Climate-KIC’s Innovator Catalyst – a reflection

by Ben Onyido

Day 1 of the Innovator CatalystOn Tuesday 21 October 2014, 22 participants arrived in Birmingham for Climate-KIC’s first ever ‘Innovator Catalyst’. The Innovator Catalyst is an intensive learning programme organised under Climate-KIC’s Education pillar, a cross-Europe platform for the creation of ideas in the area of climate change mitigation. The focus of the course was ‘Decarbonising Buildings’, exploring the transition from traditional to low-carbon building systems and products. Two highly experienced coaches, Dave Green and Richard Bubb, were recruited to facilitate the programme, and a number of experts from across Europe were drafted in to contribute to the course content over the eight days. The participants themselves were from different professional backgrounds and nationalities from within and outside Europe, and so the programme promised to be a heady and interesting mix.

The participants were welcomed at the Radisson Blu Hotel – where they would reside during the programme – by the coaches on Monday evening. The next morning they were bright and early at Innovation Birmingham Campus, the home of Climate-KIC in the West Midlands. Over the following eight days they had a blended learning experience that included presentations by the experts, visits to unique buildings  and facilities that demonstrate low-carbon achievements, facilitated group discussions, and other interactive sessions.

Centre of Refurbishment Excellence site visitPlaces visited include the Birmingham Zero Carbon House, a multiple award-winning residential building, and Hobson’s Brewery which has built a reputation as a sustainable brewer. The experts were reputable, original and sometimes unconventional in their delivery methods. One of them was Rob Taylor of Impatient Management, who provided a refreshing take on transitions thinking with a mix of multimedia tools and a fascinating narrative titled ‘Tales of Camels and Unexpected Opportunities’. Another speaker, Richard Davies, applies a philosophy of ‘voluntary simplicity’ to his personal life, which he seeks to extend to the way buildings are constructed and lived in.

The participants were no less interesting and colourful. One of them, Mikko, who comes from Finland, lives in a self-built home. There were entrepreneurs, academics, industry professionals, company directors, but these titles counted for little over the course of the program as the participants displayed similarly high levels of enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. A special feature of the Innovator Catalyst was that participants were encouraged to come to the programme with case studies of problems or opportunities they had encountered in the course of their individual work experiences. Over the eight days, participants applied the learning gained from the course to their respective case studies, and it was wonderful to see how participants’ perspectives on issues changed positively as each day passed. So too did their feedback about the course quality. The participants were asked to evaluate the course at its beginning, middle and the end, and the feedback scores increased each time. The Innovator Catalyst even attracted new interest from outside as it was running, with an architect and Birmingham City Council official ‘gatecrashing’ the event!
Eating at an eco-friendly restaurant!Apart from the hard work of learning and knowledge exchange, the course also featured a number of social events. There were grand dinners at the start and towards the end, which was attended by Dr David Hardman, the Chief Executive Officer of Innovation Birmingham Campus. There was a networking dinner in which the Innovator Catalyst participants met with delegates from Ireland who were in Birmingham on a Climate-KIC Outreach visit. Innovator Catalyst participants also arranged group trips to London and Warwick Castle, as well as tours of the city.

By the end of the programme, a strong network of professionals had been formed, adding to Climate-KIC’s ever-growing community of people committed to mitigating climate change across different industries in Europe and beyond.

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