Author: edinburghcentre

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


Smart City, Smart Solutions – International Low Carbon delegation to Hong Kong

We ask Low Carbon Ideas Lab resident Karen Finlayson, CEO of Colour Elements, about the recent Hong Kong Mission.

It just shows that when you’re starting out you’ve got to put yourself out there. You never know when or where you’re going to make the next connection or meet the right person. And there’s no shortage of opporutnities to do that at ECCI.

What does your company, Colour Elements, do?

Colour Elements offers inspiration for worn-colour through digital products and training for leaders within retail, business and politics – reducing wasteful consumption of clothing.

I successfully pitched to join ECCI’s Low Carbon Ideas Lab last Autumn and have been soaking up as many of the pitching and networking opportunities ever since.

As an early stage business I want to take every opportunity I can to get my message out there so when the opportunity cam up to go to Hong Kong I jumped at the chance.

What was the purpose of the trip?

The overall aim was to introduce Scottish companies to senior Hong Kong business, academic, voluntary and government representatives, explore potential partnerships and customers, and hear from experts regarding policy drivers, regulatory landscape, business environment and key business opportunities.

Hong Kong is a major financial centre with a population of seven million people, so it provides a unique and exciting opportunity for Scottish businesses focused on low carbon products and services. And as the ‘Gateway to China’ it also offers access to an even greater market.

What did you do?

It was incredible packed week for me and the other delegates (see the list below). We attended the City Carbon Vision 2015 conference, an event tackling green action and investment in the buildings sector to reduce carbon footprints at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. I was asked to speak in a discussion panel about my role within the sustainable fashion as part of the ‘Creating Smarter Buildings for Cities’ session.

ECCI also put together a series of high level meetings with organisations and corporations interested in Scottish low carbon products and projects such as UKTI, Invest Hong Kong, Swire Group, China Light and Power, Marks & Spencer, HK Jockey Club as well as Universities such as PolyU, Tour & networking reception at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP).

What did Colour Elements get out of it?

I got a great response from the delegates at the conference. Shopping is a major past time and tourist attraction and waste is already a major issue because of the high density population so there is a massive opportunity for sustainable fashion in Hong Kong. I was also able to meet up with some Hong Kong based fashion bloggers I follow on twitter and will be following up this week with the Professor of Fashion and Technology at PolyU. As well as the planned meetings I had a piece of good fortune when I bumped into the founder of EcoChic – the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition – at a networking event. It just shows that when you’re starting out you’ve got to put yourself out there. You never know when or where you’re going to make the next connection or meet the right person. And there’s no shortage of opporutnities to do that at ECCI.

Karen’s fellow delegate companies include:

BRE, Rufus Logan 

Experts on the sustainable built environment

Envirocentre, Paul Darnborough 
Environmental consultants across a number of areas focusing on waste management & recycling

GS RENEWABLE and GS PassivHaus, Thomas Vaughan

Energy Efficiency Specialists (winners of the UK National Heat Pump Award in 2013) and developing carbon negative housing

Route Monkey, Kate Armitage

Solve complex mobility problems via optimisation of assets including vehicles, employees and infrastructure by automating the planning process and driving efficiencies within all types of businesses and organisations

Spot Sensors, Gordon McGregor 

Development and delivery of internet connected environmental sensor devices – target markets include air quality monitoring

Sunamp Ltd., Maurizio Zaglio

A leader in thermal energy storage and have devleloped the sunamp heat battery a very efficient battery storage solution delivering heat and hot water

Sustainable Partners Ltd, Dr Bob Irving

Conversion of algae biomass to transport biofuel; bioethanol and other relevant by-products of the process

Colour Elements, Karen Finlayson          

Colour Elements offers inspiration for worn-colour through digital products and training for leaders within retail, business and politics – reducing wasteful consumption of clothing.

Hong Kong reflections

By Dr Andy Kerr, Director, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, the University of Edinburgh

It is perhaps inevitable that it takes a visit to Hong Kong to learn intriguing facts about the University of Edinburgh.
In a week of striking statements, I learnt that the University has more Chinese students than attend all the Ivy League Universities put together; and more than Oxford and Cambridge Universities together.
This is fertile territory for us to be exploring potential partnerships that can help us better understand Hong Kong and China’s strategic challenges, against which we can identify who is best placed in the University – and more widely – to provide effective research insights that can deliver positive impacts.

Pressing challenges in Hong Kong include the desire for a “liveable city”: tackling issues such as wasteful energy use in buildings; traffic congestion and poor air quality from vehicle emissions; waste utilisation, given the limited space available to landfill; and water management, to cope with the increasingly extreme rainfall events.
We had a taste of tropical rainstorms during a “red weather warning” period in midweek, when 2 inches of rain (50mm+) fell in an hour.

This storm contributed to long delays for air travellers, including for our senior Vice-Principal and party. The same storm contributed to substantial flooding – and some loss of life – elsewhere in southern China.

This trip re-emphasised to me the huge opportunities for the University to apply its research insights – from many different disciplinary backgrounds – to help tackle pressing social challenges in Hong Kong and more widely in China.
The University has a huge advantage in being able to draw on our extraordinary alumni to build the partnerships necessary to translate research insights into practical action.

At the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation we work with low carbon leaders and practitioners from business, finance and the public sector. The centre focuses on large-scale low carbon projects and helps companies create new kinds of low carbon products and services.
Our packed week in Hong Kong included a conference on low carbon cities, run by the Climate Group, sponsored by ECCI and hosted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, an unusual not-for-profit organisation that provides around 10% of Hong Kong’s entire tax revenue.
We explored future partnerships with key organisations and individuals, showcased some innovative Scottish companies to Hong Kong partners, and visited our proposed new University office at the stunning Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.
It was also valuable to meet past and future students and current colleagues at the events organised by the University’s Development and Alumni team.
The final intriguing fact of the week? There is an official Chinese tartan, bringing together the red and gold of China and the blue and white of Scotland.


Vijay Bhopal, Scene Consulting

View Vijay’s Slides from the February ECCI residents’ Carbon Chat Room.

From November to January I was in India along with my colleague, Anna Harnmeijer. The trip was part of an ongoing project, seed-funded through the Scottish Government International Development Small Grants Programme. This is the first field trip in a three year long project which aims to pilot a communications solution to halt the decay of off-grid renewable energy projects in rural parts of the state of Odisha.

The problem definition and premise of our solution is explained properly here. In short we are looking to improve supply chain communications using SMS Gateway technology and data connectivity to ensure that local entrepreneurs are able to create profitable businesses from maintaining small-scale solar energy projects – leading to a situation in which repairing systems is viable. At the moment the expertise and parts required are often not available locally, leading to minor issues crippling projects and an inability for problems to be fixed.

From a UK perspective this is a fascinating problem. We are used to seeing standardised O&M contracts in projects that are usually the pride and joy of the communities in which they sit. The story is far different here. Most projects are largely or entirely private donor, or Indian Government driven, meaning that villages have systems given to them for free, or for a small part-payment. This leads to an uncertainty over who owns the systems and who is responsible for upkeep in the long term. Once initial warranty periods are over projects are left in precarious positions, with provision of maintenance services offered in a somewhat ad-hoc manner from the project donors and implementers.

Once illuminated, many of the people in the 25 villages we visited, tell us that they now value electricity and would be willing to pay for their systems to be refurbished. Therefore, we aim to help implement a system that involves at least partial payment for services. We believe that the trick here is to make sure that the supply chains are localised and communications up and down the chain are easy and transparent.

This problem is being widely recognised by project implementation agencies and donors alike. We look forward to working with them to help ease the issue, starting with a pilot project towards the end of 2015.

This project is a collaboration between our organisation, Scene Consulting, the University of Edinburgh, in the shape of Dr Jamie Cross, and Indian organisations SELCO and TERI. Jamie and myself will be presenting the project at the Carbon Chatroom, 19th February 12:30 -13:30, at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

About the author:

VIJAY BHOPAL, Projects Manager

Vijay has an Earth Science background and is a specialist in renewable energy development, energy finance and modelling. He takes the lead of Scene’s consultancy work and has a broad knowledge of renewable energy technologies, especially, wind and hydropower, and is proficient in several economic techniques. He has a good understanding of project development processes in the UK and is able to help clients to navigate the technical, legal, environmental, planning and financial barriers that they are likely to face. Vijay has initiated and developed some of the most leading-edge joint venture partnerships in the UK to date.

Vijay has experience in all sectors, having worked for two charities before making a move into the private sector, giving a rounded approach to stakeholder engagement and project planning. Vijay is an adept project manager as has managed many small-to-medium, and several large (> £1m) projects over the past 5 years.

2020 Climate Group Project Director on target

Congratulations to ECCI resident and champion archer Victoria Barby.

IMG_1863 The 2020 Climate Group Project Director – and part time sharp shooter – came 64th in the world in the European Leg of the World Cup in Nimes, France:

Victoria said:

IMG_0004“What a fantastic experience to shoot against the best in the World, I may not have performed as well as I would have liked, but learnt a lot about shooting under pressure and scoring in French! Looking forward to putting in a better performance next year.”

And of course ECCI is right behind the 2020 Climate helping the Scottish Government to reach those other important targets in 5 years time…

Thoughts from World Future Energy Summit – 2015 – Abu Dhabi by David Townsend, Town Rock Energy

Last week I visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, statistically the 8th highest producer of CO2 emissions per capita and certainly one of the least sustainable places on the planet Earth. The point of my visit was for the 8th World Future Energy Summit (WFES) at Abu Dhabi’s National Exhibition and Conference Centre (ADNEC), and while the summit is a great platform for meeting new business partners and getting an entry point to the Middle Eastern market, it exposes some of the fundamentally unsustainable practices of global summits as well as the glaring short-fallings of the Middle East with regards to implementation of low-carbon technologies when compared to their projected global image. I will briefly explore some of the benefits of the summit when compared to the ironies involved with the region in which it is hosted, and my thoughts on the main barriers to implementation of renewable energy in the region.

Main benefits of the WFES include:

  • Increasing the global presence and importance of furthering the low-carbon agenda through implementation of renewable energy technology, by hosting talks by many prestigious diplomats and industry leaders;
  • Creating a platform for business cooperation and increased globalisation of the renewable sector, especially with regards to consultancy, so as good decisions are made and cost-effective solutions implemented.

Before we delve in to the ironies associated with hosting the WFES there are a few things about the UAE I learned on my travels that I should clarify real quick:

  • The 7th largest consumer of energy per capita, almost all of which comes from the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Designed on the oversized car-obsessed North American city model, with almost no modes of transport other than the car and petrol so cheap that there is no incentives to not drive.
  • Excessive waste of electricity due to highly subsidized electricity and gas prices. Until just a few months ago electricity and gas were completely free to all native inhabitants, so there is no incentive to conserve energy. Some skyscrapers are fully lit up 24/7 even when not in use!
  • They live in a desert that is completely uninhabitable without air conditioning for half the year;
  • They sit upon the world’s 4th largest oil reserve which is also one of the cheapest to produce.

Now that we have the scene set for how care-free the life of an Abu Dhabi energy consume must be, here are some of the main ironies of hosting WFES in Abu Dhabi and down-right “energy crimes” I noticed whilst I was there:

  • Most of the buildings I visited, including the gigantic conference centre ADNEC was overly air conditioned to the point of being uncomfortably cold even for those of us wearing full business attire. We we’re there in the middle of the winter and temperatures we’re about 20 °C, but they don’t seem to adjust air conditioners to account for this. Summer temperatures are regularly above 40 °C.
  • All the water, other than imported in bottled spring water, is first de-salinated via hydrocarbon powered desalinisation plants, and then re-heated by burning gas and using electricity when temperature outside is upwards of 40 °C and solar thermal panels could satisfy all of their hot water needs.
  • More than 30,000 delegates attended the summit, of which at least half took international flights to be there – an enormous amount of carbon dioxide in the name of sustainability.
  • Specific “energy crime” example: Dubai’s indoor ski slope uses the energy equivalent of burning 3500 barrels of oil every day.

Due to the UAE’s excessive energy use and continued economic growth they are now a net importer of gas despite once having huge gas reserves. This will hopefully spurn on the development of cost effective renewable energy sources, but there is no evidence of the sustainable infrastructure investment required to provide the quantities of energy currently consumed.

I recently noticed that WFES has some unfortunate implications associated with its own name and branding. World “Future” Energy Summit implies that these technologies are futuristic, and so will be implemented in the future. Therefore, development of them “today” is not the implied goal when it most certainly should be. It’s 2015 for Christ sake!

However, many barriers exist in the region that do not exist in many other places in the world. Inhabitants of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are already living in a highly synthetic and energetic state of human existence, in the middle of a desert which should never be able to support a population of 4 million with water, food and energy. This echoes what parts of Europe and America may look like in a post-apocalyptic climate change scenario. The highly complex and fragile ecosystems that prevail throughout much of the northern and southern hemisphere have no comparisons in the region, and so less sensitivity exists to the extinction of fauna and flora species.

Two of the most common trains of thought for encouraging self-enforced individual sustainable behaviour patterns are:

  • local externalities such as reduced energy prices, improvements in local living conditions, improvements in health;
  • protecting local ecosystems and general empathy for the natural environment.

Neither really apply to the local inhabitants of the Middle East. For example, the local health benefits of replacing internal combustion engines with electric car has less sway – cigarettes cost about 50p per pack.

Some lines of discussion that may be persuasive:

  • Energy security from local renewables;
  • Maintain market share of oil exports despite increasing internal demand.

A carbon trading scheme may be our best bet for reining in carbon emissions and avoiding catastrophic climate change, but I’m afraid that a global carbon tax would never be taken up by the Middle East. Their lifeblood is oil exports, and no political move will trump this vast wealth creation system they depend on. I think this may be why innovation in the renewables sector has not in reality been led by the UAE, despite driving to go green nearly a decade ago with the formation of Masdar Institute, Masdar City and the World Future Energy Summit. Don’t get me started on Masdar City, we don’t have time…

For a lengthier and more literate analysis of Abu Dhabi’s energy situation please click here []

David Townsend

Founder and MD

Town Rock Energy


2050 Climate Group