Areas of work
Frequently Asked Questions
How could entrepreneurs globally overcome the challenges of inadequate incentives to decarbonise the economy at a global scale?
Everything is changing rapidly. Where there were few or no market drivers two years ago, we now see a lot of activity. This is not to say that there is no need for policy-driven interventions in the market. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases are pollutants and needed to be treated as such, to accelerate growth. We will be looking at policy incentives (and removing policy barriers) that stand in the way of necessary innovation.
How will you persuade governments/other nations to create the economic and political environment for innovation and implementation in time?
Hopefully by our example. What we do will be made globally visible. We have strong links across the globe and will encourage others to found comparable (or even better) centres to take on the innovation challenges of climate change.
Is the centre interested in promoting government, public involvement and investment in new ventures?
We have European Regional Development funding being used as part of the funding for The Greenhouse, our accelerator programme. We have a long record of converting public money into businesses with investment. For every pound of public money, our startups have been able to attract £20 of investment. We will bring that track record to the government's attention and hope they will feel that we are worthy of receiving further public money to catalyse green growth.
How important does the panel consider the impact our of built environment on climate change and the opportunity it provides for solutions?
The built environment has a very large impact on greenhouse gas emissions and, in many cases, is vulnerable to the weather extremes driven by global heating. We simply must address both the in-operation emissions from the built environment and the emissions caused by the materials we used to build with. In both cases (and in making infrastructure resilient) there is a huge space for innovation and job creation. If one were identifying an area for a green recovery from the global pandemic this would be in your top five.
How can we reduce offshore emissions via imported goods?
The importer must be interested in reducing their emissions and purchase accordingly. Large businesses can, and in many cases do, ensure that their value chain actively reduces emissions. For smaller businesses and the individual action requires reliable carbon footprint information. That can be hard or impossible to find, so we are working with a number of startups with innovations that make such information available to the purchaser.
In climate mitigation technology and ecosystems, what areas offer the best available return on capital employed - for both the UK and globally?
No investment secrets here! My best advice is that a good business is a good business - the same rules apply with the businesses coming out of The Greenhouse, our accelerator programme as out of any other accelerator. The key differentiator for climate change innovation businesses is that you should pay attention to the scale of the climate impact they can achieve in the light of other key factors described in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change innovations that destroy threatened habitats, for example, are to be rejected.
How should we approach geo-engineering as a method of containing climate change. What techniques are worth trying and which are too risky?
We will be working on atmospheric greenhouse gas removal. Our concerns will be how to do this in a safe, socially acceptable and economically viable way. If humanity has to apply other geo-engineering techniques we will have failed to do what really needs to be done in this order: (1) massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; (2) developing means of adapting to weather extremes being driven by climate change; (3) developing means of removing any remaining excess greenhouse gases.
In terms of agriculture, will the centre focus on solely the environment or take an intersectional approach (food supply, poverty and inequality)?
We would contend that all climate change innovation must take into account key collateral factors. Good innovation requires that we seek, as best we can, to balance the needs of the environment, the people and the economy. We will use the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to guide us.
Does the centre have plans to accelerate the understanding and use of energy data for the benefit of small businesses and the public sector?
There are many activities in this area and we are doing and will do our best to help. SMEs are a large part of the world's economy and hence helping them to measure their emissions in a simple way and subsequently reduce has an important impact. A number of our startups are working on various ways of doing this right now.
How are you planning to innovate in heating?
We have nothing firmly decided at this point, but heating (and cooling) is so important we will certainly be active in the area. Key issues are in policy and regulation, but, there is also the need for technological innovation that makes the process of retrofitting less invasive and cheaper.
Could tidal energy be a disruptive new source of energy for the benefit of climate change innovation?
Tidal energy has so far not taken off, despite the promise it holds. We have supported a number of tidal energy startups in the past, but none have taken off. Against a background of wind and solar energy costs falling rapidly, it would seem like tidal energy will remain a niche technology for now.
Are you focusing your research on the hardest to decarbonise sectors and/or the biggest emitters first?
We will focus our efforts on where we can make the biggest climate impact. In many cases that will involve hard to decarbonise sectors and we will be working on net zero technologies to that end. This will not be the totality of what we will do, for example, we will support innovation in climate change adaptation.
What needs to happen for institutions, public or private, to have a better understanding and quantify their exposure to physical climate risks?
Organisations need staff that can couple climate change science and the tools associated with it to organisation decision making processes. For organisations to decarbonise and make the value chains that they work within climate resilient requires staff with competence in systemic analysis, again coupled to climate change science. Education is key.
Is much of what we need to do already there? In some case, the systems have been developed but the focus isn't always there.
Our systems and the way we use them incur a lot of unnecessary emissions because we use them in inefficient ways. Making more efficient use of what we already have is an area that (when done with intelligence and care) can lead to very significant emissions reductions at little cost. The problems that get in the way of doing the right things are generally down to governance relationships between actors running systems and how changes to the way a system is run impacts actors differently. The centre expect to work on such problems.