Author: edinburghcentre

Climate-KIC is creating a force for change


27 September 2017

Iain Findlay, co-founder and co-director of consultancy Aurora Sustainability, is a mentor for green ideas competition ClimateLaunchpad at ECCI. His business partner Isabella Guerrini de Claire is a mentor on our Climate-KIC Accelerator programme.

Here Iain writes about his experience of supporting low carbon start-ups to develop their business ideas through Climate-KIC.

It’s hard to believe that the journey Isabella and I have been on with Climate-KIC is barely a year old.

We are in the unusual position of being previous participants on the programme’s ClimateLaunchpad competition – reaching the European finals last year – and now acting as mentors for start-ups taking part in the Climate-KIC programme at ECCI.

This allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of the start-ups we are mentoring – and speak from experience about what a useful and energising process it is, regardless of how far you progress.

Being an entrepreneur is a heady mixture of enthusiasm, self-belief, self-doubt, sleepless nights and determination. That’s what I love most about the process – being around people who have the ideas and the desire to make the future a place we might still be able to live in.

The ClimateLaunchpad boot camp training really focusses the mind on what it takes to make an idea happen. It’s a reality check. We ask participants to pitch again and again, honing as they go. We ask the necessary questions – what are they actually selling? And who is going to buy it? The improvement is staggering. Change must happen if our future is to be less hazardous. ClimateLaunchpad is about helping people become a force for this change.

The Climate-KIC Accelerator programme is less about having ideas and more about turning one of those ideas into a commercial proposition. It’s a much more serious affair and so it should be – money is being invested.

As Climate-KIC mentors, Aurora Sustainability has been lucky to work with two different entrepreneurs with wildly different ideas. We speak the language of sustainability and these smart, driven and inspired people hear us – with the learning going both ways.

There is lots of crazy weather out there but only one global climate. And it is not happy. Change is coming and Climate-KIC is the world’s largest concerted attempt to focus the power of entrepreneurial imagination on this challenge. We feel lucky to be a part of it. ECCI seems like the natural home for this competition in Scotland. It’s an inspiring place for an inspirational initiative.

And maybe that’s what sticks with me the most. Climate-KIC feels like a family affair. We’re in it together. If an amazing idea comes to fruition, we will all benefit. And if someone makes a lot of money from their years of hard work and self-belief, I’m happy with that. And what could be better than working on this amazing programme in Scotland, home of world leading inventions and innovations – and of many of the climate innovators of tomorrow.



Why algae?

29 June 2017

Douglas Martin, founder of ECCI resident start-up MiAlgae, has written a guest blog for Interface about his experience of taking part in the Climate-KIC Accelerator.

“Earlier this month I joined seven other start-ups from around Scotland to take part in the kick-off meeting for the Climate-KIC Accelerator programme at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI). I felt like I was at my first day at school again – except we met not in a dusty classroom, but in ECCI’s airy low carbon hub.

“We represent a diverse range of innovations, from an adjustable tap adapter which reduces water usage to a durable solar lamp to cut paraffin use in rural Africa. But all of us have two things in common – a product or a service that cuts carbon or displaces higher carbon activity, and a desire to see our businesses go stratospheric…”

 Read the full blog on Interface’s website.

A view from inside the 3rd European Climate Change Adaptation Conference


Climate change adaptation experts from across Europe – and internationally – gather in Glasgow this week for the 3rd European Climate Change Adaptation Conference.

Produced by ECCI’s resident policy facing groups Adaptation Scotland and ClimateXChange, the event will bring together upwards of 1000 delegates for four days of lesson sharing, workshops and excursions across research, policy and practice.

The conference includes a a separate and tailor-made business and innovation programme, recognising the increasing importance and need for the business sector in developing and delivering climate ready solutions, as well as the urgency of adapting businesses to a changing climate. The ECCA Innovation Day is open to all and provides an opportunity to connect start-up businesses, SMEs, entrepreneurs, local authorities, civil society, researchers, students and others.

Read more about the conference in ClimateXChange’s blog and look out for a round up of blogs fresh from the conference next week:

ClimateLaunchpad explained


ECCI’s expert team and partners help explain what ClimateLaunchpad is all about in two guest blogs:
ECCI writes for Scottish Funding Council about Scotland’s thriving climate start-ups:
Aurora Consulting founder Isabella Guerrini De Claire Ph.D. shares her experience of taking part in ClimateLaunchpad 2016 for Edinburgh Napier’s Bright Red Triangle:

A Night of Rebellion and Revolution at ECCI

by Maggie McMillan, Digital Content and Production Manager, Colour Elements (ECCI Low Carbon Ideas Lab Residents)


(C) Caitlin Rae

Last year the fashion industry was projected to reach a staggering $2.4 trillion in total value. If it were ranked alongside individual countries’ GDP, the global fashion industry would represent the world’s seventh largest economy. However, the production and consumption of fashion also has an enormous environmental and carbon impact.

Our company Colour Elements thinks it’s shocking that a third of our clothes end up in landfill each year, so we use digital products to promote a new mindset and endorse sustainable shopping habits. It’s our role in trying to curb fashion’s impact on the environment that led to us being chosen as one of the first ever Ideas Lab residents at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI). It allows us to be part of a thriving low carbon community using innovation to set us on the path to a zero carbon world.

Last Wednesday night, ECCI was transformed into a buzzing hub playing host to Edinburgh’s only  Fashion Revolution Event of 2017. Fashion Revolution is a global movement that was founded following the horrific Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, where 1,138 garment workers lost their lives and over 2,500 were injured due to the collapse of a garment production factory. Fashion Revolution has worked hard since to radically change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed.  The event saw more than 100 people flock to ECCI for a screening of Alex James’s documentay Slowing Down Fast Fashion and an expert panel discussion, live workshops and a showcase of cutting-edge sustainable designers.

The night provided a platform to push forward the sustainable discussion, promote innovation in the industry and ignite the public into taking action. Seeing so many people come together, and the fantastic response it got on social media, was overwhelmingly positive!

Events such as the Copenhagen Fashion Summit show there is a massive global interest in developing sustainable methods of sourcing and producing clothing.

Scotland has the opportunity to be part of this conversation and ECCI is happy to host!  Colour Elements has already bagged a place at the table – want to join us?

Led by founder and CEO Karen Finlayson, Colour Elements is the product of one of the original ideas incubated in ECCI’s Low Carbon Ideas Lab in 2015. The Low Carbon Ideas Lab, based at ECCI’s purpose built low carbon hub in the centre of Edinburgh, provides support, mentoring and world class accommodation for inspirational ideas that accelerate Scotland’s progress towards a low carbon economy. Find out more: 

Is cold the hottest new trend? Capturing the new ‘cold economy’

ice-cubes-1194502_1280Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University and Professor Toby Peters, Visiting Professor in Transformational Innovation for Sustainability, Heriot-Watt University share new thinking on how to meet the global demand for cooling – while reducing emissions and energy use – and call for global working groups from R&D institutes to accelerate delivery. 

Cold is a pillar of modern society and demand is booming worldwide to deliver air conditioning, data centre cooling and transport refrigeration, particularly in emerging economies. Although our cooling technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they are, in equal measure, energy intensive. The IPCC projects that, by the end of this century, air conditioning alone will consume almost half the electricity that we generate worldwide today.

Cold is also highly polluting, emitting 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions, which is three times more than aviation and shipping combined. Large amounts of toxic NOx and particulate materials are also released.

While we pollute, we are equally wasteful, throwing away huge quantities of cold during the re-gasification of liquid natural gas (LNG) at import terminals. But what if we could recycle this wastage, simultaneously providing cold and power? Could this dramatically reduce the environmental impact and spiralling costs?

The global trade in LNG has increased significantly in recent years and is vital to the energy security of a growing number of countries. LNG is natural gas that has been refrigerated to -162°C to make it compact enough to transport by tanker, but this cold energy is normally discarded during the re-gasification process. Research suggests that recycling this waste cold could generate more than $50 per tonne in economic and social benefits. With a projected global LNG trade of 500 million tonnes, this new “waste recycling” market could be worth $25 billion per year by 2025.

Economic modelling and case studies developed in Britain, Spain, Singapore and India suggest that in ‘developed economies’, LNG waste cold could form the foundations of an entirely new economy – the ‘cold economy.’

Energy would be stored and moved as cold rather than converted into electricity and then converted again to provide cooling. The Cold Economy is less about individual clean cold technologies – although these are vital – and more about the efficient integration of cooling with waste and renewable resources, and with the wider energy system.

The Cold Economy approach is powerful because it recognises that there is no demand for cold per se, but for services that depend on it. For the first time we are asking ourselves ‘what is the energy service we require, and how can we provide it in the least damaging way’, rather than ‘how much electricity do I need to generate?’

If the service required is cooling, current approaches such as burning diesel, which produces power and heat, or electric-powered air conditioners that expel heat into their immediate environment, are suboptimal.

Only 23 of the 111 LNG import terminals worldwide currently attempt any form of cold recovery and this is usually limited to the industrial plants close to the terminals themselves and at times when LNG is being re-gasified. The amount recycled could be raised by converting it into novel energy vectors that store and transport it for use on demand, such as liquid air or liquid nitrogen. Recycling waste cold in this way would produce cheap, low carbon, zero-emission cryogenic ‘fuel.’

Britain is currently developing two main energy technologies that could exploit large amounts of LNG waste cold: liquid air energy storage (LAES), which provides large-scale electricity storage for balancing the electricity grid and cryogenic expansion engines (CEE) that are driven by liquid air or nitrogen.

Due to the current grid regulations in the UK and elsewhere, the business case for new investment in LAES is challenging but the financial potential of CEE applications is more positive.

The first application of a CEE system is a zero-emission transport refrigeration unit to displace the highly polluting secondary diesel engines used on trucks and trailers today. Developed by the Dearman Engine Company, it is now in commercial trials with Sainsbury’s. Other Dearman engine applications include a back-up electricity and cooling generator for data and food distribution centres, and a ‘heat hybrid’ engine for trucks and buses that reduces diesel consumption by over 25%.

It is estimated that projected global trade of 500mtpa LNG in 2025 could produce enough liquid air to cool almost four million fleet-average refrigerated trucks – equal to the entire global transport refrigeration units fleet today.

While waste cold of LNG re-gasification is a huge resource, there are also significant barriers to overcome: air liquefiers are capital intensive, plant operators are naturally risk averse, and any such project would require an entirely new business model. Barriers aside, modelling shows that recycling LNG waste cold as distributed cold and power would be profitable once demonstrated and produce significant and measurable environmental benefits.

Given the urgency to meet global cooling demand growth, there is a clear need for government, industry and research institutes to convene global working groups to accelerate delivery of the cold economy with an in-depth feasibility study. This will maximise the business case through an in-depth analysis of the economic, environmental, and energy resilience aspects of this approach, comparing its costs and benefits with alternative strategies for greening cooling.

Heriot-Watt University Energy Academy is a pan-university initiative supported by all Schools at the Edinburgh and Orkney campuses. The Energy Academy has two principal objectives; to consolidate energy research activities and facilitate interdisciplinary programmes, both within the university and with other HEIs; and to ensure external parties can easily gain an appreciation of our vision, skills-base and active research projects. R&D activities at Heriot-Watt University are designed to be demand-driven and in line with current priority industry and government objectives. For more information, please visit

Scale and opportunity: our partnership with Climate-KIC

Andy Kerr, 22 March 2017

Andy speaking

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!

Andy Kerr

Director, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation

ECCI’s Vision for the Future

Andy Kerr, March 2017


At ECCI, we have a very simple vision for the future: we want to see a thriving zero-carbon world. Of course, getting from where we are today to where we want to be is the grand challenge that faces us. But we live in a world in which radical, disruptive change is becoming the norm. In areas as diverse as politics, new social norms, new business models, the power of data and information technology, and in engineered materials, many of the old certainties are being discarded.

We want to explore how these social, business, technological and political changes will impact on the delivery of a  thriving, zero carbon world. To do this, we are starting a regular blog, drawing on ECCI staff, friends of ECCI, and invited writers. We want to tease out some of these critical issues, to challenge ourselves, our members and our stakeholders, and we want to share some of the exciting developments occurring around the world. From data driven innovation in energy – think smart meters and phone apps that reduce the costs of warming your home – to re-designing everyday products and services that create no waste, from new government climate regulations to how communities organise themselves, we will ask what matters and how it will affect our households, communities and businesses.

At ECCI, our ethos is that no one individual or organisation has all the answers. We must be open to engaging and harnessing knowledge from diverse sources and organisations. We also firmly believe that zero carbon leadership is needed at all levels of organisations and society. We need to recognize the potential for leadership from around the world and help develop it wherever we can.

So, ECCI works with civic society in cities, regions and states. We work with entrepreneurs and small enterprises. We work with large corporates. And we work with Universities. We are keen for you to engage. Whether you agree or disagree with our ideas and views, or think you know better and want to contribute yourself, please let us know.

Andy Kerr

Executive Director, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI)

Director, Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation Ltd.

Co-Director, Scottish Centre for Expertise on Climate Change (ClimateXChange)

ECCI welcomes first Hong Kong CEO

Last week ECCI, along with our partner, the University of Edinburgh, announced the appointment of a renowned Hong Kong sustainability expert to head up our Hong Kong centre.

shelleyzhou_small_webDr Shelley Zhou (pictured) will lead the University of Edinburgh’s Scotland Hong Kong Carbon Innovation Centre at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. The Team Scotland Centre is led by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) and is funded by the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, BRE Scotland and Scottish Development International.

At a Hong Kong reception sponsored by Pinsent Masons LLP and attended by Team Scotland 2016 Trade Mission businesses and ECCI’s Head of Innovation Ed Craig, Dr Zhou spoke about her vision and ambitions for HKCCI.


Dr Shelley Zhou’s opening address

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends, good evening.

It is a great honour for me to be here as CEO of the Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation.

I’m also really pleased to be part of this new initiative – because Edinburgh University is the first education institution in the world to establish a low carbon research and innovation centre overseas. I’ll talk more about our plans for the Centre in a moment, but first let me introduce myself.

My name is Shelley Zhou. I grew up in Wuxi, a city near Shanghai. I trained in Environmental Engineering in Shanghai and Hong Kong and took my PhD at the National University of Singapore. After attending the UN Climate Conference in Bali in 2007, I became one of the very first carbon consultants in Hong Kong.

I then set up the sustainability function at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and was in charge of the Club’s sustainability performance and reporting over the past 7 years.

At the same time I’ve been teaching at Hong Kong universities.

My aim is to use my technical expertise, academic network and corporate experience to help the Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation establish itself as a major driver of, and partner for, low-carbon innovation in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

So let me now turn to explain a bit more about the Centre and our objectives.

The late Prof. C.K. Prahalad pointed out that big social and environmental challenges present immense untapped market opportunities. He urged companies to create what he called “Next Practices”, since incremental improvements to existing practices are simply not adequate.

Next Practices are about innovation: imagining what the future will look like; identifying the mega-opportunities that will arise; and building capabilities to capitalize on them.

The Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation is all about Next Practices.

The Centre will act as a hub to bring together Scottish and Hong Kong talent, resources and ideas to create an incubation space for new low carbon ideas, products & projects. It will focus on areas such as sustainable construction, green transportation, energy efficiency, resource management and smart cities.

To facilitate this, we will create a team dedicated to identifying, brokering and accelerating Scottish-Hong Kong partnerships, providing a gateway to Mainland China.

And we will share and develop best practice with the Hong Kong Government and with academic and business partners. Backed by the University of Edinburgh and our three partners, we will provide executive courses, short courses and training to share the latest low-carbon technologies and solutions.

Looking ahead, I also believe that as more and more Chinese companies are going global, we should think about how to help these companies adopt low-carbon solutions when they go overseas.

Now one question you may ask – what knowledge does a Scottish institution have that we don’t already have in Hong Kong and Mainland China?

My answer is that the task we are faced with globally is huge – according to the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 2°C. To tackle this challenge I think we need to maximise our knowledge base – to share and learn from each other. In Mainland China especially, where the UN Environment Programme estimates it will require around €500 billion a year from 2016 to 2020 to finance its national environmental goals, there is an urgent need for innovative ideas and fresh thinking.

So my aim as CEO is to facilitate this knowledge exchange. To bring talent together to explore new low-carbon opportunities, which can benefit Hong Kong and Mainland China, and may also have applications elsewhere.

I am very excited about the prospects ahead. The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation has already established itself as an effective forum for promoting low-carbon solutions. And by establishing this new centre in Hong Kong I look forward to it building very effective partnerships between Scotland, Hong Kong and Mainland China as we work together to build a sustainable and low-carbon future for all.

Thank you.

Shelley Zhou, CEO of the Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation, October 24 2016

Gearing up for the launch of Scotland’s Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation

Later this month ECCI will launch its first base outside Edinburgh in Hong Kong. The Scotland Hong Kong Centre for Carbon Innovation (SHKCCI) will provide a conduit for Scottish organisations aiming to create local partnerships and introduce products and services to Hong Kong businesses. The Team Scotland Centre will be led by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) and is funded by the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and BRE Scotland. Look out for more news on our website soon.

Below we hear from Kate Armitage, from Scottish SME Route Monkey, about her experiences on her first trip to Hong Kong in May. Kate will return to Hong Kong with eight other ambitious low carbon enterprises to help launch the new SHKCCI later this month.

At the end of May ECCI ten Scottish companies took part in a shared initiative between ECCI and Scottish Development International initiative to share best business practise ideas with Hong Kong and Chinese counterparts. For a full itinerary and list of the companies who made the trip visit our website.

Expanding a business internationally can be daunting for a small business like Route Monkey. So when we were offered the opportunity to join a trade mission to Hong Kong, along with other fast growing Scottish SMEs, I was very excited. We already work with fleets operating in most UK towns and cities; and the potential for Route Monkey to create a positive impact in Asia helping to tackle their current challenges with road congestion and poor air quality was too good an opportunity to miss.

Kate Armitage at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (2)

Route Monkey specialises in the development of algorithms and software that drives efficiency in the fleet logistics sector, ensuring the right vehicle is in the right place, at the right time, with the right driver. We help fleets save money by reducing mileage and carbon, and helping fleets model the potential for ultra-low carbon vehicles such as electric or hydrogen. This ‘win: win’ approach has seen us grow to over 500 customers in the last 9 years, including working with high-profile retailers such as Iceland and Net A Porter. This practical, low-risk approach, translates well into international markets with large road transport fleets, using over stretched road infrastructure that need to reduce their carbon footprint. Perfect for Hong Kong.

I arrived in Hong Kong slightly nervous, having never travelled to Asia before either for business or pleasure. But my reservations were allayed as soon I arrived at the airport; the signage was in English and the train service (TMR) that runs from the airport to Hong Kong Island was easy to use, reliable, clean and fast. First impressions count, and throughout the trip I learned that public transport in Hong Kong (train, tram, bus, taxi) is the mainstay for well over 90% of the population.

Perhaps because Hong Kong is a former British Colony, English is widely spoken, both in business and hospitality, which makes life much easier. I was treated with courtesy and received a very warm welcome from our hosts. Of course, much of the credit for the organisation and our reception in Hong Kong, is thanks to both ECCI and SDI who had prepared an impressive and busy itinerary for the group throughout the visit. I met with high-profile companies including: Marks & Spencer, Swire, Wah Kwong, Octopus, The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Poly U and CLP (China Light & Power). I also learned more about the local economy, legislation and environmental issues in a series of meetings with Invest Hong Kong, The Climate Group and Business Environment Council among others.

All in all it was an excellent itinerary that has given Route Monkey an overview of the market opportunities and introduced us to some of the most prestigious companies in Hong Kong. What next? I have already been in touch with my new contacts and I am hoping to schedule a second visit to Hong Kong shortly to develop these relationships. Route Monkey is continuing to work closely with ECCI and SDI, and we are planning to rent hot desk space from ECCI at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. It is a fantastic facility that will allow Route Monkey to operate an office in Hong Kong while keeping overheads to a minimum. At the same time we have an opportunity to network with the Smart Mobility cluster located at the Park and utilise the TecONE zone designed to support new business innovation.

We are still very much at the beginning of our market entry to Asia but, with the support of ECCI and SDI, Route Monkey is genuinely excited about the potential to take our products and services global.

Kate Armitage

Projects & Strategy Director, Route Monkey