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14th – 18th July 2014

Monday I joined my boss on the train journey down to Swindon (we both live in beautiful North Wales) but got stuck at Newport thanks to train problems right along the London line. Dealing with emails and joining meetings by phone worked until the trains were moving again when I could finally make it to a meeting with ESRC to talk about our planned competition on solving urban challenges using sustainability data. That excellent (if delayed) meeting was followed by a similar one with NERC as we confirmed the involvement of both research councils in the call. Watch this space.

When I finally arrived in the office I hastily joined the regular briefing session from Iain Gray our CEO then caught up with Zahid Latif (Head of Health+Care) on our input into the NHS Sustainable Development Unit consultation. Their objectives match several of our cross programme aims in Health+Care and Urban Living. This was followed by a meeting on our project portfolio and how we track it all better and a chat with our team PA on the competition planning process so she can better help us. After some IT updates I was at last able to head to London for the night.

Tuesday had a big circular economy theme to it. The morning saw me meeting with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation team to get their input to our next circular economy competition. We were examining common barriers to circular economy approaches as many companies are very keen to try them but aren’t forging ahead yet. The meeting was very productive and we had been hearing similar issues and agreed on the general structure. We will consult further with their industrial members.

I then raced over to Portcullis House to join a debate on the circular economy hosted by Laura Sandys MP and organised by Resource Event and Green Alliance. Using the latest Circular Economy Taskforce report as a starting point the panel debated what was needed from a policy perspective. I was disappointed much of the debate centred on the politics of waste collection and recycling rather than supporting more innovative approaches but some interesting points were raised nonetheless.

I spent the evening with colleagues from the KTN debating how they fit into the overall sustainability picture for us. The prompt for the debate was the following day’s training session where Nicky Conway and I took ten of the KTN staff through our Horizons tool. The KTN (amongst other things) help applicants to our calls develop their proposals and we want a team of KTN people trained to help them think harder about the social and environmental drivers for projects using Horizons. We took the group through the background to the tool, then through an in depth exercise before getting them to develop training presentations for their colleagues. Soon we’ll have them helping applicants understand the power of Horizons at all competition briefing events.

The workshop was a long one but I did manage to catch up with Janet Geddes beforehand on disaster resilience, off grid power and healthcare in developing countries. She is exploring the case for innovation in these areas and we’ve met a fair few companies through the Missions who do exactly this. I also took a call after the workshop with a project that wanted to delay their start having just received an offer. We were able to work something out given we always try to help projects towards the best outcomes.

Thursday I travelled into Liverpool for the International Festival of Business event we’d lent our Clean and Cool brand to. The day covered issues for cleantech and after lunch saw 17 companies pitch to a panel of judges that included me. A highlight of the morning was Guy Pattison making the case for celebration in promoting our cleantech strengths and recognising that success breeds success. We want to build the Clean and Cool alumni network along these lines. I was delighted that the day’s best pitches came from ex-Clean and Cool companies and it was good to see the connections and support between the companies in the room.

We took the opportunity at the event to announce the 2015 Clean and Cool Mission. It will open for application on 1st September but for now you can go to and watch the videos from our alumni and hear from us what we are looking for and why we have two parts to it this time...

Friday was spent ironing out the latest plans for various competitions and clearing the emails that had built up while travelling. I also talked to some applicants that didn’t get funded about what is coming next; hopefully some good news after the disappointment. I continued my good deeds by giving another pint of blood that evening.

Other topics discussed this week: sleeping in airplane toilets, sashimi vs ceviche, coffee and oil trading.

Stat of the week:  7.7 million items of clothing have been prevented from ending up in landfill through the Shwopping initiative. The partnership, between M&S and Oxfam, has generated over £5 million for the charity since Shwopping launched in April 2012.

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 46 kg CO2

Mike Pitts