Andy Kerr, 22 March 2017
Governments, businesses and civic society are grappling with extraordinary changes in our world. The challenge of reshaping our cities and regions in a period of rapid urbanisation and changing work and social patterns. The challenge of exploiting the power of new technologies – particularly data driven innovation and innovation in materials – whilst maintaining social and economic cohesion. And the challenge of radically changing the way we produce and use energy and land to slow and adapt to changes in our climate.
Solving these challenges must be a collective endeavour involving public, private, civic and academic partners. The recent Green Paper on Industrial Strategy from the UK Government is a welcome initial contribution, embedding a long term vision for the energy sector within a wider industrial strategy.
This is not a call for a return to seeking to micro-manage sectors in the economy. It is a call for ensuring the underpinning issues: effective skills within the work force; investment in research and innovation; support to help commercial and social enterprises to thrive; and clarity about the long-term vision – which for me remains lacking in the Green Paper – are prioritised in future.
This critical issue of creating an environment that turns good ideas into reality is a core part of ECCI’s mission. We host the Ideas Lab, for pre-commercial business ideas, and a business accelerator to support scaling up businesses. More widely across Scotland, ECCI is now part of the very constructive move to get all players to join forces to build a collective enabling CAN DO framework as part of a Scotland-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The opportunities are huge. A UK Government review suggested the clean growth/energy sector had direct sales of £71 billion in 2015, employing more than 450,000 people. This is the same size as the food and drink sector and twice the size of the chemicals sector. Globally, the market is worth well-over $1 trillion, and growing fast.
But if we are serious about tackling these continent-wide challenges, we need to scale up our endeavours. This is where Climate-KIC comes in. Climate-KIC is one of the Knowledge and Innovation Comunities (KICs) created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). It has been quietly bringing together its education, innovation and entrepreneurship into a range of programmes to give people and businesses the skills and financial support to make their ideas and new products and services succeed internationally. Now with new leadership at European level with CEO Kirsten Dunlop, and in the UK and Ireland with Director Tom Mitchell, Climate-KIC provides a vibrant community of companies, cities and regions, small and medium size companies, start-ups and students to drive innovation.
It is hugely exciting for ECCI to bring Europe’s leading climate innovation programme to Scotland. It provides a boost for Scotland’s low carbon business sector, building on the sector’s worth of almost £11 billion and support for 43,500 jobs. And it comes hot on the heels of the Scottish Government’s plans for delivering its ambitious climate change targets, and a draft energy strategy that would see the country transform its production and use of energy.
ECCI will be at the heart of one of four climate-focussed innovation ‘clusters’ in the UK and Ireland, supported through Climate-KIC’s programme of start-up support and innovation programmes. The Scottish cluster will focus on emerging strengths in data innovation, as well as the twin themes of rural and water innovation.
We’ll be offering Scottish entrepreneurs the opportunity to bid for funding and dedicated support to help develop their new products and services into new markets, from the Accelerator process to get low carbon start-ups to investment-ready to ClimateLaunchpad, the world’s largest cleantech business idea competition and the Greenhouse support programme for budding climate entrepreneurs.
Come and take part!
Director, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation