Alan Lowry, Managing Director of Newtownabbey-based company, Environmental Street Furniture (ESF), has been crowned Innovation Director of the Year at the 2019 Institute of Directors ‘Director of the Year’ awards for Northern Ireland.
This prestigious accolade is in recognition of the Belfast director’s innovative Stellar Solar Smart Bench – a versatile outdoor bench that utilises solar energy from the sun to provide USB mobile charging, WiFi, LED lighting and data gathering capabilities.
Speaking about his win at the awards, Alan said: “I am truly delighted to win the award for Innovation Director of the Year at this year’s ‘Director of the Year’ awards. It reinforces to me how special the Stellar Solar Smart Bench really is – I had complete faith in this product from the initial idea and to see that concept brought to life, followed by the success the bench has experienced has been fantastic.
“With the increase of Smart Cities globally and the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as the need for consumers to be constantly connected, the need for solar technology is growing – we’ve seen this with the success of our ‘Street Charge’ mobile charging stations that were installed at City Hall, Belfast. To be successful in this industry, we need to be innovative, incorporating consumer demand into our products and services and this is something we have achieved with the Stellar Bench. We look forward to developing more products of this nature in years to come.”
Judges of this year’s awards described Environmental Street Furniture as a great small business with excellent potential, driven by an export-led leader with entrepreneurial spirit.
The concept for the Stellar Bench came about following a chance meeting Alan had with executives at one of the world’s leading theme parks. Seeing the success of ESF’s range of solar products - which include the Street Charge and SmartFlower - as well as taking into consideration the increase in Smart Cities and IoT globally, Alan spotted an opportunity to incorporate these trends into an innovative product.
Following an impressive six-month development process, ESF launched the Stellar Bench at the Innovate Exhibition in Birmingham in November 2017 and the product made headlines almost instantly by winning ‘Product of the Show’. Since then, the bench has been launched in New York City by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke as part of the #SmartCitiesAndYou campaign and was on display during the Queen’s birthday party in Rome in June 2018.
The bench, which is manufactured wholly in Northern Ireland, can be fully customised and branded for each individual client and has been acquired by some of the world’s most famous theme parks in America, UAE and Hong Kong.
More recently, the Stellar Solar Smart Bench has been installed at City Quays in Belfast, with talks underway for it to be installed in further locations around Belfast and Dublin.
The Institute of Director Awards ceremony took place at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast on Friday 17th May where Alan was shortlisted for two awards – Innovation Director of the Year and Export Director of the Year. Alan will now go on to represent Northern Ireland in the National Awards which take place in London later this year.