Telling the story of Tech City and East London through music

As much as I love the buzz about Tech City, the fact remains that London has had a long established tradition of enterprise, and for a long time, many great technology and science advances came out of East London, although it has not been plain sailing. With that in mind, I went along to a musical depiction of East London which was part of the Water City Festival via an invitation from Lord Andrew Mawson, chairman of the festival and one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs; Andrew and I are working on a number of really cool things to connect up schools and enterprises at the moment, so again, this was very much part of connecting up the dots.

Paintings by Frank Creber for the Water City Festival (borrowed from his website)

Paintings by Frank Creber for the Water City Festival (borrowed from his website)

In the same way that much of the Roman Empire’s success owed a great deal to the port Ostia, the British Empire was very much built upon the seas and London’s waterways were a key part of that. Anyone that meets Andrew will highlight that the likes of Michael FaradayIsambard Kingdom BrunelWilliam Congreve and others all spent time in East London in the 18th-19th centuries and that there was a huge amount of vibrancy in the docks areas of London. Perhaps the last hundred years has not been that kind, but East London is certainly enjoying a period of massive regeneration, buoyed by London 2012.

The concert itself at Queen Mary University sought to follow this same course, charting the themes of Illumination, Immigration, Pioneers of Imagination, Demise, Resurrection, Reinvention. Starting with the Karelia Suite by Sibelius (illumination), the musical programme then followed with a traditional Bangladeshi raga sung by Akash Sottar (immigration), the Danse macabre by Saint-Saens with Michael Bochmann performing as the soloist (pioneers of imagination), Debussy’s La cathedrale engloutie (resurrection) and finishing with the wonderful Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky (reinvention). The orchestra itself had only been working together for the weekend, comprising of staff and students of the university as well as many East Londoners under the conductorship Rupert Bond and Michael Bochmann.

Throughout the concert, there was some fantastic imagery, much from Frank Creber, and where appropriate, narration from Roy Marsden.

Throughout the performance, there were images displayed of East London

Throughout the performance, there were images displayed of East London

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Creating the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs

Late last year, we were asked by Derek Browne from Entrepreneurs In Action to help out with an event focused on raising awareness of sustainability and enterprise among students at Sevenoaks School – two things we are very passionate about. The intention was to create a day where students could hear from people involved in sustainability, hopefully be inspired, and then come up with their own business ideas and pitch them to other people (all in the space of a couple of hours). With the help of the Energy Managers Association, we were able to get a couple of awesome speakers – Sonja Graham, Creative Development Manager from the Global Action Plan and Jaz Rabadia, the UK energy manager for Sainsburys. We were joined by James Cornwell, the Quality and Environmental Director of Fourfront Group; not only is James an expert in sustainability, but he was actually an old boy of the school (aka an Old Sennockian)!

Being quizzed about our thoughts on sustainability

Being quizzed about our thoughts on sustainability

To be honest, I was completely nervous at the start of the day – not so much about speaking in front of 200 people, but more about being back at school! After a quick speech by Katy Ricks talking about the school motto and the importance of service (some of which was in Latin), James, Sonja and I were then interviewed as part of a panel discussion about sustainability – and why it’s important. As James Cornwell said afterwards “it is vitally important for students to understand what sustainability means within the world of business, and essential that business passes on its knowledge so the next generation are smarter than the last.”

There were some good questions from the students (including what was going on in Australia), and I hope that a key theme that emerged was that it was good business sense to be interested in sustainability, particularly in terms of the efficiency savings that exist.

Students try and sell their new business ideas to teachers, parents and guests

Students then spent a couple of hours in groups of about 20 looking at issues around energy, water usage, obesity, the end state of which was to have some business ideas that they pitched to about 40 adults who had some fake money to spend on the various products on offer. The students took on that with a lot of gusto – and many are definitely budding entrepreneurs and sales gurus!

Jaz giving a speech to two hundred students!

Jaz giving a speech to two hundred students

Throughout the day, we were all really keen to highlight that sustainability is not just about being green, but that it has huge impacts on enterprise – as Jaz said in her keynote presentation at the end of the day, sustainability is a huge driver of both commercial and environmental benefits – and that Sainsburys had benefited massively in terms of reducing their energy spend through some of their sustainability strategies.

And here is that graphic that I mentioned on the day about a day with less driving which was the study done in Pittsburgh by the National Geographic.

A Day with Less Driving

An exciting new development for sustainable transport in the United Kingdom

Lord Rupert Redesdale, the Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change has recently launched the Carbon Management Association and Energy Management Association; the first association event was held today at the Houses of Parliament. It was a great for the CEO, James Swanston, to be announced as the Chair of the CMA’s Transport Working Group at this event.

The aim of the CMA is to assist the Government in its transition towards a low-carbon economy; its sister association, the EMA, will focus on building the profile of energy managers to become a HSE equivalent for the energy industry. The board of the CMA includes representation from some of the largest organisations in the UK including Alliance BootsMarks and SpencerMitchells and ButlersMITIE, the Ministry of DefenceSainsbury’s and Vodafone with Lord Redesdale as the Non-Executive Chairman. Supporting this board will be a series of sector-specific boards.
The transport working group will bring together CMA and EMA member organisations who will be able to collaborate on issues that affect them and find innovative ways to design industry-led solutions. This platform will allow the Working Group to directly present Government with a range of policy measures and interventions that may assist in meeting the UK’s commitments towards carbon reduction. As a small, innovative start up, this will be a fantastic opportunity for Carbon Voyage to work with a number of major UK organisations as well as build upon some of the work done already that seeks to address some of the major transport challenges facing the UK. 

IT Recycling Comes to Tech City

A lot of small and medium enterprises struggle with recycling (Veolia estimates that this issue costs SMEs about £500 million a year); urban freight is also inefficient and causes needless congestion. Congestion in London is actually a multi-billion pound problem, something that everyone experiences, and a lot of this is due to vehicles travelling around empty or part full. A lot of this is because there is very little co-ordination that occurs between people that have similar requirements and thus there are lots of very similar, inefficient journeys all over London.

Against the backdrop of this, we were introduced by TCIO CEO Eric Van Der Kleij to RDC, the world’s biggest IT recycling company, to see whether we could assist them with addressing this need and opening up new opportunities in the SME market for them. RDC is itself a UK success story – it was a startup that was founded in a shed (albeit almost 20 years ago) and now recycles 1.5 million items a year at its main premises, has three Queen’s Awards and operates in 70 countries.

Part of the value add for this was not just about helping a Tech City startup partner with a big company, but also the creation of the first sustainability initiative of Tech City which is very important to us. By chatting to a range of businesses, we found that a lot of SMEs and startups had old computers lying around because they were concerned about how to dispose of them ensuring that they were properly wiped of data. Fortunately we could do this for free. As computers do have some residual value, the service was designed to allow companies to get some money back (admittedly these aren’t massive figures), or donate that money to The Prince’s Trust.

Our bit of the service is part strategy, part technology which is important as we are more focused on B2B than B2C. The service design is based around using green transport companies to pick up the equipment and then use empty and part-filled trucks returning to Essex where the recycling plant is located so there is a minimal carbon footprint (if any). Trucks are empty 30% of the time, particularly when leaving London, so while Braintree in Essex isn’t too far away, it does prove the point that there are always opportunities to move things around at very low prices when you are helping to increase the load for vehicles that weren’t full! By aggregating several computers from each of a number of SMEs, which is a bit of a new take on the collaborative consumption/ sharing economy thing, we can start to generate the right economies of scale to make the proposition feasible.

The upside for us comes in three parts – working with RDC to launch this elsewhere; seeing whether success here can translate into other potential market opportunities; and, most importantly, demonstrating that using collaborative tools can generate massive savings through sharing journey requirements. It also means that it is possible to get transport costs down massively within a supply chain through consolidating what has traditionally been fragmented and thus expensive. And it also helps us achieve the objective of reducing air pollution and congestion through reduced vehicle usage.

If you would like to know more, visit here or email us at rdc [at] carbonvoyage [dot] com. And of course please use this service as a way of recycling your old IT equipment!

Originally posted on The Urban Technologist:

(Photo of Vancouver from the waterfront in Kitsilano by James Wheeler )

Why do we care about cities?

Why are private sector companies, public sector authorities and organisations such as the European Union making such enormous investments in “Smarter Cities“, “Sustainable Cities” and “Future Cities”?

Usually we would say it’s because of a combination of social, environmental and economic challenges facing us all. But there’s a powerful personal force at work too: where we live matters to us.

The choices that the 7 billion of us who share the planet make that are affected by our relationship with the places where we live have an incredible impact, especially when they are concentrated in cities. For example, the combined carbon impact of those who commute into cities to work each day because they choose to live in the less densely populated areas outside them is immense.

If we’re going…

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The Green Sidewalk

At Carbon Voyage, we are always looking for new ways to help save the environment. In effect, there are many ways that we can all lower our carbon ‘footprint’, but what better way than doing it in the greenest and most natural way possible – walking?

(The “PaveGen” pavement slabs. Image taken from http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/13/tech/innovation/pavegen-kinetic-pavements/index.html)

A rather new technology, the green sidewalk, came to my attention recently through our French interns, with the new invention found on sidewalks that are equipped with special slabs and a sensor located underneath. When a pedestrian walks on the slab it sinks a little, creating energy which is collected by the sensor; furthermore, if the slabs are set up in a concentrated pedestrian area, there is the potential to generate a substantial amount of energy. Apparently, each step produces enough energy to light a LED lamp for 30 seconds, and with the average person taking 150 million steps in their lifetime, the ‘green sidewalk’ could really make a big difference.

According to our interns, the slabs are already a common sight in some French cities, such as Toulouse. Intrigued by this almost sci-fi technology, I did a quick Google search on the green sidewalk. Interestingly, the slabs are a British invention and they have been installed between the Olympic Stadium and Westfield Stratford shopping centre. With more than 2 million people flooding into the city for the Olympics, imagine the amount of ‘free energy’ that could be generated this summer.

Velib’ et Autolib’ : Un nouveau moyen de transport

Depuis longtemps, l’importance de l’écologie dans la gouvernance des pays était secondaire, d’autant plus que les ménages n’en avaient pas non plus conscience. La priorité était de se développer le plus rapidement possible sans se soucier de l’environnement. Mais désormais après des années de négligence, la planète souffre de cette surexploitation. C’est pourquoi de plus en plus, les gouvernements et collectivités font leurs possibles pour renverser la vapeur et remettre le « vert » au goût du jour. Le domaine le plus touché est celui du transport. A Londres, le transport « vert » le plus rependu est le London Cycle Hire système mis en place par le maire de Londres: Boris Johnson ; cependant, Londres n’est pas la première ville à proposer de nouveaux moyens de transport dit  vert . Cet honneur revient à Paris, avec le lancement des vélos « vélib’ « en 2007, contribuant à la diminution de l’effet de serre.

(Station Velib’. Image prise sur http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/02/12/reports-of-velibs-demise-greatly-exaggerated/)

Il y a à peu près 18,000 vélos et 1,200 stations de locations dans tout Paris, avec dans chaque station une douzaine de vélos. Pour accéder à ce service, vous avez besoin de vous abonner, profitant ensuite d’un nombre illimité de locations durant votre abonnement. Les vélib’s aillant un succès phénoménal et se développant très vite, fut  alors lancé en décembre un système semblable avec des voiture, nommé autolib’. Grace à la technologie ; autolib’ est à la fois respectueux de l’environnement et pratique. C’est une voiture électrique qui est disponible à toute personnes âgé d’au moins 18 ans et possédant le permis de conduire. Chose importante pour les personnes vivant à l’extérieur de Paris, la voiture possède un GPS , qui vous permet alors de naviguer plus facilement  dans les routes parfois sinueuse de la capitale Française .

Dans un monde de plus en plus à l’écoute de l’environnement, mais qui reste affecté par la crise économique, les Vélib’ et Autolib’ sont à eux seul une révolution urbaine possédant un certain attrait ; économiser de l’argent tout en réduisant l’effet de serre grâce au trois E : Economique, Ecologique, Electrique

Désormais avec les voitures 100% électrique ; Autolib’, tout le monde peut voyager sans émettre de gaz carbonique dans l’atmosphère et sans faire de bruit. De plus la France a pris un engagement à réduire son émission de gaz carbonique de 20% d’ici à 2020, avec ces nouveaux moyens de transports chacun peut maintenant contribuer à atteindre cette objectif. Nous pensons que c’est une bonne première étape pour un monde plus perdurable et cela se raccorde parfaitement avec la raison d’être de Carbon Voyage, qui est de rendre les transports plus efficace avec le partage de véhicule pour faire de la terre un monde meilleur. Paris est un lieu dans lequel nous aimerions bien offrir nos services dans un futur proche .

(Autolib’ entrain de recharger ses batteries. Image prise sur http://www.auto-buzz.com/autolib-debuts-officiels-540191.html)

*Cette article a été écrit par un actuelle stagiaire chez Carbon Voyage

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