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18th – 22nd August 2014

On Monday we changed our name. The Technology Strategy Board is now known as Innovate UK – a name that better encapsulates what it is we do. Particularly when you’re running programmes on resource efficiency and encouraging business to consider social and environmental trends driving their future markets (as I do) a name that suggests a focus on technology isn’t helpful. The name isn’t a huge change as we already used the ‘brand’ for our annual conference and our website address. We hope you like it as it is part of a process to simplify how we help business and clear out jargon.

The name change has meant a change in email address which came in over the weekend. Inevitably this led to updates and changes to the email system and having to go through all registrations changing the email address from @tsb.gov.uk to @innovateuk.gov.uk – as we are now. While doing this I had calls with our recent Urban Living programme recruit Niraj Saraf and Zoë Le Grand from Forum for the Future on future joint work. More competition and ongoing project paperwork followed.

Tuesday started with a call from the University of Exeter on a new data centre with the MetOffice. Most of the day was spent uploading new case studies to Horizons – examples of businesses responding to social and environmental trends. To see when these updates go up, follow the Horizons Twitter account.

Wednesday I met up with Long Run Venture in London to do further planning for the Clean and Cool Mission. We largely focussed on communications and how we can make use of our considerable alumni network. We’re very keen for these amazing cleantech entrepreneurs to show more of their hero side and develop the intangibles that make a good pitch great. A good pitch is much like a superhero story (we reasoned): you need to sell the villain (market problem) fully first and have a tangible sense of jeopardy (risk) to get excited about whether the hero (entrepreneur) can overcome the odds with their superpowers (unique selling position/technology) and save the day. Good superheroes are flawed investors do tend to like those who have tried and learnt by overcoming set-backs. We even see the mentor role in superhero movies as relevant to most good entrepreneur journeys. We’ll be using these ideas to build the Clean and Cool network and have them support and promote their peers. Such things happen with a mission group but we want to see it happen between missions in the UK. Let me know if you are interested.

To help build this community and give it a sense of location we’re working with Mapify. This start up has been working to map out the social fabric of communities and I was very interested more generally as to how they can help other businesses and even whole urban areas get a handle on this. One to watch!

Thursday I was back in London and caught up with ex-colleague David Altabev who is now at Nesta. We talked about his work with cities and the perils of European projects. I then crossed town to meet with Saul Jamieson at Telefonica and talk about how we help them connect with interesting companies to tackle interesting problems. Telefonica have a CEO committed to sustainability and social benefit enabling in particular. Their question: how can they help communities with their needs and ensure O2 customers get priority benefits? For this they exploring all sorts of spaces and we talked about how we best help.

I had taken colleagues from the Digital team: Jonny Voon and new recruit, Agata Samojlowicz. We followed the meeting with a coffee to talk over where digital and sustainability meet and thanks to the power of the internet (and 4square/Swarm) David Bott joined us and as ever made the complex landscape we are trying to help seem very simple. He reminded us that our budget is too small to leverage economic growth on any scale through funding alone. We are an innovation agency (not simple a funding agency) and can use good stories from the support we have delivered in connecting people in powerful ways – they act as a ‘goad and blueprint’. This echoed what Saul had told us about how much easier it was for Telefonica to work with new people through one of our challenges and that the funding wasn’t important to them (if anything a hindrance) but it did help the SMEs they wanted to work with.

On the journey home I bumped into my boss and we had a long chat about what we were plotting next. Bit early to say much but my role is going to evolve. He left me with some thinking to do Friday. The rest of the day was spent chasing things up as many colleagues are on holiday next week and fatherhood is imminent for me now!

Other topics discussed this week: Nissan Leafs, Game of Life, ice buckets.

Stat of the week:  Ocean acidification is happening 100 times faster than over last 55 million years. See: goo.gl/BZIojL

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 78 kg CO2

Mike Pitts

@pittso

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