A technical solution to rapidly set up experimental photonics rigs to simulate new products (£15,000).

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