Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lego, solar steam and cooling canals

I hope you appreciate my dedication to sustainability. Rather than get into a heated car, I mounted my bike at 6:15 on a dark frosty morning and my way from Milton to Waterbeach rail station. Somewhat naïvely I took the river route but fortunately the light was sufficiently good to avoid falling in.

Waterbeach station. Sun still below horizon kissing clouds.
Arriving in time for the Peterborough Eco Cluster Business Breakfast 13 November 2013, the sun had just risen and a cup of hot tea and breakfast pastries awaited.

The first speaker was David Hall from the Ideas Centre Ltd, on the cost of culture. I like his definition of creativity as accommodation of novelty and usefulness, followed by innovation being the means of making money out of creativity.

The issue many of us are facing in business, is that we are experiencing a period of unprecedented change on an exponential basis. Yet our brains are tied to our past experience and knowledge, resulting in a reality gap between where we are really could be. In order to unleash creativity, we have to throw off the shackles of existing pattern recognition, which pervades our minds and learning. David gave us some entertaining examples which demonstrated susceptible we were to using existing patterns. Even touched on some tantalising suggestions on how we can break out from these. To that stuck in my mind were fingerpainting for executives and using Lego’s

It was good to see the Tom Kelly from the Lark Fleet group again. Tom had risen to the dizzying heights of business manager to Karl Hick, Group Chief Executive. In his overview of the group, we learned how Lark Fleet had grown from a housing and construction company to develop an interest in related businesses ranging from: Lark Energy; Lark renewables; Lark Fleet homes; with additional interests in companies providing specialist timber frame construction, waste and plumbing,  development and health care in retirement.

Some of the current projects that intrigued me on the renewable side were vertical wind fences and the solar steam plant as well as photovoltaic projects in challenging locations. Lark is a smaller player amongst the larger construction firms and this is allowed it to be innovative. They were some of the first to use a local source of stone which is now become a highly desirable commodity as the larger competition suddenly saw the benefits of the material.

Sometimes you get pleasure from hearing about really simple ideas that can make a big difference. How many of us might view the waterways and clouds that threads through Britain’s industrial heartland as a relic of a bygone age, only suitable for tourism. Paul Adams of Linden Environmental had a cost-effective application for businesses in the 21 century, cooling.

The combination of energy efficient construction, use of large areas of glass to light buildings and the heating effect from using lots of electrical equipment, all these mean that commercial buildings and offices are actually prone to overheating. The current solution is expensive air conditioning. The novel Linden Environmental solution is to use the call water from the canals and waterways, a pump and a heat exchanger for a far more cost-effective cooling. The most surprising aspect was, how little water was actually required and that the outflow of warm water very rapidly cooled down within a few metres of the outflow. One company even made a virtue of the new cooling system, by making a water feature, cascading in small waterfalls, as part of their outflow.

If you haven’t heard of the Enterprise Europe Network East of England, now is the time to visit their site (East of England). Chris Woodward made us aware of Horizon 2020, the newest seven-year funding programme from the EU which specifically aimed to benefit SMEs. There is funding available for proof of feasibility for new ideas support for innovation and also for the commercialisation phase of new products. The programme is ongoing with two deadlines for applications per year. On top of this the Enterprise Europe Network is now the largest partnership network, covering EU countries and surrounding neighbours. If you’re looking for partners to collaborate with throughout Europe, this is the place to go

The eco-cluster breakfast is organised by the Peterborough Eco-Cluster, part of Opportunity Peterborough. Held once a month on Wednesday, they are a good networking opportunity. Have a look at their webpage

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