Debate: Innovation for a better world

Eco-innovation has the potential to change our world for the better – and deliver real opportunities for companies across Lancashire. We brought a team of experts at the cutting edge of this work to Lancaster University’s Centre for Global Innovation to discuss how businesses are making a difference.

PRESENT: Richard Slater ~ Lancashire Business View • Dr Andy Pickard ~ Centre for Global Eco-Innovation • Prof Nigel Paul ~ Centre for Global Eco-Innovation • Mark Buchanan ~ Extreme Low Energy • Steve Wilkinson ~ Coolkit • Mike Cain ~ Demopad • Prof Harry Hoster ~ Energy Lancaster • Sarah Phillipson ~ Small World Consulting

What are the hot topics in Eco-Innovation and why should businesses care?

Dr Andy Pickard: Cooling is certainly one. We’re going to see a huge growth for cooling and it’s really energy that’s the issue.

The UK government’s going to miss the carbon target for the third round. The cost of energy is going up, so that’s clearly a massive area of concern. Also we’re using a huge amount of water.

There are also reports that 5,000 UK deaths per year are due to pollution and that links into a whole series of other issues. There’s the requirement for biodiversity and issues about waste and recycling.

Steve Wilkinson: Ultimately this will manifest itself in legislation which demands a response from industry. That’s something that’s affecting us at the sharp end of delivering our product, whether it’s technical challenges with electrical vehicles or challenges with new refrigerants.

Prof Harry Hoster: Legislation has a role to create the business cases and make them possible.

The technology I’m interested in most of all at the moment is energy storage installations and the government is currently revising its policies so they give quicker payback times and then hopefully we can start rolling out faster.

Mark Buchanan: Being able to generate power is one thing but being able to use it cleverly and efficiently is what we’re about. We’ve got an inefficient infrastructure; our grid was designed 100 years ago.

It hasn’t evolved to keep up with current demand, so we see that wasted energy is much a bigger issue than just trying to generate more and more to offset what we’re wasting.

Sarah Phillipson: You can consider managing carbon as a strategy innovation. Business and financial accounting has been around for a 100-150 years but how do you manage and measure carbon?

That is inherently more  challenging because unlike money, which you can physically see and count, carbon is something you can’t see and it’s very difficult to count. But it allows organisations to make much smarter decisions so they can operate more strategically, either through managing efficiencies or improving costs, whilst also having a social and environmental impact. Mike Cain: Our focus, funded by a Centre for Global Eco-Innovations (CGE) project that we’re just starting, is to develop a smart controller that can, for example, sit in a commercial building and gather data from all the diverse current management control systems and, having captured that data, look at how you can tailor-in impacts to reduce energy and do all these good things.

  • This is an excerpt from the most recent edition of Lancashire Business View. Click here to buy.