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Case study – Qflow: Surviving COVID-19 to build back even better


Qflow, an SME reducing material waste and carbon emissions in the built environment, was hit hard by the shutdown of construction sites due to COVID-19. They required support to help until construction was able to return.

QFlow were awarded an emergency grant funded by the Mayor’s Green New Deal Fund to contribute to employee salaries. Combined with the SME’s own resilience, it meant they could avoid losing their staff’s unique and critical skills needed to continue the delivery of their services.

What was the challenge?

Qflow is a female-led SME providing AI and machine learning software that automatically collects and analyses data on waste and materials, reducing material waste for big construction projects and driving commercial and carbon savings. They have demonstrated impressive sustainability credentials, with client case studies evidencing potential for 886kg of CO2e avoided per £1m of total project spend, and that a single customer using Qflow could reduce total site waste by 2,000 tonnes annually.

Qflow had already run a number of successful pilots and completed projects, with several big contracts in the pipeline. However, COVID-19 restrictions saw the shutdown of most construction projects and key staff put on furlough, delaying the pipeline and putting the squeeze on their forecast cashflow. Unable to spare members of their small, dedicated team, they decided to reduce their working week to 4 days instead of furloughing.

…we are a small team, each individual contribution is unique, therefore the business would have suffered [by furloughing staff] and we would have risked losing staff and our existing traction in the market…

Brittany Harris, Founder, Qflow

What did we do?

Qflow needed financial support to help retain their staff while they waited to close imminent contracts. ReLondon were pleased to offer an emergency grant of £10,000 thanks to the Mayor of London’s Green New Deal fund to tide them over and support their recovery.

What were the outcomes?

Having made it through the lockdown restrictions, and with construction projects back on track, Qflow were able to start securing their future. They closed an investment round of £1.7 million to develop the product further and start to expand internationally.

And they’ve not only been able to safeguard all the jobs within the company that were at risk due to COVID-19, but also create 10 new ones.

What was learned?

Qflow is a prime example of how a relatively small investment by the public sector can leverage private investment that will go on to have a much larger impact. By providing financial support to a promising business at a critical time, the emergency grant helped to ensure that it would survive the COVID-19 disruptions and take off when things returned to normal.

Read more about the outcomes of the Green New Deal Emergency Grants scheme and what we’ve learned about the importance of government support for small businesses here: [Insight Note]

What’s next?

With the backing of their investors, Qflow has big plans to scale its impact on construction and development, enabling the construction industry to avoid 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2025.

As a member of ReLondon’s Business Transformation network, we’ll continue to check in with their progress and support them through our fully funded business support programme:

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