Kamal Kalsi, CEO and Co-Founder at KEW Technology

Kamal Kalsi, CEO and Co-Founder at KEW Technology

Non-recyclable waste? Finally, there’s a transformative solution

It is inevitable reality that more of our homes, communities and industry need to decarbonise and reduce their carbon emissions. KEW Technology turns non-recyclable waste and low-grade biomass into sustainable energy. Their mission is to deliver advanced circular solutions that help address the energy trilemma – the provision of energy affordably, securely and sustainably for hard-to-abate sectors such as off-grid energy, energy-intensive industries, chemicals and transport.

This is such a critical issue to solve, I was excited to hear Kamal’s Secrets of Success and how, along with his dedicated team, he’s pioneered the solution and brought it to life. He took time out of his day to share his story and if this issue is on your mind to fix for your business this year, please read on and be inspired for 2024 …

What made you start KEW Technology – did you want to rock the status quo, was it a gap in the marketplace that you could fill?

As an engineer originally from Kenya, I always envisaged a world without fossil fuels. How I was going to achieve this was the hardest part. I wrote the business idea for KEW on the back of a napkin one night when I met our CTO Hans Mansson and COO Kevin Chown. Hans and Kevin are now an integral part of the senior leadership team and true advocates of the 10-year journey we have been on. We designed the initial concept of our first sustainable energy plant that night and then had to work out how we were going to fund it. With over £50m of funding received so far, we’ve tried and tested our technology at our Sustainable Energy Centre in the West Midlands and are now preparing to take this to market on a commercial scale.

What is the main problem you solve for your customers?

Our transformative solution goes beyond mitigating methane and fossil fuels emissions; it pioneers a shift from waste to sustainable energy products, simultaneously addressing broader environmental and health concerns in our communities. By bridging the gap between waste management and clean energy, KEW catalyses positive change, contributing to a healthier, more sustainable future for both the environment and the people and planet we serve.

How does your solution work?

By taking any form of waste (including non-recyclable and low-grade biomass), our technology converts it into fuel and different advanced molecules for use across hard-to-abate sectors such as energy-intensive industries, off-grid energy, transport, and chemicals thereby making it truly multi-functional. So our innovative pressurised advanced gasification process, a form of Advanced Conversion Technology (ACT), can play a vital role in decarbonisation across multiple sectors.

And it’s now this advanced gasification technology, that is revolutionising the waste-to-energy sector and is reaching its watershed moment by being at the heart of two major parallel market solutions with a mission to address some of our climate’s biggest problems.

This strategic approach aims to make sustainable energy and waste management universally affordable and accessible, contributing to breakthrough momentum in solving the complex challenges associated with the global energy transition.

What are your brand values?

Sustainable waste management and energy provision are key global climate change challenges. KEW Technology is crucial in scaling up waste-to-energy solutions that can address both those challenges simultaneously.

Our core brand values align around:

  1. Innovation: we emphasise a decade-long commitment to technological innovation, showcasing a pioneering spirit in waste-to-advanced energy solutions.
  2. Sustainability: The core of our mission is to deliver sustainable solutions that address the energy trilemma, promoting affordability, security, and sustainability.
  3. Accessibility: we have a commitment to making sustainable energy and waste management universally affordable and accessible, suggesting a value for inclusivity and broad societal impact.
  4. Environmental Stewardship: our focus on transforming waste into sustainable energy products indicates a dedication to environmental stewardship, contributing to a healthier and more sustainable future.
  5. Global Impact: The vision of delivering a world beyond fossil fuels demonstrates our commitment to making a significant global impact on reducing carbon emissions and advancing clean energy solutions.

We also champion internal core values centred on excellence, respect, innovation, collaboration, continuous improvement, and accountability.

Do your values define your decision-making process?

Absolutely, we are pro-actively working to contributing to meeting the global climate targets by leading the deployment of emerging and innovative technology that is pioneering the transition to a zero-waste world through enabling circular economy solutions for the production of sustainable energy supply for the hard-to-abate sector. Our values play a big role in guiding our choices in technology, sustainability, affordability, and strategic global impact.

What is your company’s eco strategy?

As a sustainable energy business, our ethos revolves around environmental consciousness. Our strategy is centred on guiding clients and stakeholders towards a world beyond fossil fuels. Through our technology, we aim to not only facilitate this transition but also to educate and inspire others to join us. Winning the hearts and minds of stakeholders is key as we embark on this growth journey together.

Is team culture integral to your business?

Surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial, especially when you are in the start-up stage of any business. I’ve been fortunate to have recruited some of the best minds in the business. Over the last decade creating the right culture has been key for us to grow and prove the worth of our technology and innovation. By recruiting a diverse workforce, we have collectively achieved what KEW stands for today; a pioneer in sustainable energy technology and solutions.

What do you do to go the extra mile to show your team you appreciate them?

Firstly, they are rewarded with a competitive salary package. There is a shortage of green skills in the industry, so when we have found the right candidate, it’s important we retain this talent. Especially at our Sustainable Energy facility in the heart of the Black Country as this is where many green skills are deployed.

To show our way of thanks throughout the year we arrange company days which involve a team meeting off-site, followed by a special evening where the team can socialise with their peers.

Beyond this, we aim to always foster a strong team culture, and always strive to go the extra mile to appreciate our team through regular recognition, personalised feedback, professional development opportunities, and inclusive team-building activities. We prioritise open communication, value diverse perspectives, and foster a supportive work environment that encourages both individual growth and collaborative success.

What’s your take on inflation and interest rates – are you going to pass that on to your customers or let your margins take a hit and reward customer loyalty in these tougher times?

In the face of inflation and rising interest rates, our commitment to customer loyalty remains paramount. While cost pressures may impact margins, we aim to strike a balance. Our primary focus is on maintaining the quality and reliability of our advanced gasification services. We are actively exploring efficiency measures and cost optimisations to mitigate the impact on customers, ensuring a fair and sustainable pricing strategy that reflects our dedication to long-term partnerships.

What is your attitude to your competitors?

We’re pioneers, creating the market for innovative and emerging technology in collaboration with our peers. Our current focus is on fostering collaboration rather than competition. We firmly believe that by collectively shaping the landscape, we’ll naturally pave the way for healthy competition in the future. For us, it’s about leading with our technology and vision, establishing a strong presence in our sector.

It can be a lonely and pressured place to be as the lead decision maker of the business. What do you do to relax, recharge and hone your focus?

We all work long hours at KEW, so downtime is very precious to me and the team. For me personally, finding solace in my downtime involves spending time with family and occasionally getting involved in motor racing. Just as in business, racing demands precision, strategy, and a clear focus. The intensity of the race-track becomes a parallel to the high-pressure decisions in the business realm. It’s a unique way to recharge, offering valuable insights and fostering the mental resilience needed at the helm of KEW while also getting a chance to team-build and connect with stakeholders outside the workplace.

Do you believe in the 12-week work method or do you make much longer planning strategies?

While we appreciate the effectiveness of the 12-week work method, our planning strategies extend beyond that horizon. Given the dynamic nature of our industry and our commitment to continuous improvement, we find value in longer planning horizons. It allows us to align with our transformative vision, incorporate evolving technologies, and adapt to changing market landscapes. This approach ensures a harmonious balance between short-term agility and long-term strategic vision, crucial for our pioneering role in the energy transition working towards bet zero and beyond.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in business?

Never give up, believe in your vision and keep going until you’ve fulfilled it. Be proud of what you’ve achieved, no matter how big or small the wins are.

What three things do you hope to have in place within the next 12 months?

In the next 12 months, our goals are clear: a market ready proposition for both industry and investors, the onboarding of future talent to shape the next decade, and substantial progress in developing our project pipeline. 2024 stands as a tipping point for KEW, signalling a transformative era and substantial change.


Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.