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28th July – 1st August 2014

Two days in London kicked the week off with a load of meetings I hadn’t looked at a tube map when planning. Zooming east to west and back again was a theme across the two days! I started with a catch up at 100%Open with Roland Harwood on where we might need their expertise in facilitating workshops this year. They are particularly good in cross-discipline communication. Their new office at Somerset House also has a great view from its ‘balcony’:

After dropping off my bags in Old Street I tacked across London to the Bush Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush to rendezvous with Sarah Tromans our Urban Living lead to meet Čedo Maksimović of Imperial College who leads the Blue Green Dream project to develop a holistic ecosystem service approach into city planning. His aim is to tackle issues such as water/noise/air pollution, heat island effect, flooding/drought, health and energy efficiency through an understanding of how the water cycle and green space is controlled. Afterwards I talked with Julie’s Bicycle about our upcoming competition on using data to tackle city problems with the irony that one of the team had to join by phone due to travel routes being cut off by flash flooding.

It was then a dash over to the National Gallery to meet with Jaclyn Mason who is our lead in California for UKTI and a huge supporter of the Clean and Cool Missions. Together with Oli Barratt and Guy Pattison we did some early planning for January’s mission. I then met up with Maggie Brown, a sustainability consultant, to hear about her work with TfL.

Tuesday morning I caught up with colleagues at IC Tomorrow, our digital entrepreneur support programme. Emily Memarzia and Kriss Baird took me through the recent Connected Cities event and planned competition where we will support small projects that tackle particular city problems using digital innovation. The projects all have a sponsor organisation that owns the problem and will trial the potential solution.

I then caught up with Sophie Thomas at the RSA to hear how work was progressing in our joint The Great Recovery project. Very cool things have been happening around placing designers in waste facilities to see how they can be improved. An all too brief meeting as I then headed to Imperial College to meet with Weston Baxter who Frank Boyd of the KTN had put me on to. Weston is looking at the barriers to the circular economy from a more social and system design angle. With a background in engineering it was refreshing to hear someone with such a strong design and sustainability perspective carrying out research into why consumers make certain choices. We had a great debate about how the circular economy does or does not deliver actual benefits to the end user. His work is one to watch and any companies interested should get in touch and I’ll connect them.

Due to last minute meeting changes I decided not to travel into the Swindon office Wednesday and clear my email backlog and to do list. I joined a lunchtime session from Frost and Sullivan in the office on megatrends via weblink. It was interesting to hear just how much focus is moving onto cities now as engines of growth and supports our decision several years ago to pursue the Future Cities and Urban Living programme. I also took calls with EPSRC on where they might join in with our upcoming resource efficiency calls and with the boss on what needs doing most urgently now we are a person lighter in that area.

Off the back of that call, Thursday was spent writing a first draft of a competition brief and sorting out various project finances. Friday saw work on a different competition brief as well as the usual end of month admin. I took time to have a very interesting chat with Di Gilpin about circular economy at scale and what is enabling it and what is a barrier. It is fascinating to hear the parallels between her world (shipping) and construction in that a lower cost service, with potentially higher benefits might be delivered if only everyone can work out how to share the risk and profit and finance/insure something different to the status quo. In both cases hard evidence will prove the case and that is where we are looking to help.

Other topics discussed this week: writing books, women’s memory for smells, closed-loop furniture, disruptive hairdryer design.

Stat of the week:  Cities will increasingly drive economic growth in the future – e.g. Seoul is responsible for 50% of South Korea’s GDP [Frost & Sullivan presentation I saw this week]

This week’s travel carbon footprint: 38 kg CO2

Mike Pitts