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Monday had me heading to London and starting the week a great way – with a call from Guy Pattison on where we were at with the Clean and Cool Mission. This entrepreneur Mission takes the best of UK cleantech start-ups to California in January to develop their pitches, connect with customers/partner/investors and learn from the world’s leading cleantech grouping. For this Mission we want to celebrate the positive messages of cleantech and have established a People’s Champion place on the Mission paid for by sponsorship. The shortlist is here: and YOU get to pick who goes by voting. We are looking for the heroes of cleantech so choose the one that inspires you. Applications for the Mission are still open (closes 20th October) so if you are a cool, young, cleantech company get your application in today.

That call was quickly followed by one with the KTN on our work with Defra, particularly on water, and then another – this time a telecon with the team of us at Innovate UK that connect with the KTN. I then made my way to the Connected Digital Economy Catapult for a meeting with colleagues on autonomous transport systems and where it fits across our strategy. I’m always fascinated when we have these cross-team meetings how many challenges we share from area to area. That was an important take-away for me as well as the power of ‘test-beds’ for serious demonstration projects. Being able to use a city or a health authority to test out a new transport solution accelerates commercial development in the same way a pilot plant does for manufacturing – scaling up the concept.

We were treated to a quick tour of the Catapult afterwards, parts of which are still a building site ahead of the opening on 6th November!

Tuesday was Birmingham and after a call with some government colleagues about helping them with a technology assessment I rendezvoused with Ewa Bloch (our National Contact Point for resources, waste and the environment) and headed to Birmingham Science Park. We were meeting Civico, a company with a fascinating background in making democracy more accountable by using digital skills to connect up and share all council meeting systems (which are all recorded using rather outdated hardware that doesn’t network).

Civico have also managed the Freecycle network and now want to use their skills to track reuse of products through similar schemes. We advised them on which European schemes and Innovate UK competitions would fit the scope of their plans. I particularly liked their mantra that technology should be invisible in an innovation; or in the word of Coco Chanel: ‘when a woman wears a really beautiful dress, all you see is the woman’.

Thursday I had the pleasure of a project close out meeting with Shoothill  and get the latest updates on what has happened thanks to the funding from the force of Nature that is Rod Plummer. Their project was in the Solving Business Problems with Environmental Data competition and has led to GaugeMap as well as a whole load of bespoke services for other businesses. This builds well on their existing FloodAlerts service and we talked about where next. It is great to see a smart company refocus on societal needs and thrive because of it.

The day ended with a call to coordinate our presence at Resource Event  in March. With the KTN’s help we will brief and connect potential applicants for two calls – one on Circular Economy Value Networks (run by me) and the other on Whole Life Performance of Buildings run by my colleague Rick Holland, which has a circular economy strand. It really is an event to be at and we’ll be helping project ideas all three days.

Thursday I travelled into Swindon for back-to-back meetings in the office. I started with planning for the two Resource Efficiency competitions I’m kicking off (one just mentioned, the other Recovering Valuable Materials from Waste). The next meeting was to work through budgets for next year which ran straight into one on this year’s portfolio and how we manage it to budget. I followed that with a quick update on a project to assess the role of design in innovation for us and then back to finances as I worked through the latest forecast for my team. The long train journeys in and home helped me catch up with paperwork and emails.

I faced serious problems Friday and was cut off from email all day thanks to problems with passwords coinciding with Microsoft updates causing issues with Outlook. Thankfully I had a meeting with the boss powered only by tea and treacle cake as we reviewed my year so far and set some new tasks for the rest of the year. I will do more work on the team’s budgets and delivery plan so when I get my calendar back it will need a few changes.

Stat of the week: American teenagers are taking to the road in fewer numbers than ever before: 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they would choose internet access over owning their own car. Source

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 117 kg CO2

Mike Pitts


Monday I headed into London to catch up with Forum for the Future on our systems work and the plans to build up to the next circular economy competition. Great of them to let me take over their Christmas network meeting. Again. I followed that with a meeting with Green Alliance on how we can understand research and innovation needs for novel materials used in high-value manufacturing that keep these resources in productive use for longer. A good example is that of composites – a powerful enabler of manufacturing innovation but insufficient thought has gone into end-of-life options. Could we remanufacture or repurpose composite components rather than the current downcycle or burn options? After joining an internal meeting by phone I was able to head to Swindon for the night.

Tuesday was a full day in the office, largely built around a series of interviews for the Lead Technologist role in Resource Efficiency. I also had meetings to discuss future contracts, the upcoming Urban Data competition and catch up with the boss for the first time in a month. My team had also bought a beautiful gift for my new son – a Philadelphia Eagles babygrow! Awesome.

Wednesday I popped into Manchester to speak at an event primarily on Horizons 2020 funding in sustainability and environmental topics. I was covering upcoming resource efficiency and sustainability from us rather than Europe. The event was comprehensive and if you want to see the slides and other info, click here.

After a day off Thursday I returned to Swindon on Friday to crack through some financial work. I am doing more of this stuff so also attended a training session on finance. Great way to end the week!

Lastly I wanted to share this link to a summary of the webchat I did on Guardian Sustainable Business last week:  It is a good summary and flew round Twitter this week.

Stat of the week: There is a potential £1tn market for clean-technology SMEs in developing nations, according to a report by the World Bank Group and the Carbon Trust

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 59 kg CO2

Mike Pitts


A first full week back started with a full day meeting at the KTN to plan our roll out of the Horizons tool. We had a very constructive discussion with the core team champions and full KTN staff training is coming together. It is important that everyone can help companies consider environmental and social drivers for projects (and their business). Within Innovate UK we seem to be thinking more and more about the longer term societal drivers for innovation. I also took the time to discuss plans for roadmapping a UK bioeconomy with Rebecca Wood.

Tuesday I finally cracked on with clearing the inbox and sorting out project issues from my time away. I also had to catch up with plans for our major annual event Innovate 14 and the two sessions I am looking after and you don’t want to miss. The first is a main stage panel debate on how we place sustainability thinking at the heart of business strategy and features several experts who are doing just that. We have Jennifer Clark, Director of Environment, Skanska UK; Mike Barry, Director Plan A, Marks & Spencer; Dax Lovegrove, Director of Sustainability and Innovation, Kingfisher; and Cyndi Rhoades, CEO, Worn Again. The second is a hands on workshop where you get to ‘tear down’ everyday products to consider their design in the context of a circular economy. This is led by Mark Shayler and connects with The Great Recovery project we support. Don’t miss it, get your ticket now -

Wednesday was spent writing a presentation on our upcoming funding opportunities in sustainability for an event in Manchester next week and preliminary judging the Heroes’ place on our Clean and Cool Mission. The latter is a sponsored place on the entrepreneur mission for young cleantechs and we wanted to encourage a people’s choice that showed some hero spirit and painted a positive and compelling future with their business.

I took Thursday off but was back Friday drafting the last of the competitions I have to ready for this winter and finishing the day talking remanufacturing with Policy Connect.

Stat of the week: Flood damage to cities expected to cost $1tn by 2050

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 12 kg CO2

Mike Pitts


My son was born shortly after the last blog post and I’m now back from paternity leave. Having some time to focus on something else (mostly nappies and when we might sleep) has helped me reflect on an issue I have been mulling over the last month: the importance of communities to business. Watching Lord Stern’s TED Talk I was reminded that growth is something we still need to pursue but it must bring with it an improvement in living standards for society. The incredible growth in China and Latin America has lifted millions out of poverty. The challenge has been to sustain that beneficial growth while reducing the impact on the environment. Environmental change leads to societal upheaval on a grand scale so the two are intertwined.

This leaves me thinking about how much companies want to deliver benefit to society and be seen to be valued in that way. Those that do tend be more trusted and able to shift their business model towards value-added services rather than cheapest produced product. Circular economy ideas have been around a long time and something such as the sharing economy is rooted in community. Communities have always shared assets: from playgrounds to woodland. So how do companies create that sense of belonging and trust? Will digital platforms enable this as we increasingly get out sense of identity and community online? Will the trend towards localism (certainly in the UK) drive growth in local, community based, economies? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

In the few days since I’ve been back working, aside from clearing the email backlog I took part in a Guardian Sustainable Business debate on ‘How far can we go with the idea of a circular economy?’ You can see the debate here:

While I have been being a new Dad the next Resource Efficiency call has gone live: the Recovering Valuable Materials from Waste competition. We’re giving plenty of warning for this competition as we’re keen to see waste companies engage – a sector that historically is underrepresented in our projects. To help connect up companies wanting to submit projects the KTN has set up a brokerage site on _connect:

Stat of the week: Google has made $1.5bn investments in renewables in 2014

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 0 kg CO2 – still no travel!

Mike Pitts

I finished last week by taking a Nissan Leaf for a 24 hour test drive. It is worth recounting my experience here. Firstly I must say it was great fun to drive and is a wonderful car. On hand over the dealership pointed out the system learns your driving style and puts out a forecast on mileage based on this. Fully charged it was telling us we had 95 miles whereas from new it would say 120 miles. I drove it as economically as I would my diesel Audi (I regularly get over 60 mpg) and chose to test it on a route my wife drives a couple of times a week. If we could comfortably complete this journey it would be the deciding factor, as she could do it more often and still save money. The drive is about 60 miles round trip and we got to the far end with only a third of the charge leaving us very happy. However the return in the dark and rain and maybe a little faster (but not at the speed limit) on the motorway nearly drained the battery. Despite suggesting there was insufficient charge remaining I was able to get it back to the dealership the next day. Just. It would seem that 80 miles is fairly normal in terms of range (Leaf owner and colleague Tim Just has confirmed this), which is just under the distance we’d need to feel comfortable for that run given a diversion or a side errand could easily stretch it. We will however start measuring all our journeys...

The dealership was clear that a Leaf is where they can provide seriously good offers right now. Since we live in the countryside and have slightly longer average journey distances (and fewer charge points) we needed a little more convincing, but not much. Getting a charge point fitted at home right now is pretty cheap (compared with payback time) as British Gas will do one for ~£115 or ~£214 if you want the fast charge version. Some dealership offers include even this subsidised fee. If you haven’t tried an electric car yet I’d certainly encourage it despite not committing just yet myself.

This week I haven’t travelled as my first child is due very soon. It has been a great opportunity to catch up on admin and personal development as well as receive a lot of phone calls!

Monday I covered off end of month admin and continued to process of transferring our upcoming Urban Data competition to my new colleague James Taplin. Tuesday I joined a call with colleagues to discuss our input to the House of Commons Science Select Committee on use of biometric data. I then heard feedback on our planned circular economy call from Forum for the Future companies via their systems team who have been helping us shape and frame the competition. I also took the chance to plan my diary post paternity leave and book in travel.

Wednesday Catherine Joce called to plan events later in the year supporting two Resource Efficiency competitions and I talked with Sophie Thomas about The Great Recovery project. I spent much of the day uploading new case studies to the Horizons tool. Thursday I did more Horizons uploads, talked social enterprises and communities with our new Urban Living Lead Technologist and all-round sustainability expert Niraj Saraf and finished the day getting competition scope feedback from Nitesh Magdani at BAM Construct UK who has some string project ideas for the circular economy in construction.

By Friday I was in danger of catching up with my inbox and ‘to do’ lists as I tied up lose things that had been waiting days and weeks to be completed. A bit of a luxury!

Other topics discussed this week: part re-usable nappies, getting some sleep, ball bearings.

Stat of the week: it takes almost 500,000 litres of water to extract just 1 kg of gold

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 0 kg CO2 – no travel!

Mike Pitts


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

Mike Pitts