We spoke to Greig Horton from Sainsbury’s about our exciting new partnership to support innovation

Feb 3, 2023

WAE recently announced an exciting new partnership with Sainsbury’s to support start-ups with technologies aimed at reducing carbon emissions and water usage – Sainsburys Innovation Investments (S2I). We spoke to Greig Horton, Engineering Innovations Manager, Carbon, Utilities & Engineering at Sainsbury’s to find out more about what this means for them.


Why is it so important for us to meet our net zero targets and what initiatives does Sainsbury’s have in place?

At Sainsbury’s, we are committed to reaching our goal of being Net Zero in our own operations by 2035 and reaching Net Zero value chain emissions by no later than 2050; which are in line with the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and includes the emissions associated with the products we sell to our customers.

We have also developed our own Net Zero roadmap which sets out a number of milestones, these include looking at how we can address energy efficiency and make improvements across our business; replacing gas boilers with heat pump alternatives, switch to natural refrigerants, replacing fossil fuel internal combustion engine vehicles, reducing carbon emissions associated with the production of building materials and ensuring our building and engineering systems are fit for the future in terms of climate change resilience and adaptation.

We know we can’t achieve these targets alone and are actively working with suppliers, industry, and government.

We’ve already introduced over 3100 energy saving initiatives to our stores and estates, including a significant number of on-site renewable technology installations such as LED lighting, Aerofoil technology in our fridges (which supports up to 15% reduction in energy usage) and purchasing 100% renewable electricity across the entire estate. Since 2018/19, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 21% and have introduced a range of initiatives over the last 10 years.

As a business, we are continually monitoring and tracking our energy usage and constantly looking for new ways to make improvements.

In 2021, together with WWF and a group of retailers, we formed a taskforce to focus on the climate crisis and protect nature and committed to halving the environmental impact of UK grocery baskets by 2030. 

With that in mind, what is the purpose of the Sainsbury’s Innovation Investments (S2I) fund?

Whilst we recognise that tackling the climate crisis at the speed and scale needed requires collaboration, we know we can’t simply rely on existing technologies to deliver the solutions we need. There are so many innovative start-ups and early-stage companies developing interesting, new and disruptive technologies and this innovation will be key to enabling us, and other businesses in our sector, to reach our Net Zero targets.

What type of investments will the fund look to make and are there categories of particular focus (i.e., the tech types)?

We have a minimum of £5 million to invest over the next four years and are looking at businesses that are commercialising innovative and sustainable technologies that aim to reduce operational carbon emissions and water usage. We are planning to invest in early-stage companies and accelerate dynamic starts-ups to help them develop, test and deploy these transformational technologies. We know that emissions and water use is critical to tackling the climate crisis so will be focusing on these areas as part of the first investment.

What is the benefit of the partnership with WAE?

WAE brings cutting edge technology and the industry’s best engineers and as part of our ongoing partnership, we’re both committed to driving radical change across the sector and are excited to see what we can bring to market next.

We have worked with WAE for a number of years and one of our most successful combined projects has been the £9 million investment in our refrigeration, through WAE’s work with UK Start-up Aerofoil Energy, designing a unique aerofoil that reduces the energy consumption of our fridges by 15%.

Since then, the pioneering energy-saving equipment has been rolled out in stores across the country, resulting in a significant energy-saving. Since its introduction a number of other retailers have also rolled out this initiative across their stores.

Why should an investee company choose this fund?

Our extensive and diverse operations provide an ideal commercial path for new engineering technologies. With the right investment and support from the appropriate expert partners these technologies can move from a concept into something that is tangible and scalable, working towards a more sustainable future for everyone. Both Sainsbury’s and WAE bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the sustainability space, and we have the ability to support dynamic start-ups by giving access to and creating opportunities for them to test and deploy their technology across our estate, including stores, logistics operations and store support centres.

Will investee companies be able to implement their technology outside Sainsbury’s?

We recognise that tackling the climate emergency requires investment alongside collaborative and transformational thinking across industry and government, and a willingness to work together and share learnings globally. It’s important that we all take meaningful, immediate action to help secure the planet for future generations and we’re committed to doing our part in making that happen. As an investor, it is in our interests for investee companies to deploy their technologies widely and not just within Sainsbury’s for the greater benefit of the environment.


Greig Horton, Engineering Innovations Manager, Carbon, Utilities & Engineering at Sainsbury’s



For more information about this opportunity, and to submit your company details, please click here: https://wae.com/sainsburys-innovation-investments/

Case Studies

Thales Biological Surveillance Collector System
Thales Biological Surveillance Collector System

Using expertise in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), as well as testing in one of Williams’ two wind tunnels, WAE was responsible ... Find out more

BAE Systems Hawk
BAE Systems Hawk

Working in collaboration with BAE Systems, WAE has unveiled a revolutionary cockpit simulator that will be used by leading aerospace ... Find out more

General Dynamics Scout SV-Core Infrastructure Distribution System
General Dynamics Scout SV-Core Infrastructure Distribution System

WAE were engaged to support a significant UK MoD armoured vehicle production programme. Find out more