Time to celebrate! Innovation for Sustainability (for ISR) has passed 2,500 downloads!
Huge thanks to all the interviewees —13 so far. They cover quite the variety: corporates and start-ups; for-profit and for-purpose; incubators, venture funds, finance houses and finance ministries; contributors from UK, Europe, India and Aotearoa New Zealand.
And, of course, thank you to the listeners — whether students, who might feel they have to, or others. I hope you have enjoyed them and learnt from them too. I’ll be recording more interviews over the coming weeks.
Click the ‘continue reading’ link below to have a list of all the episodes.
Beverley Gower-Jones has two roles: (1) the Founder and Managing Partner of the Clean Growth Fund, which” invests in companies with products and services focussed on driving clean growth in the low carbon economy”; and (2) CEO of Carbon Limiting Technologies, which “works with industry and government to commercialise low carbon innovations and accelerate clean growth”.
Our conversation covers: -The need for a UK-based Venture Capital fund focused on early stage companies (pre-revenue or just about generating revenue) who need to build a commercial demonstrator to stimulate the next phase of their success. -The different investor demands on a software vs hardware businesses. -The story of founding the fund, and the personal and technical challenges of that. -Why she sought public as well as private finance. And why they both, in her view, have to be exposed to the risks equally. -The constant need, when doing innovation, to overcome inertia, where people choose to improve their current approach rather than explore the next. The book I mention is ‘The Modern Firm’ by John Roberts. -Addressing the challenge of being a first-timer. -The constant need for entrepreneurs to be able to describe a plausible route to investors to exit, with larger returns. -The importance of government industrial strategy, especially the Skidmore Review on the economics of Net Zero. -Their own playbook of where a company needs to get to as it grows, called the Commercial Readiness Levels (inspired by NASA’s Technological Readiness Levels). -How getting to Net Zero will mean whole-of-society, whole-of-economy shifts. Every part of our lives will be touched. There will be a need for invention and diffusion everywhere.
Dougald Hine is author and co-founder of Dark Mountain, a cultural movement of people who have “stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself” and a School Called HOME, a “a gathering place and a learning community for those who are drawn to the work of regrowing a living culture” (personal website, Substack, wikipedia).
His latest book is “At Work in the Ruins”, which we discuss at length in the conversation. At the beginning Dougald describes himself as “using words, and sometimes silences, to shift the space of possibility”, which I think underplays his role as curator and community builder.
One way of understanding Dougald’s response to these powerful times is that he sees them as showing that our world, the world of mordernity, is ending. Rather than moving into denial or a desperate fixing, Dougald is making ‘good ruins’ for whatever might be next, through creating pockets of living culture.
He is trying to contribute to the possibility of presently-unimaginable futures, which starts with clearing away the stuff that has colonised the currently-imagined future.
I have read the book and heartily recommend it. To buy the book, and find the latest on Dougald’s tour in Feb 2023, follow this link.
What might happen as the climate breaks down and artificial intelligence rises up? This explores a disrupted world where countries have been replaced by machine-human ‘Integrities’.(Note: written originally in 2018.)
Our conversation covers: -How the Grantham Institute at Imperial is trying to support climate-related innovation through ‘Undaunted’. -How the Greenhouse operates as an incubator and accelerator of climate-related entrepreneurs. -The example of Notpla, who do packaging solutions are made from a material made from seaweed and plants that disappears naturally. -How they used the status of the university to create a lobbying voice for climate-related industries that don’t yet exist. -The approach at the Greenhouse: trying to get applications from beyond the usual groups; using a bootcamp to select based on the potential of the technology and the team; the ‘germination’ and ‘propagation’ phases. -The importance of the Skidmore Review of Net Zero, and what’s needed from government now is strong policy direction backed up by resources. -Undaunted as a vehicle for connection and collaboration on climate-related innovation, starting in London but engaging around the rest of the world.
Kyle Grant is Founder at Oxwash, an on-demand and laundry service made simple and sustainable (LinkedIn).
Our conversation covers: -The role of a start-up CEO. -Transfering the skills of a NASA Life support systems engineer to laundry. -How Oxwash can be the operational back-end of many circular fashion companies, and so is (1) an example platform business and (2) a pocket of a possible ‘access economy’, where people don’t own things but have access to them (as many people do with music and Spotify now). -Oxwash expansion plans are both more physical business in the UK and licencing IP overseas (as Ocado has done with online groceries). -Innovating how clothes are dried, from heat to sound. -How companies can be satisfied with ‘local maxima’, and so stay with technology and techniques which are not the best they could be. (Think of that as accepting the view from the top of a hill when there is a mountain a bit further along the path.) -The value of going through process of doing the B-Corp accreditation, as a way to learn good practices which have been codified into a standard. -How a carbon price would provide a level playing field. -The different innovation approaches they have adopted: from Agile to NASA’s Technology Readiness Levels and Toyota’s Lean Management.
Jolyon Swinburn is a Senior Policy Analyst at The Treasury / Te Tai Ohanga in Aotearoa New Zealand (LinkedIn). The specific innovation which prompted the conversation was Jolyon working on Aotearoa New Zealand’s first green bond.
Our conversation covers: -Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to prosperity which cannot be captured by GDP through the Living Standards Framework and the Wellbeing Report. -The fundamentals of what are a bond and a green bond. -The steps they went through to investigate and then create the green bond. -Using a third party sustainability ratings agency for credibility. -Making sure that the green bond was funding transitional projects that would not happen otherwise (‘additionality’). -The way in which raising a green bond is a signal from the government to international investors and national businesses on the desired direction of the economy. -How governments pushing green bonds is forcing investment analysts to upskill on green issues.
Shama Skinner is an executive, entrepreneur, advisory Board Member and Edmund Hillary Fellow (LinkedIn). She was an early team member of Thinx Inc, the company with sustainable solutions to menstruation and incontinence. Shama had spells as Chief Product Officer, Chief Operating Officer and interim CEO.
Our conversation covers: -Being a start-up with new innovations in a category (menstruation and incontinence) that had seen no new products for decades. -Growing a new product which was part of the circular economy. -Shifting who was involved in the innovation process, especially female engineers and faster connection with customers. -Innovating how a category was marketed. -Shifting a market, from stuck with predominantly single-use products to one where reusable products are so fast-growing that competitors have to respond. -The tension between ‘Improve the current’ vs ‘Explore the next’ (that framing taken from a book I mention called The Modern Firm by John Roberts). -For a start-up, competitive advantage comes from innovating faster than incumbents. -Addressing ‘Period Poverty’ and the need for Universal Basic Services.