The GravityLight story


Product designers, Jim and Martin, initially started work  on the GravityLight concept as a SkunkWorks project in 2009. Following several years of product development, testing prototypes, and user feedback, we have now introduced GravityLight into Kenya, as a large-scale pilot. Read on to find out how GravityLight has developed and grown over time.


Lightbulb moment

In 2009, Therefore design consultancy was approached by SolarAid to develop an extremely low-cost solar light to reach off-grid families living on less than $3 a day.

The aim was to create a sustainable alternative to kerosene lamps.

Designers Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves took on the challenge. After realising that batteries and photovoltaic (PV) panels were two thirds of the cost, they decided to look beyond solar and battery-powered devices.

This led to the invention of GravityLight – the first of its kind.

SriLanka GL01

Incredible crowdfunding

In November 2012, Martin and Jim had a working prototype. The next step was to prove the concept in real-world environments.

Crowdfunding was needed to support the tooling, manufacture and distribution of GravityLights to off-grid families in Africa and Asia. Their feedback would then be used to develop an improved model, for large scale production.

Within 30 days, the crowdfunding campaign had raised more than seven times the original funding target! Over 6219 generous supporters had raised $399,590. 

Worldwide trials

This incredible support allowed us to field test GravityLight across 26 different countries.

The results were extremely encouraging… over 90% of people said they would use a GravityLight instead of a kerosene lamp.

They also shared invaluable feedback on what needed improving before we could launch GravityLight.

Jim with GravityLight (Dark Room).jpg

Refining the model

After extensive improvements and accelerated life testing we have developed an improved model, GravityLight GL02.

The improvements made include ensuring:

  • easier to use
  • brighter
  • more robust

Crowd DSC05194.JPG

Trialling GravityLight in Kenya

We ran another crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to enable us to pilot our improved product in Kenya - including testing assembly of the units in country too.

This amazing support opened the doors to more: we have since worked with Shell's #MakeTheFuture campaign, to introduce GravityLight to 50 communities in Kenya through a nation-wide roadshow. The DOEN Foundation and Comic Relief have also supported us to establish operations in Kenya and conduct research with our first customers there - on GravityLight's performance, benefits and potential impact over time. 

As we're always learning and improving, this research also feeds into our product development pipeline as well as decisions on how and where to scale our activities and impact.

Evaluating our impact

We are currently reviewing the research conducted over the past year - on GravityLight's performance, it's impact and our approach. We will be sharing these research insights and conclusions in a series of blogs across April 2018...