Social Media. It’s not just about what colour socks the celebs are wearing…

Our daily “finger on the pulse” review of what people are talking about on social media regularly throws up some very interesting topics. Our current favourite “follow” is the G8 Innovation Conference (#G8IC), where earlier, the Prime Minister was asked “What do you think is the greatest challenge of our time? And how can we solve it using innovation?” Rather than just reporting on his answer, we chose to ask the same question, a little closer to home.

Peter Birkett, CEO of Southampton Science Park had the following to share: “I feel that the reliance of the world on fossil fuels, which are ultimately limited, is probably the biggest challenge facing us. Our cultures are dependent on the energy we consume, and we do not have the alternative technologies to be able to make up the gap that will occur when the fossil fuels run out. The recent discovery of shale gas in western countries gives us an opportunity, in terms of time, to carry out some research into innovative solutions to bridge the energy gap. So the question is, how can we best use that time to  create an environment in which innovative approaches to establishing new energy sources and renewable energy methods can be developed?

We spend far too much time and money focusing on the defence of boundaries, and not enough on the defence of our economy, and one thought is that some of the money we spend on defence, in the western world anyway, could be channelled more effectively towards stimulating innovation. We’re looking at clean alternative technologies, the sort of things that many of the cleantech cluster companies at the Science Park are concentrating on.

SEaB Energy are a fantastic example of innovation. They have taken a waste to energy concept that works in a limited context, and found a way of making it much more broadly applicable. One of the visions that Sandra Sassow has, as CEO of SEaB Energy, is of moving away from centralised generation and transmission of energy through the grid, towards a much more federated system, where local communities are responsible for the production of the energy they need locally, through a combination of different types of renewable energy.

It’s vital that we start to devote time and research to those sorts of areas, bearing in mind that they only come good when you can commercialise the technology in a certain way. The market opportunity might be there, but we’ve got to take those concepts and translate them into working businesses, and that’s where the defence of the economy comes in. That’s how the traditional strengths of the western world can really help to start solving the world’s problems.”