Interviews: Innovation for sustainability (for UCL ISR)

These interviews were originally conducted for a module in the Masters in Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources (UCL ISR).

The module has a slightly out-of-date title (BENV0077: Eco-Innovation and Sustainable Entrepreneurship). It is essentially on the intersection of business, innovation and sustainability. Other course materials cover theories and case studies.

The interviews are with people who are putting innovation for sustainability into practice. We wanted to give students the grit under the fingernails of real experience.

You can read more about the interview series here

Latest episode

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.Links to other episodes:-James Corah of CCLA, a funder of the Clean Growth Fund,  in Episode 4.-Kyle Grant of Oxwash on using the Technology Readiness Levels in Episode 11.-Leigh Huudson on the struggles of deeptech innovation in Episode 6.This is part of a series of interviews about innovation for sustainability conducted for the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as a contribution to a module in this Masters. You can find out more about these interviews, and the module, here.
  1. Beverley Gower-Jones
  2. 12. Alyssa Gilbert and Naveed Chaudhry
  3. 11. Kyle Grant
  4. 10. Jolyon Swinburn
  5. 9. Shama Skinner

All posts and episodes, in reverse order

  • ‘Innovation for sustainability’ interview series passes 2,500 downloads
    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 […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 13. Beverley Gower-Jones
    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 […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 12. Alyssa Gilbert and Naveed Chaudhry
    Alyssa Gilbert is the Director of Innovation at Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. She is the boss of the second speaker, Naveed Chaudhry who is Head of The Greenhouse at the Centre for Climate Change Innovation, now known as Undaunted, at  Imperial College. Our conversation covers:-How the Grantham Institute at Imperial is trying to support climate-related innovation through ‘Undaunted’.-How the Greenhouse […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 11. Kyle Grant
    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) […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 10. Jolyon Swinburn
    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 […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 9. Shama Skinner
    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 […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 8. Chris Bean
    Chris Bean is Serial Entrepreneur, Technology Developer, and Edmund Hillary Fellow (LinkedIn). He is the CEO and co-founder of REVOLUTION Turbine Technologies (RTT). RTT is “developing reliable, scalable, and green energy solutions for powering mission-critical equipment in remote locations” as part of “the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future”. Our conversation covers:-How a niche […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 7. Chris Gagne
    Chris Gagné is an Enterprise Agile Coach, Meditation Teacher, and Edmund Hillary Fellowship Fellow (LinkedIn). Chris operates through Approach Perfect, as the vehicle for coaching using the agile methods. Previously he has worked for or coached with many Silicon Valley start ups and Fortune 500 companies. Our conversation covers:-The similarities and differences of innovation in start […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 6. Leigh Hudson
    Leigh Hudson (LinkedIn) is Sustainable Fuels & Carbon at International Airlines Group (IAG, which owns British Airways amongst others) and Board Member at Ikigai Capital, which aims to become a leading international, technology-neutral ‘energy transition platform’. She role is developing new technologies for sustainable aviation fuel, by supporting innovators and influencing policy. A themes I […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 5. Pete Vale.
    Pete Vale (LinkedIn) is Carbon & Circular Economy Architect at Severn Trent Water. I was very keen to get his perspective for 3 reasons:1. Severn Trent is a utility with responsibility for a key natural resource cycle (water).2. It is heavily regulated, which sets (as you will hear) important context for any innovation effort.3. The role […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 4. James Corah
    James Corah (LinkedIn, Twitter) is Head of Sustainability at CCLA Investment Management, which exists to “help investors maximise their impact on society by harnessing the power of investment markets.” This is part of a series of interviews about innovation for sustainability conducted for the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as a contribution to a module in this Masters.  You […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 3. Joel Hamilton
    Joel Hamilton (LinkedIn) is a civil servant in the UK Government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (‘BEIS’). He works in the Heat Networks Delivery Unit, which provides support and guidance for local authorities developing heat networks (also known as district heating). This is after industry experience and a PhD in the area. Listen to the […]
  • Innovation for sustainability 2. Manoj Kumar
    Manoj Kumar (LinkedIn) is co-founder and CEO of Social Alpha, a “multistage innovation curation and venture development platform for science and technology start-ups that aim to address the most critical social, economic and environmental challenges”. The innovation system that works for industrial, and existing sectors, it works for those sectors, but it doesn’t work for the […]
  • Innovation for sustainability. 1. Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi
    Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi (LinkedIn) is co-founder of consultancy Applied Sustainability after many successful years at Dow Chemicals, including as Global Technology & Sustainability Director. Here she talks about innovation at Dow for sustainability, especially for the Olympics. This is part of a series of interviews about innovation for sustainability conducted for the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as a […]
  • Interview series: innovation for sustainability
    Earlier in 2022 I conducted a series of interviews for a Masters module in the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The interviewees were kind enough to allow me to put them into the public domain. This post covers the background, selecting interviewees, the questions, how we used them and a request for more interviewees.