Showing how a low carbon economy can flourish
It’s a stark warning: we’ve got ten years to combat climate change, or it’s too late. So what does this mean for businesses? Is it possible to have economic growth and still be environmentally friendly?
For a long time it was thought to be a choice of one or the other. But research into achieving a low carbon economy is showing that you can have both.
And that’s just what our Associate Dean for Innovation for the Faculty of Technology, Dr David Hutchinson, is doing. He’s working with business and government, and using academia to enact positive change.
He’s striving to create the conditions to transition to a low carbon economy, by working with businesses and providing them with access to expertise and facilities at the University. It’s all about helping to create jobs and increase the economy, without damaging the environment.
Low carbon isn’t a sector, or a thing. It’s like a silver thread that runs through any business. How we help varies as to the company. We’ve worked with businesses that are trying to make their widget more energy efficient. But we also work with businesses that are trying to create new ways to generate energy.
David is always seeking innovative ways to reach businesses, and make them aware that he and his colleagues are available to help them transform their ideas into reality. There is a great variety of requests for help to make a business run in a low carbon way. So David brings academics together, building strong teams to support and advise industry.
The University has helped seedcorn fund the Hampshire Community Bank, which launches next spring. It’s the first not-for-profit community bank that works just for Hampshire. It only invests in local community projects. It’s a great example of moving from a linear disposable economy to a low carbon circular one.
David’s team has also worked with a company creating biodegradable containers suitable for microwave meals. They’ve had access to the University’s facilities to help create this. It’s enabling them to move away from unrecyclable plastics.
Funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is being used to conduct efficiency audits for businesses and to create an innovation grant. Businesses can apply to this for financial support with implementing energy saving technologies. By saving energy, they’re saving money. It’s a win-win scenario which helps to engage mainstream businesses in the low carbon economy.
People are coming round to the fact that you can run a business and make money, but you don’t have to take all the Earth’s resources with it. I think that’s where we’re making a difference. There’s that knowledge exchange going on that means that we’re innovating new products and services. And it’s making it easier for people to engage with it, rather than more difficult.
Leading the way
David is leading a project to transform the Isle of Wight into an energy autonomous community - no longer dependent on energy from the mainland. He’s looking at how they can use localised renewable energy all the time. And how they can use that energy better - from plugging in electric vehicles at the right time, to using those vehicles as mobile battery stores, so people can trade energy.
As well as the environmental benefits of a low carbon community, this research will help create a healthy work/life balance. By encouraging lifestyle change and implementing technology in the right way, David’s work will create a really pleasant place to live and work.
He says, ‘When others see what a low carbon society looks like, and what it can contribute, everybody is going to want to do it.’
It’s hoped that this project will be a world leader. Showing people how they can have a low carbon lifestyle without giving up the stuff they love.