A bank holiday shortened week started with a call from AlpSynergy (environmental consultant for business) about how we view sustainability. I explained that we thing social and environmental trends are as important drivers of future markets as technology and economic trends. We have an aim of economic growth but are always thinking about how that fits within a sustainable economy – that is one operating within safe environmental limits and delivering social value and quality of life. We know these are hard things to consider (hence our development of the Horizons tool) but for those that get it right innovation will scale quicker and farther.
I spent the rest of the day working through competition paperwork (I seem to be doing a lot of that right now) and checking through progress of projects across the portfolio. Projects from our Supply Chain Innovation for Resource Efficiency competition are finishing this year and we have some great results.
Wednesday I travelled into the office in Swindon to try and tie up a few urgent activities before I stop travelling until my son is born. It was a lot easier to chase up activities by talking with the people helping me than via email or trying to reach them by phone. The accidental conversations that arise by being in the office are also invaluable. I spent the journey home thinking about the role of social innovation and building communities and a sense of belonging in enabling wider innovation. These ideas keep appearing across our strategy and increasingly from businesses with brands to maintain. It is an area I know our Digital team are working hard on and I intend to discuss further.
Thursday I was in London and started with a meeting discussing a planned textile sector competition with Carol Rose from WRAP. The call will seek new ideas to increase the durability of clothing and is being supported by Defra. We talked about how we and the KTN could support the competition. I then met with a new KTN person who will lead on sustainability within their health and bioscience teams and took her through how we think about sustainability and how we use the Horizons tool to do so. KTN staff are key to helping our applicants using Horizons to think about the environmental and social drivers of their projects and business.
I then headed to BIS to meet with a delegation from FINEP who are an Innovate UK equivalent in Brazil. We spent two hours explaining how we work and discussing the differences in approach. Given FINEP did the same for me when I went to Rio before the last Clean and Cool Mission I was happy to reciprocate. We will soon sign a joint funding agreement with them as we seek to strengthen our ties with Brazil.
Friday I caught up with my boss then spent most of the day transferring the Urban Data competition to my new colleague James Taplin. He has a lot ahead! Whereas I won’t be travelling now until October. Serious baby waiting starts now, so if there is no blog next week you’ll know what happened!
Other topics discussed this week: locking wheel nuts, email accounts, tax.
Stat of the week: The average commuter in the UK spends 29 working days each year travelling to work
This week’s travel carbon footprint: 70 kg CO2
On Monday we changed our name. The Technology Strategy Board is now known as Innovate UK – a name that better encapsulates what it is we do. Particularly when you’re running programmes on resource efficiency and encouraging business to consider social and environmental trends driving their future markets (as I do) a name that suggests a focus on technology isn’t helpful. The name isn’t a huge change as we already used the ‘brand’ for our annual conference and our website address. We hope you like it as it is part of a process to simplify how we help business and clear out jargon.
The name change has meant a change in email address which came in over the weekend. Inevitably this led to updates and changes to the email system and having to go through all registrations changing the email address from @tsb.gov.uk to @innovateuk.gov.uk – as we are now. While doing this I had calls with our recent Urban Living programme recruit Niraj Saraf and Zoë Le Grand from Forum for the Future on future joint work. More competition and ongoing project paperwork followed.
Tuesday started with a call from the University of Exeter on a new data centre with the MetOffice. Most of the day was spent uploading new case studies to Horizons – examples of businesses responding to social and environmental trends. To see when these updates go up, follow the Horizons Twitter account.
Wednesday I met up with Long Run Venture in London to do further planning for the Clean and Cool Mission. We largely focussed on communications and how we can make use of our considerable alumni network. We’re very keen for these amazing cleantech entrepreneurs to show more of their hero side and develop the intangibles that make a good pitch great. A good pitch is much like a superhero story (we reasoned): you need to sell the villain (market problem) fully first and have a tangible sense of jeopardy (risk) to get excited about whether the hero (entrepreneur) can overcome the odds with their superpowers (unique selling position/technology) and save the day. Good superheroes are flawed investors do tend to like those who have tried and learnt by overcoming set-backs. We even see the mentor role in superhero movies as relevant to most good entrepreneur journeys. We’ll be using these ideas to build the Clean and Cool network and have them support and promote their peers. Such things happen with a mission group but we want to see it happen between missions in the UK. Let me know if you are interested.
To help build this community and give it a sense of location we’re working with Mapify. This start up has been working to map out the social fabric of communities and I was very interested more generally as to how they can help other businesses and even whole urban areas get a handle on this. One to watch!
Thursday I was back in London and caught up with ex-colleague David Altabev who is now at Nesta. We talked about his work with cities and the perils of European projects. I then crossed town to meet with Saul Jamieson at Telefonica and talk about how we help them connect with interesting companies to tackle interesting problems. Telefonica have a CEO committed to sustainability and social benefit enabling in particular. Their question: how can they help communities with their needs and ensure O2 customers get priority benefits? For this they exploring all sorts of spaces and we talked about how we best help.
I had taken colleagues from the Digital team: Jonny Voon and new recruit, Agata Samojlowicz. We followed the meeting with a coffee to talk over where digital and sustainability meet and thanks to the power of the internet (and 4square/Swarm) David Bott joined us and as ever made the complex landscape we are trying to help seem very simple. He reminded us that our budget is too small to leverage economic growth on any scale through funding alone. We are an innovation agency (not simple a funding agency) and can use good stories from the support we have delivered in connecting people in powerful ways – they act as a ‘goad and blueprint’. This echoed what Saul had told us about how much easier it was for Telefonica to work with new people through one of our challenges and that the funding wasn’t important to them (if anything a hindrance) but it did help the SMEs they wanted to work with.
On the journey home I bumped into my boss and we had a long chat about what we were plotting next. Bit early to say much but my role is going to evolve. He left me with some thinking to do Friday. The rest of the day was spent chasing things up as many colleagues are on holiday next week and fatherhood is imminent for me now!
Other topics discussed this week: Nissan Leafs, Game of Life, ice buckets.
Stat of the week: Ocean acidification is happening 100 times faster than over last 55 million years. See: goo.gl/BZIojL
This week’s travel carbon footprint: 78 kg CO2
Monday I immersed myself in working on our refresh of the Resource Efficiency strategy. Working through the document took most of the day but I did manage to also complete a near final draft of our Value from Waste competition and have a discussion about doing circular economy in a big company (or not) with Cisco. The day ended with a call to try and help a project reshape to be able to start. Sadly too many things were against it and the excellent ideas will have to go forward in a different way.
Tuesday I read up on challenges in the waste sector (see stat of the week) and worked some more on plans for the next circular economy competition. I finished the day being interviewed by Forum for the Future on sustainability trends affecting business.
Wednesday I travelled into London starting with a meeting over coffee with Susanne Baker from EEF. We discussed their recent Innovation Monitor and Materials for Manufacturing reports. Insight from EEF members is extremely useful for us on business innovation challenges and EEF can help us reach more companies.
I then headed to our KTN offices to meet with Rob Holdway of Giraffe Innovation and Ben Griffin our design lead to talk about how design can help innovation. We agreed the common view of design is wrong and that most technical innovators don’t see the value in using a designer for insight. An excellent discussion and great war stories that I had to cut short to get over the Hub Westminster for my next meeting.
At the Hub we were bringing our communications team and The Long Run Venture together to continue planning the next Clean and Cool Mission. We are about to enter purdah (for the Scottish referendum) which means we can’t announce new things. We have long planned to open the Mission competition on 1st September (in the middle of purdah) so were clarifying how that would work. We also worked through the timetable and aims and how we would capture the great stories and successes the missions generate.
Thursday I went to the Swindon office suffering awful train journeys there and back. Only and hour late getting in but not home until 10.30pm! The core of my day was a series of meetings with the Communications team about different aspects of the sustainability programme. There was also a meeting to organise our project portfolios across the strategy. As ever being in the office meant a lot of quick conversations with people as I saw them on things that need progressing and are much easy with a chat than an email. I didn’t have enough of them though so will have to go back in a week or so.
Friday mainly saw me sending in a final draft of a competition brief and working through the process of transferring our email system over to a new email address, but more on that next week.
Other topics discussed this week: whale foreskins in design, Roman concrete, train conductor stamps.
Stat of the week: just one fluorescent lamp contains enough mercury to pollute 30,000 litres of water – 100m are sold every year in the UK
This week’s travel carbon footprint: 62 kg CO2
I started the week catching up on project admin. Tracking the progress and (rough) spend profile of each portfolio of projects is important in managing budgets as well as seeing where we have delivered value to business. I also spent time dealing with issues in projects in the start up phase. With around 70 live projects from 5 different competitions it takes a while! I did get time to complete a submission to the NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s current consultation on its strategy.
On Tuesday I travelled to Runcorn to meet with the Resource Efficiency and Sustainability team at the KTN to plan as one team. The KTN support for upcoming competitions was the main discussion but we also covered support for applicants in using Horizons to consider environmental and social drivers for their market. We have a very busy autumn/winter ahead of us!
Wednesday saw more financial admin, this time tracking spend for external work. I also worked some more on details for this financial year’s competitions. I also picked the boss’s brains for a bit - as usual largely on what we can and can’t do within the various rules of spending public money.
Thursday was London and started with a catch up with Tom Fiddian from our Digital team on user-centred design and user experience-led innovation. We are very interested about where it impacts on the circular economy. I recounted some interesting points from an article I’d read on marketing a circular economy that were important user aspects. The first was future approaches could see supermarkets delivering your food and taking away the waste – packaging and leftover food. This would enable them to use your food waste as a further dataset to inform what they sell you (potentially reducing waste if you keep throwing out uneaten foodstuffs). How will customers feel about this and where do digital platforms fit in? The second was the cultural switch from wanting to own a product that makes you feel part of a social group to feeling part of that group in other ways so using that product without owning it. Social media and digital lifestyles are surely a part of this shift? We promised to consider the challenge here further.
I then joined the Digital team meeting for a bit to learn what they were up to and see how other team meetings work. I then walked to the KTN London base at the Business Design Centre. There I joined the KTN Directors’ meeting to help present the Horizons tool and help them understand how it works. We will roll out some basic training across KTN staff this year so they are able to help businesses, and in particular, applicants to our competitions use the tool to think about factors driving their future market.
Friday had me working some more of the document for autumn competitions and included good news on EPSRC joining us for one of them. I also had a long call with The Long Run Venture about plans for the Clean and Cool Missions. We’re really keen to find the cleantech heroes out there and have some great plans to encourage them and grow the community around our 60 strong alumni network. Keep an eye on http://cleanandcoolmission.com/
Other topics discussed this week: driverless vehicles, meconium, Lego.
Stat of the week: UK recycling rates were up just 0.2 per cent between 2012 and 2013
This week’s travel carbon footprint: 45 kg CO2
Two days in London kicked the week off with a load of meetings I hadn’t looked at a tube map when planning. Zooming east to west and back again was a theme across the two days! I started with a catch up at 100%Open with Roland Harwood on where we might need their expertise in facilitating workshops this year. They are particularly good in cross-discipline communication. Their new office at Somerset House also has a great view from its ‘balcony’:
After dropping off my bags in Old Street I tacked across London to the Bush Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush to rendezvous with Sarah Tromans our Urban Living lead to meet Čedo Maksimović of Imperial College who leads the Blue Green Dream project to develop a holistic ecosystem service approach into city planning. His aim is to tackle issues such as water/noise/air pollution, heat island effect, flooding/drought, health and energy efficiency through an understanding of how the water cycle and green space is controlled. Afterwards I talked with Julie’s Bicycle about our upcoming competition on using data to tackle city problems with the irony that one of the team had to join by phone due to travel routes being cut off by flash flooding.
It was then a dash over to the National Gallery to meet with Jaclyn Mason who is our lead in California for UKTI and a huge supporter of the Clean and Cool Missions. Together with Oli Barratt and Guy Pattison we did some early planning for January’s mission. I then met up with Maggie Brown, a sustainability consultant, to hear about her work with TfL.
Tuesday morning I caught up with colleagues at IC Tomorrow, our digital entrepreneur support programme. Emily Memarzia and Kriss Baird took me through the recent Connected Cities event and planned competition where we will support small projects that tackle particular city problems using digital innovation. The projects all have a sponsor organisation that owns the problem and will trial the potential solution.
I then caught up with Sophie Thomas at the RSA to hear how work was progressing in our joint The Great Recovery project. Very cool things have been happening around placing designers in waste facilities to see how they can be improved. An all too brief meeting as I then headed to Imperial College to meet with Weston Baxter who Frank Boyd of the KTN had put me on to. Weston is looking at the barriers to the circular economy from a more social and system design angle. With a background in engineering it was refreshing to hear someone with such a strong design and sustainability perspective carrying out research into why consumers make certain choices. We had a great debate about how the circular economy does or does not deliver actual benefits to the end user. His work is one to watch and any companies interested should get in touch and I’ll connect them.
Due to last minute meeting changes I decided not to travel into the Swindon office Wednesday and clear my email backlog and to do list. I joined a lunchtime session from Frost and Sullivan in the office on megatrends via weblink. It was interesting to hear just how much focus is moving onto cities now as engines of growth and supports our decision several years ago to pursue the Future Cities and Urban Living programme. I also took calls with EPSRC on where they might join in with our upcoming resource efficiency calls and with the boss on what needs doing most urgently now we are a person lighter in that area.
Off the back of that call, Thursday was spent writing a first draft of a competition brief and sorting out various project finances. Friday saw work on a different competition brief as well as the usual end of month admin. I took time to have a very interesting chat with Di Gilpin about circular economy at scale and what is enabling it and what is a barrier. It is fascinating to hear the parallels between her world (shipping) and construction in that a lower cost service, with potentially higher benefits might be delivered if only everyone can work out how to share the risk and profit and finance/insure something different to the status quo. In both cases hard evidence will prove the case and that is where we are looking to help.
Other topics discussed this week: writing books, women’s memory for smells, closed-loop furniture, disruptive hairdryer design.
Stat of the week: Cities will increasingly drive economic growth in the future – e.g. Seoul is responsible for 50% of South Korea’s GDP [Frost & Sullivan presentation I saw this week]
This week’s travel carbon footprint: 38 kg CO2
Poor planning saw a week with meetings in different places as a repeating theme. Monday saw a morning meeting with Forum for the Future catching up on our plans on the circular economy and how we can help companies take a systems approach to new value networks to keep key resources flowing back to them. I then dashed across London to catch a train to Swindon for a Sustainability team meeting. This one was special as we had our new Director of Technology and Innovation, Kevin Baughan joining us as well as two new starters in the team. It is always good to hear about the breadth of our combined team which covers Urban Living (opportunities in making cities work better), Low Impact Building (opportunities in how we make more energy and resource efficient buildings), Resource Efficiency (how business makes more money selling less stuff) and Sustainability (understanding how social and environmental drivers create market opportunities). Our colleague Ewa Bloch also joined the meeting; she covers support for EU programmes on climate, environment and resource efficiency and outlined how well that aligned with our portfolios.
After the meeting I met with Peter Dirken about missions and how we need to a) capture the process for planning them better, and; b) what we want from our partnership with UKTI on entrepreneur missions. The latter is very much planned support for companies post-mission as well as in country connections made in advance of the mission.
Tuesday morning was given over to work on the total project portfolio and current budgets. This included a quick meeting with colleagues at NERC to make sure their co-funding of certain competitions was coming to us at the right time for them and us. I then tried to dash back home for a late term scan of my son who is 8 weeks from birth. Sadly the train system had other ideas and I was caught at Newport (again) having watched the connection I wanted pull out as the first train pulled in; horrible feeling. The extended journey home gave me chance to further update our project spreadsheets and understand coming cash flow.
Wednesday was a day of phone calls starting with one on building circular economy into the scope of an upcoming Built Environment call. The use of Building Information Modelling tools is a key theme in the programme and it seems they could enable the use of circular economy products ranging from reusable building frames to service provided contents such as lighting. In fact these ideas were the subject of a later call with Construction Manager. Nice to link up topics in a day!
I also had a call from Nicky Conway (Forum for the Future) as she tries to keep me on track with our joint work while she is on a six week sabbatical, and GreenWise who were keen to connect with cleantech SMEs who need help with marketing. I worked on the outline of our next circular economy competition and the day ended with a call from Toine Roozen at the KTN about using Horizons in upcoming events.
While travelling the next morning (to Swindon initially) I worked on Horizons tool presentation material for the KTN before joining a meeting on the process for our entrepreneur missions with TSB and UKTI colleagues. After that I raced to London for a joint meeting with our Digital team colleagues to discuss areas of overall. There are a lot of these and we’ll work to connect businesses across them. With the sweltering temperatures we did pause the meeting for ice lollies when an ice cream van pulled up outside!
After the meeting we shepherded an unaware Richard Miller to a surprise party for his birthday (I won’t reveal which one but it was a significant one). The party had a lot of old faces and current colleagues and the evening wasn’t long enough to catch up with all of them; even Jonathan Porritt popped by.
The next day I caught up with Guy Pattison on the Clean and Cool Mission planning and tried to clear my inbox of the most urgent issues. I finished the day being interviewed by a University of Sussex student, Pip Roddis, on innovation that helps protect the environment.
Other topics discussed this week: tattoos, finding your way around festivals, party/drinking games.
Stat of the week: UK recycling rates were up just 0.2 per cent between 2012 and 2013. Source: http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Wasted_opportunities.pdf
This week’s travel carbon footprint: 92 kg CO2