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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

Mike Pitts


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

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

Mike Pitts


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

Mike Pitts


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:

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 92 kg CO2

Mike Pitts


Monday I joined my boss on the train journey down to Swindon (we both live in beautiful North Wales) but got stuck at Newport thanks to train problems right along the London line. Dealing with emails and joining meetings by phone worked until the trains were moving again when I could finally make it to a meeting with ESRC to talk about our planned competition on solving urban challenges using sustainability data. That excellent (if delayed) meeting was followed by a similar one with NERC as we confirmed the involvement of both research councils in the call. Watch this space.

When I finally arrived in the office I hastily joined the regular briefing session from Iain Gray our CEO then caught up with Zahid Latif (Head of Health+Care) on our input into the NHS Sustainable Development Unit consultation. Their objectives match several of our cross programme aims in Health+Care and Urban Living. This was followed by a meeting on our project portfolio and how we track it all better and a chat with our team PA on the competition planning process so she can better help us. After some IT updates I was at last able to head to London for the night.

Tuesday had a big circular economy theme to it. The morning saw me meeting with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation team to get their input to our next circular economy competition. We were examining common barriers to circular economy approaches as many companies are very keen to try them but aren’t forging ahead yet. The meeting was very productive and we had been hearing similar issues and agreed on the general structure. We will consult further with their industrial members.

I then raced over to Portcullis House to join a debate on the circular economy hosted by Laura Sandys MP and organised by Resource Event and Green Alliance. Using the latest Circular Economy Taskforce report as a starting point the panel debated what was needed from a policy perspective. I was disappointed much of the debate centred on the politics of waste collection and recycling rather than supporting more innovative approaches but some interesting points were raised nonetheless.

I spent the evening with colleagues from the KTN debating how they fit into the overall sustainability picture for us. The prompt for the debate was the following day’s training session where Nicky Conway and I took ten of the KTN staff through our Horizons tool. The KTN (amongst other things) help applicants to our calls develop their proposals and we want a team of KTN people trained to help them think harder about the social and environmental drivers for projects using Horizons. We took the group through the background to the tool, then through an in depth exercise before getting them to develop training presentations for their colleagues. Soon we’ll have them helping applicants understand the power of Horizons at all competition briefing events.

The workshop was a long one but I did manage to catch up with Janet Geddes beforehand on disaster resilience, off grid power and healthcare in developing countries. She is exploring the case for innovation in these areas and we’ve met a fair few companies through the Missions who do exactly this. I also took a call after the workshop with a project that wanted to delay their start having just received an offer. We were able to work something out given we always try to help projects towards the best outcomes.

Thursday I travelled into Liverpool for the International Festival of Business event we’d lent our Clean and Cool brand to. The day covered issues for cleantech and after lunch saw 17 companies pitch to a panel of judges that included me. A highlight of the morning was Guy Pattison making the case for celebration in promoting our cleantech strengths and recognising that success breeds success. We want to build the Clean and Cool alumni network along these lines. I was delighted that the day’s best pitches came from ex-Clean and Cool companies and it was good to see the connections and support between the companies in the room.

We took the opportunity at the event to announce the 2015 Clean and Cool Mission. It will open for application on 1st September but for now you can go to and watch the videos from our alumni and hear from us what we are looking for and why we have two parts to it this time...

Friday was spent ironing out the latest plans for various competitions and clearing the emails that had built up while travelling. I also talked to some applicants that didn’t get funded about what is coming next; hopefully some good news after the disappointment. I continued my good deeds by giving another pint of blood that evening.

Other topics discussed this week: sleeping in airplane toilets, sashimi vs ceviche, coffee and oil trading.

Stat of the week:  7.7 million items of clothing have been prevented from ending up in landfill through the Shwopping initiative. The partnership, between M&S and Oxfam, has generated over £5 million for the charity since Shwopping launched in April 2012.

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 46 kg CO2

Mike Pitts


I travelled into London first thing to start the week and began with a call from Tracy Sutton on connecting up innovation expertise in resource efficiency. Her particular focus is packaging and we’d certainly like to see her at The Great Recovery events in future. I was spending the rest of my morning (and some of the afternoon) at Forum for the Future. I’m often there and the CEO, Sally Uren promised me she follows this blog religiously (hi Sally!).

At Forum Nicky Conway and I went through our current plans for spreading the Horizons word and getting it more used. Next week we train up a number of KTN people. We talked about joint plans with Nicky holding me to firm actions as ever! I then met with Louise Armstrong, Anna Warrington and Zoe Le Grand to run through our problem setting for a workshop the next day.

Avoiding the Tour de France I made my way to Hub Westminster to record my piece to camera about the next Clean and Cool Mission. We announce the early details next week and the website will feature a video of me, Guy Pattison (from the co-leading The Long Run Venture) and Stephen Marcus of Mission host Cleantech Group. More next week...

The next day started at Central St Martin’s in their impressive Granary Square building. I was with Ben Griffin our Design Lead to talk about sustainable design and innovation with a team at CSM. We saw some excellent portfolios from students and the wonderful facilities they have as well as learning how a culturally diverse (around 90 different nationalities) and young group of people living in London are a great way to gather future insights.

Ben and I then headed to Battersea Arts Centre to meet with Jo Hunter and David Jubb and hear about how they put the user at the heart of innovation: they bring the user into the innovation process! Their ‘scratch’ approach has a producer facilitating development of a new work directly between and artist and an audience (small group). It has been very successful and they applied it to redevelopment of their large, listed building. We talked a lot about the value of creative and divergent thinking, including the study that showed children had fewer ideas for new uses of a paperclip as they got older.

I then said goodbye to Ben and, staying sarf of the river, headed to London Bridge and the Futures Cities Catapult. They were kindly hosting a meeting of Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Business Model Group with me providing the ‘problem’ this time. I was keen for the member companies to tell us what was stopping them moving to more circular business models and systems. How could they be part of value networks that kept resources in more productive use for longer? We had a great discussion and it will be used to shape a competition for early next year.

During the meeting David Bent showed us how forward thinking the Mr Men are. Mr Silly (in a book David was reading to his children) tried to buy a hole but instead was offered a spade. He found this very silly, whereas the ‘normal’ people thought Mr Silly was the daft one. A nice summing up of consumer barriers to circular economy!

Wednesday I headed north to Wellingborough to visit one of BASF’s research farms (pic below) where they look at increasing biodiversity on farmland. The farmer (a fellow Pitts) explained that using field borders which are essentially unproductive land (and no more than 5%) to grow plants that increase biodiversity has advantages. The Grange Farm has seen around 250% increase in breeding birds over four years and an increase in pollinators and natural pest predators (they hadn’t sprayed for aphids for 7 years). The plants provide a green wall and root filtration against pesticide contamination of the farm streams as well.

Heading home I caught up with Shoothill who were about to launch GaugeMap as a result of a project we funded with them, see: This provides all river gauge data in the UK and can help not only river users but those at flood risk to plan. Each gauge also has its own Twitter account you can follow. They’d even had some early celebrity endorsement!

Thursday and Friday I worked through planning two big competitions later this year and some of the paperwork involved, as well as a review with the boss and a teleconference to prepare next week’s meetings.

Other topics discussed this week: Caitlin Moran, Facebook profiles, dried Weetabix, roadmapping.

Stat of the week:  For every five houses we build in the UK, the equivalent of one house in waste materials gets put into landfill. See:

This weeks’ travel carbon footprint: 38 kg CO2

Mike Pitts