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Other innovations 18/07/2018

ENGIE Innovation in UK: Sowing the Seeds of Future Collaboration

Over 130 events bringing together 10,000 participants in 25 countries were organised for ENGIE Innovation Week 2018, fourth of its kind. Among them was the UK & Ireland Innovation Showcase, which took place at the i-centrum incubator, Birmingham, on 23rd May, and attracted 120 participants. We talked to Holly Stockbridge, Innovation Manager UK & Ireland and organiser of the Event.

Q: Hello Holly. First of all, why Birmingham, and why the i-centrum?

Birmingham is an important city for ENGIE: we have several facilities management contracts there, some very long-standing – hospitals, schools, a district heating scheme – so we wanted to celebrate that collaboration, and of course there are a fair number of ENGIE employees living in and around the city. It was the first major event to take place outside London; and decentralisation, and indeed decarbonisation, figure among the city's main aspirations. The i-Centrum is an extremely active incubator, and for many of my colleagues, this was the first opportunity to actually see a real life incubator facility.

Q: Can you tell us briefly what happened during the day?

In the morning, eleven exhibitors were in a very lively Marketplace, presenting their products or services, and then there were speeches by Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, and Alan Carr, from Sustainability West Midlands.

In the afternoon there were seven workshops, on themes such as Smart Buildings, Hydrogen and Microgrids. Each was led by a theme expert from ENGIE, aided and abetted by an external, non-professional 'Innovation Champion'. After that came the Big Pitch finale – five finalists, with Net2Grid winning £10,000 and a pilot project with ENGIE (already underway as we speak!) – and also the UK and Ireland Innovation Trophy, an internal competition voted for by our employees and won by Paula Broadbent with her 'Retirement Living Project'.

Q: Any high spots for you personally?

I really appreciated Martin Freer's speech. He's a thought leader for future energy systems: not only outstanding in his field, but a brilliant, inspiring public speaker. His talk contained masses of stimulating ideas for ENGIE, and I think for everyone present. His reflections on decarbonisation and collective responsibility were extremely thought-provoking.

Q: What would you have to say about the UK energy market and ENGIE's position?

The UK energy market is going through an exciting time at the moment. The state-funded organisation 'Innovate UK' has been set up to encourage innovation - and its industrialisation - via the 'Catapult' programme. ENGIE is working with the Energy Systems Catapult on the theme "How people will buy energy in the future", and is thus very well-positioned. It's an exhilarating time for ENGIE UK!

Q: And plans for the future?

Well we will definitely be hosting another showcase event and are hoping to organise a satellite event for our new customers and employees in Ireland.The main plan is to continue celebrating and nurturing the wonderful innovation ecosystem we have here in the UK&I

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