How is innovation tackling climate change?
In 2018, the UN warned we had 12 years to limit climate change and prevent environmental catastrophe. The UK Government has laid down its plans, with bold pledges to become Net Zero Carbon by 2050, championing all areas of clean energy, waste reduction and sustainability.
For large scale global change to really happen, we need strong commitments from governments but we also need innovators. People with bold thoughts and ideas to come up with the latest technology and solutions that will support us to move forward sustainably.
Across the Bruntwood SciTech network, some of the UK’s most innovative minds are working on inventions and innovations with the power to revolutionise our industries. On World Earth Day, we look to those who have dared to dream big and take on this challenge.
Revolutionising the 300 year old hydropower industry, Hallidays Hydropower is expanding hydroelectric technology across the globe. With the annual efficiency of hydropower typically coming in at between 50-70%, it far outstrips the ability of wind and solar power which operate at 21% and 8% respectively, making the potential huge.
If hydropower technology is to be adopted at scale and play a key role in helping to tackle climate change it needs to work in balance with the environment. The turbines developed by Hallidays don’t just generate clean, affordable hydropower; they’re fish friendly too, working in equilibrium with the surrounding natural ecosystem. Learn more about how Hallidays Hydropower is transforming clean energy here.
When the UN first announced their target to reduce global CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030, the team at Econic spotted an opportunity.
Econic takes CO2 waste produced from the manufacture and production of plastics and harnesses it, recycling it for polyol production, negating the heavy use of fossil fuels. By utilising CO2 as a raw material, it is prevented from being released into the atmosphere as a harmful waste gas.
Econic’s low pressure catalyst technology is more affordable than most traditional methods meaning there are few barriers to its wide-scale adoption in the plastics industry. If just 30% of polyol producers world-wide adopted Econic’s clean-tech solution, by 2026 the CO2 equivalent savings of the industry would be 4 million trees worth. That’s surely something to celebrate, right?
Born out of a desire to create smarter, cleaner and safer travel, Conigital are on a mission to disrupt the transport industry with green solutions. Conigital seeks to digitally connect autonomous vehicles, creating seamless transport around smart cities and airports, enabling fluid mobility of people and decreasing congestion.
Their technology was designed specifically to reduce carbon footprints, improve energy efficiency and optimise user-journeys; all of which will support cities around the world to reach targets of zero emissions, zero congestion and zero accidents. This startup has already won a whole host of awards, opened offices in Australia and India and smashed through their £1m crowdfunding target — definitely a name to watch out for!
Innovation Birmingham based engineering startup, Energym, creates green energy from one of the more unlikely sources — humans. The patented systems built by Energym are able to harness and generate clean energy from people’s gym workouts.
The technology itself can be retrofitted into existing gym equipment and enable gym owners to reduce both their energy bills as well as their carbon footprint. The knowledge that as you cycle you’re generating clean energy is a great added incentive to anyone’s workout. Take a look at Energym’s rapid journey from idea to fully-fledged business here
When it comes to supplying and receiving energy, the under-served parts of the world encompasses anywhere from 1 - 2 billion people. Thankfully, SteamaCo - a utility automation provider for frontier markets, provides smart meters and automation software that lets utilities sell to customers living in low connectivity remote areas.
Its smart metering platform is a complete hardware and cloud-based management system that is helping to bring clean, reliable and low-cost energy to some of the most remote places on Earth.
Tapping into the appetite for action on climate change amongst urban youth, The Blair Project offers opportunities for young people to participate in the green tech revolution through building electric go karts.
The 13-19 year olds learn how to retrofit petrol go karts with renewable energy technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and graphene batteries. The locial enterprise provides young people with the knowledge of how to reduce carbon emissions, whilst equipping them with the green and tech skills needed for the future.
Net zero carbon and smart-enabled buildings
The UK’s built environment contributes around 40% of the UK's total carbon footprint. In 2019, when the UK became the first major world economy to embrace a legal obligation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Bruntwood SciTech made its own commitments, securing a landmark £185m green funding deal to support sustainable development.
Since then, we’ve invested heavily into sustainably-linked improvements, including the use of Combined Heat and Power units, Tesla Powerpack storage batteries and small-scale renewable energy initiatives.
The redevelopment of Base at Manchester Science Park will include a number of green sustainability measures, including an A-rated EPC, 750m2 of PV solar power which will reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 22%, and a hybrid heating and cooling system using water as a heat transfer.
In Birmingham, Enterprise Wharf will be the city’s first smart-enabled building. Embedded with smart, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Enterprise Wharf will collect and have the ability to monitor data from the Building Management System, HVAC, lighting and CCTV. Data from a range of sensors will be displayed in a purpose-built dashboard; allowing air quality, lighting and energy consumption to be managed and optimised, creating a healthy, productive and sustainable workplace.
It will also incorporate a number of measures towards the achievement of Net Zero Carbon; including an A-rated EPC together with 100 m2 of PV solar power, and a combined air source heat pump and chiller system enabling highly efficient heating, heat recovery, and cooling.
The building’s facade has also been optimised to provide high thermal efficiency, minimising internal artificial lighting requirements! Individual efforts to fight climate change can at times feel futile.
However, with innovations like these, real change feels possible. And judging by what we see daily from many of the planet-protecting businesses based on our campuses, that change seems not only possible, but increasingly likely.