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: http://www.nimesarchery.com/en

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…http://www.2020climategroup.org.uk/about-us/mission/

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 [http://bakerinstitute.org/media/files/Research/3fd50ed2/Pub-CES-AbuDhabiRenewables-021314.pdf]

David Townsend

Founder and MD

Town Rock Energy


2050 Climate Group

ECCI Community – Can further devolved powers facilitate sustainable low carbon growth?

Following the Referendum the Smith Commission was set up to deliver cross-party talks and an ‘inclusive engagement process’ to produce, by 30 November, headline recommendations for further devolution of financial, welfare and taxation powers to the Scottish Parliament.

In the lead up to Lord Smith’s report, around 50 members of the ECCI community met to discuss how the findings might effect our work and what further powers would facilitate sustainable low carbon growth, innovation and skills development in the private and public sectors.

The group included students, academics, resident enterprises and members of ECCI’s policy, skills and innovation project teams and was open to all residents.

The overarching themes or areas where the ECCI community believes the Government (Holyrood and/or Westminster) could do more to accelerate the low carbon transition were: 

  1. Support for innovation
  2. Knowledge exchange for innovation
  3. Low carbon skills development
  4. Energy policy
  5. Planning policy
  6. Buildings/built environment policy
  7. Public and community buy-in
  8. Local authorities’ role
  9. Policy instruments

Some of the themes are areas where the Scottish Government (SG) already has responsibility and thus by implication are areas where the ECCI Community believe the SG should change tack or do more. Other themes are reserved policy areas where we think either Westminster should change tack/do more or that it would be better if power were devolved to Holyrood.

Some key discussion points from the themes are listed below:

Support for innovation 

  • Financial support and support services
  • Should we simplify the landscape ( a one-stop-shop) – or should we develop more locally- and sectorally-specific mechanisms?
  • Don’t focus only on projects of scale.
  • Can/should you support small scale innovation or big-impact innovation or try to do both?

Knowledge exchange for innovation

  • Knowledge sharing and active brokerage is important; between communities, city-to-city (cities can be the crucible for innovation even without national action), between businesses and sectors.

Low carbon skills development

  • Vocational training needs to be better valued and resourced; and the modern apprenticeship scheme reinvigorated.
  • Is there a brain drain – at the same time as it seems foreign students are more ambitious and motivated?
  • Low carbon skills gaps identified were: Big data; ICT; Engineering. Equalities (including quotas) measures could be positive. Low carbon leadership for business is needed.

Energy policy

  • We need policy innovation to support the low carbon transition.
  • Particularly in support of more localised energy provision.
  • The current model isn’t working for remote rural communities. Feed in Tarriffs aren’t geographically differentiated.
  • The current market isn’t incentivising the right innovation and investment (e.g. local energy storage or pumped hydro) and removal of incentives for investment in renewables has hit community co-ops.
  • Scottish energy policy is seeking integration of heat, transport & electricity, but this isn’t well supported by thinking at UK level.
  • The divergence between UK and Scottish energy policy implies differentiated powers are needed.  

Planning policy

  • Again, we need policy innovation.
  • Planning policy needs to direct innovation.
  • The planning system needs to be more decentralised.
  • City development needs more focus on low carbon (e.g presumption against greenbelt development).
  • More pubic involvement in planning is needed.

Buildings/built environment policy

  • Solar space heating is excluded from RHI – is there significant untapped potential in Scotland?
  • Housing stock (climate-proofing as far as possible), including efficiency, Retrofitting, conservation principles, planning/ building control and minimum standards in home reports.
  • Zero carbon emission buildings – minimum standards in new construction; the technology exists – need to consider both off site/on site construction.

Public and community buy-in

  • How can community planning partnerships be improved to support low carbon development?
  • How can people take more ownership of issues and policies?
  • Public buy-in needs fostering to support the difficult decisions the Government needs to take.

Local authorities’ role

  • LAs could be ‘redesigned’ with a decision making hierarchy that helps deliver innovation and low carbon outcomes.
  • This subject relates also to Support for Innovation; Planning Policy and to Public and community buy-in.

Policy instruments

  • We discussed a range of policy instruments and their merits. Key policy levers were seen as: business rates – control of rates & application to low carbon e.g. tax from fracking for direct reinvestment in low C economy; other fiscal instruments – e.g. carbon tax; air passenger duty; incentives – here we need longer term certainty;  grants and incentives; demonstrator projects; market creation/mechanisms (such as Green Deal).

The ECCI Community meets regularly in a forum called Carbon Chat Room to discuss the news, events and trends that matter most to our work.

Look out for our reaction to the Smith report findings in December.


ECCI helps Scottish Innovators Through the Gateway

RBSTwo Scottish businesses – Sunamp, and Glaze & Save – have successfully made it all the way through the RBS Innovation Gateway.


Watch the award ceremony: https://www.2degreesnetwork.com/groups/rbs-innovation-gateway/resources/finalists-day-highlights/

Following initial publicity, 140 businesses from across the UK and beyond applied to take part. An entertaining selection process, involving ECCI and other experts, finally concluded in London on Monday with an opportunity for the top 20 to pitch their ‘market ready and garage tested’ propositions to a panel of ‘dragons’. The dragons were Martin Chilcott (2degrees Network), John Elkington (John Elkington), Stephen Howard (Business in the Community), Caroline Rainbird (RBS), Maggie Philbin (Teentech) and ECCI’s very own Ed Craig.

The ten innovations chosen will be fast-tracked into a trialling phase in appropriate RBS buildings (e.g. offices, branch banks or data centres), and it is hoped that all will benefit from the lessons learned and the case studies generated. The most successful should then find wider use within the RBS estate, helping RBS achieve its resource efficiency goals.

Glaze & Save

Glaze & Save is run by Perth-based entrepreneur Tanya Ewing. Tanya, who was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Technology by Edinburgh Napier University is already a well-known low-carbon inventor and innovator through her role in developing and bringing to market the ‘Ewgeco’ real-time energy monitor, designed to help people understand and engage with their energy consumption at home and work.

Lately, Tanya has acquired an innovative secondary glazing system from the Blairgowrie insulation specialists Proctor Group, which she is now successfully bringing to market. The final selection panel (as well as the subject experts who assessed the written applications) recognised the potential fit between her system and the RBS branch network, which includes many traditional and listed buildings with unimproved windows.

Glaze & Save is a secondary glazing system consisting of a polycarbonate sheet held in place with magnetic strips. As such, it is easily removable (for the summer months), it virtually eliminates draughts, significantly reduces conduction heat losses, and offers additional benefits such as improved acoustic insulation and reduces the instances of condensation on the inside of the window. The system is already being tested in-situ out by friends of ECCI in their own homes, and is being helped by Edinburgh Napier University which has played a significant role in providing technical support for both of Tanya’s ventures discussed here.


Sunamp is run by Andrew Bissell, another serial entrepreneur, well-known in the Scottish low-carbon scene. After Andrew sold the successful medical imaging company (Voxar) which he co-founded, he turned his hand to the low-carbon market. He recognized then that low-carbon energy systems of the future (now the present!) will have a greater reliance on energy storage – and heat storage in particular had received very little attention from innovators since the invention of the insulation jacket for the hot water tank.

Working with a number of partners, including chemists at the University of Edinburgh, Andrew has developed a high capacity but compact heat storage system using phase change materials. These have been designed to optimize the performance of integrated energy systems involving solar heating, heat pumps and electricity tariffs with a time-of-use element, for instance.

The system has won significant funding from the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change to trial the performance of a system involving heat pumps and Sunamp products, working with Berwickshire Housing Association.

Runners up still in with a fighting chance

Congratulations, too, to Tantallon Systems (Livingston) and Greenspace Live (Stornoway) for making it all the way to the final twenty, and we hope that these businesses will eventually earn a try-out with RBS or one of its partners in the Innovation Gateway.

ECCI has supported these businesses for around three years, and looks forward to identifying early adopters and other willing partners for more innovators in the future. For further information, please speak to ECCI business manager (and Gateway technical reviewer) Jim Hart.

From the news archive….

ECCI helps Scottish companies to finals of the UK’s largest search for new ‘green’ innovation run by RBS

Four companies from ECCI’s Scottish low carbon innovation community have been selected as finalists in the RBS Innovation Gateway; a new initiative searching for ways of reducing energy, water and waste.

ECCI has supported the progress of these four businesses from around Scotland (Lothians, Tayside, and Western Isles) for one to three years, for instance with technology development, grants, and investment.

The four successful companies werere:

  • Glaze & Save, with a novel secondary glazing system
  • Greenspace Live, with its building modelling software tools
  • Sunamp, with a compact but high capacity heat storage system
  • Tantallon Systems, with an intelligent energy management system for buildings

Launched in March this year, the RBS Innovation Gateway attracted more than 140 submissions in just 40 days, from brand new concepts through to market-ready products and services.

The ideas came from innovators and small businesses (SMEs) around Britain and the world, from Perth in Scotland to Perth in Western Australia.

The best ideas will be tested on the RBS estate of 2,500 buildings and branches in the UK.

Read on…

The Low Carbon Ideas Lab

A landing pad for modern-day entrepreneurs with ideas for the future

Ideas Lab PanelWe are a culture that loves a good sales pitch. And we love the idea of the entrepreneurial spirit taking aim and becoming a success – the romance of the perfect product hitting the sweet spot of the market and becoming ubiquitous to our lives. Cue the wheel, sliced bread and the smart phone. But where do ideas come from and how do we actually encourage the great ones to rise?

Recognising that the way to speed the shift to a low carbon economy is to support the development of new low carbon products and services – the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, 2020 Climate Group and many others are committed to encouraging good ideas to grow and develop. After all, the creation of new and pioneering products and services is only going to happen with truly innovative and motivated entrepreneurs. There is clearly a need but how do we foster and incubate them? How do we speed up the idea development process? What makes someone quit their day job and plunge into a risky set up that is, on average, quite likely to fail?

On the eve of the official announcement of the winners of ECCI’s new Low Carbon Ideas Lab we spoke to Victoria Barby, Project Director for the 2020 Climate Group, and ECCI’s own Business Development Lead, Charlotte Waugh, who both sit on the selection panel, about innovation spotting, Scotland’s burgeoning low carbon economy and why women make great entrepreneurs…

A real entrepreneur is less adverse to risk more willing to see how their idea plays out

It’s not merely personality or talent – no one is born an entrepreneur. It can certainly be affected by providing the right environment though. In general the entrepreneurial mindset exhibits an attitude to risk that is different from most people. A real entrepreneur is less adverse to risk taking and more willing to see how their idea plays out. To foster entrepreneurs an organisation (or institution or government) can mitigate some of the risk – this can help speed up the process. Most companies and businesses are not really about entrepreneurship – and they are certainly not about risk. They may have some policies or strategies in place for fostering innovation but an entrepreneur is not necessarily sitting at a desk spinning out ideas. In other words today’s entrepreneurs may not know who they are! We were able to use the community of the 2020 Climate Group and ECCI to start to find good ideas and the people who have them. For someone who is a low carbon entrepreneur the support they will receive here will make a big difference. Just being based within ECCI and having access to this community is going to be hugely valuable.

So what’s the difference between a run-of-the-mill good idea and an idea worth mortgaging your house for?

Innovation! Everyone has the odd good idea. And some people will have the drive and skill and to take it to the next level and turn it into a saleable product or business but entrepreneurship is more than that. It’s partly the attitude to risk but also it’s about innovation. A good idea might be rehashing something that is already in the market. An entrepreneur has the vision to introduce a totally new product or service – one that acts in a transformative manner on the economy. It’s not always about inventing the wheel but it is about innovation of some sort. That is what the Ideas Lab was set up for – to foster and develop innovative products and services, specifically ones that are low carbon.

Scotland has always been at the cutting edge of economic transformation – innovation is nothing new here. We just want to ensure that low carbon is part of it.

− Victoria Barby, Project Director, 2020 Climate Group

Why does ECCI want to support entrepreneurs and businesses?

The Edinburgh Centre is committed to helping Scotland transform its current economy to a low carbon one. This means giving people in Scotland the opportunity and support to think, grow and develop ideas about low carbon products and services. Scotland has always been at the cutting edge of economic transformation – innovation is nothing new here. We just want to ensure that low carbon is part of it. ECCI is that organisation that can make the difference between a good idea and something that really changes things. We can help mitigate the risk, we can supply the place and space to think and test ideas, we can provide an encouraging and intelligent community and we can ask the right, and sometimes difficult, questions. Ideas need sector specific support in order to grow and succeed and the Edinburgh Centre can provide this in spades. We don’t expect all the ideas we support to succeed – in fact part of our job may be to point out when it’s time to walk away from an idea or how to develop it in a different direction in order to make it really work. But we know that this kind of support can be a real game changer and that’s what we are here for.

Why do entrepreneurs need help and support – aren’t they going to make a fortune anyway?

The Low Carbon Ideas Lab is about providing a platform of support (mostly non financial) to people who are very serious about taking forward ideas that will help change things for the better.
− Charlotte Waugh, Business Development, ECCI

No! Most of them are going to lose a fortune! At least in time and energy if not pounds. Early support, expertise and mentorship is crucial – both to help the good ideas rise and take shape but also to nip questionable ones in the bud so energy is not wasted (that in itself is a low carbon statement!). The Low Carbon Ideas Lab is not about handing over millions to someone with a business idea, it’s about providing a platform of support (mostly non financial) to people who are very serious about taking forward ideas that will help change things for the better. Our criteria for the Low Carbon Ideas Lab was very clear – it had to be innovative and it had to contribute to a low carbon economy. We looked for people with true commitment and a defined product, service or idea, prepared to spend the majority of their time over the next 12 months on it and with a clear direction for its development. We didn’t consider ideas that were simply about setting up a new business or marketing an existing product. One of the key things about the Lab is the process of mentorship – the advice and expertise of someone who has been there and knows what you are trying to do is invaluable. This is where the 2020 Climate Group really contribute – mentorship from professionals at this level is truly worth its weight.

Why a particular focus on supporting women entrepreneurs?

It’s not unusual for a woman to set up a small business or take an idea to market – but they need support to take it to the next level and start to consider truly innovating.
− Charlotte Waugh, Business Development, ECCI

Well, women can be perceived to have a mixed attitude to risk – while they may be seen traditionally to be more risk adverse, possibly homemakers or in service industries, in reality they are often likely to be the one to set up a small business or take an idea to market. But they are also less likely to develop that product or service further and so need more support. We want to ensure that this attitude is fostered in order to develop into the next step – a truly innovative idea. We also want to ensure that we are getting ideas from all angles of the economy. Low carbon is not just about wind turbines and electric cars, it is about the retail environment and about attitudes and decisions that people make every day. Women are underrepresented in the fields of engineering, tech and science which is where the expectation that innovation will come from but in reality it is just as likely to some from someone who has simply had the right idea for the right moment – and that is just as likely to be a woman so we want to make sure we hear it. We want to ensure that women have a chance to think and experiment and take risks on an equal basis – the Low Carbon Ideas Lab is committed to supporting this.

Being cruel to be kind – Low carbon ideas don’t grow on trees

Sometimes we have to be Simon Cowell and tell someone that they just can’t sing!

− Victoria Barby, Project Director, 2020 Climate Group

It’s true – it’s important to let people know when they don’t have a very good idea. Or if their idea isn’t very new, or innovative, or if the market simply isn’t ready for it. This kind of advice, delivered at the right time, can be very important to an entrepreneur. It might mean the difference between them spending the next three years hammering away at something that simply isn’t feasible. It might free them up to work on their next idea, which may better!
The main thing for the selection committee was assessing how an idea might fit into the low carbon marketplace. It wasn’t always immediately obvious but the challenge was to definitely to think broadly and look for ideas that were really groundbreaking and will make a difference. These sorts of ideas don’t grow on trees – we had to use the resources of our community and the 2020 Climate Group membership and the other panellists, including John Hughes from the Business Gateway and Sanne Downie from University of Edinburgh Alumni & Development, to ensure that we were looking in the right places. We also needed to ensure that the people we choose to support will actual benefit from the package we can offer, from access to ECCI’s community to mentoring, it had to be the right fit. And finally it needed to be an idea that could work with our timescales – up to 12 months – which are quite ambitious!

And the winners are…?
Next week will see the selected Low Carbon Ideas Lab participants take their places at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. Stay tuned for an announcement on Monday 17th November.

The Low Carbon Ideas Lab is supported by the University of Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh Council and is one of 2020 Climate Group’s ’14 priorities for 2014’. To find out more about the Low Carbon Ideas Lab or for information on the next call for applicants please contact ECCI at info@edinburghcentre.org or phone 0131 650 5326.

The 2020 Climate Group was set up by business in response to the Climate Change Act. The group encourages business to support government in meeting the ambitious emissions targets for 2020 and to act as a ‘critical friend’ to government. The long term aim of the group is to contribute to the transformational change required for Scotland to progress to a low carbon economy by bringing together business, voluntary and public sectors to work together. Visit the 2020 Climate Group website for more information.