The ripples caused by Brexit reach throughout our society, and they recently washed up on the Cleantech and Circular Economy shores at the Rushlight Show held in London. However, Brexit isn’t the only show in town, and the 12-hour long event demonstrated that sustainable technology is thriving in the UK. The clear opportunity is to continue the transformation of Britain’s green economy, and then export the excellence globally.
The desire to look beyond Europe for trading was the clearest wave on show to the 600 entrepreneurs, investors, financiers, advisers and corporate customers in attendance. This was demonstrated by the proud announcement in a keynote from Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, of a matched funding arrangement with the Republic of Korea which will see £6m available for the further development of energy storage innovations and technology.
With the Republic of Korea Ambassador to London Joonkook Hwang in attendance at the Show, the Minister heavily emphasized the similarities between the two countries, stating: “The challenges that we face are very similar in terms of energy”, continuing to say that “our understanding and access to the Korean markets will increase the fantastic opportunities for UK businesses to potentially gain market share there”.
UK leading the way
Looking at the success of the UK in taking climate action, Perry, who recently received a promotion to sit in the Cabinet, remarked: “Last year a PwC report said that there were only two countries in the world doing enough in terms of decarbonisation to meeting the 2-degree global target, and that was China and the United Kingdom”.
The Minister bullishly continued: “We have made real tangible progress towards a UK economy, and indeed a global economy, that is built around clean growth… [and]… the key thing for me is in solving that challenge for us, we create an opportunity to help other countries drive down their own emissions”. After acknowledging that President Trump has a different opinion on climate change to the rest of the world she sounded an upbeat note: “an unstoppable force is happening with the world”.
The Minister and Ambassador took a tour of the Rushlight Exhibition of over 60 businesses, talking with many of them, such as the pictured representatives from the multi award-winning power storage specialists, Powervault. Nick Wood, their Commercial Analyst (standing 2nd from the right), said: “The Minister was particularly interested in our how business was expanding; we have a rapidly growing British customer base, and already sell to Europe with plans to go global next year”.
In addition to the Minister’s keynote, the Exhibition and a UK Energy Breakfast Seminar there was also a Cleantech Conference, Sustainable Solutions Market Panel and Resourceful Conference. Therefore, the day wasn’t just about how Britain is developing low carbon energy solutions. An example was illustrated by one of the speakers at the Cleantech Conference, Nick Thompson, MD of Fiberight, who commented: “We have a circular bio-economy technology that takes household waste and can turn 80% of it into valuable resources. We are excited that within a year we’ll have a commercial plant operating in the USA, which will be able to process 180,000 tonnes of waste per year”.
Leaving Formula 1 to drive low carbon innovation
The Rushlight Awards ended the day, with many exciting start-ups represented. The keynote was Mark Taylor, a colleague of Claire Perry in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and is their Head of Programme Delivery, Science and Innovation for Climate and Energy. He explained that he left McLaren Formula 1 racing to join BEIS six months ago to be at the cutting edge of low carbon solutions development.
He observed: “There was nowhere near as big a change as I was expecting moving from F1 to government, coming across people with passion, drive and working hard to make a difference. What’s most important was entering an ecosystem of innovators who are committed to driving down consumption of carbon”. Taylor went onto explain that he was leading a £500m energy innovation programme, looking to develop solutions that drive decarbonisation. A two-minute interview with him can be seen here.
Winning all around the world
Amongst the Award winners were Solar Polar, who are a good illustration of a UK business creating a solution for the global market. Robert Edwards, their Chief Executive explained: “The Solar Polar system can provide refrigeration for vaccines and food storage. This is ideal for areas where there is unreliable or no grid electricity, but a huge need for cooling. This is both a great commercial opportunity, and our solution will help save lives by making food and medicines available much more consistently, all using the purely power of the sun.”
Winner of the Rushlight Environmental Management Award, Manchester based SteamaCo are also working in developing countries to help unleash the opportunity of renewables. “We bring utility-type capabilities to organisations looking to buy, sell, and save energy in the world's toughest markets - off-grid Africa, Asia and Latin America” commented their COO, Emily Moder. She continued: “Our smart meter is universal, easy to install and four times cheaper than comparable products. Today, SteamaCo technology connects thousands of homes and businesses in seven countries across the developing world.”
Photo caption: Claire Perry, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth; Ioanna Armouti and Nick Wood of Powervault