On 2nd December 2016 I was delighted to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to clean and green technology at the 2016 businessGreen Technology Awards ceremony held at the IET in London.
James Murray, editor of businessGreen, made some very generous introductory remarks. The text of these comments and my reply are given below:
Ladies and gentlemen, our lifetime achievement award winner has spent almost their entire career advancing the cause of sustainability and clean technology.
A chemist by training, he first worked in R&D at ICI and Unilever, where he was one of the first people in the UK to boast the word sustainability in his job title.
He enjoyed successful stints as a consultant before joining the Technology Strategy Board, which would later become Innovate UK.
As head of sustainability he had a hand in supporting, nurturing, and encouraging literally hundreds, if not thousands of clean tech start-ups and pioneers.
He drove the government’s innovation-led work on buildings, resource efficiency, agriculture, food, and future cities; and has managed programmes worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
He has worked on everything from the launch of the Clean and Cool Missions to, and this is completely true, the development of more sustainable and innovative lubricants for Durex.
Like many who work in sustainability he always said his role was to make the job title redundant, and upon leaving InnovateUK he could confidently say that environmental issues and clean tech are so embedded in its work that he achieved his goal.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Lifetime Achievement Award winner is Richard Miller.
Before he says a few words, I’d just like to share one quick story about Richard. We met four or five years ago on one of the Clean and Cool Missions to the US, and one morning I came down to the hotel lobby to hear that some of the executives on the trip had been up until two in the morning.
‘Ah’, I thought, ‘everything you’ve heard about these trade missions being like Spring Break for entrepreneurs was true’.
But I was wrong, one of the companies had been up until 2am, but they had been sitting soberly in the hotel lobby working for hours with Richard, who had said he would help, on making their investor pitch as good as possible.
His former colleagues say Richard is “a genuine technology enthusiast and knowledgeable in just about any topic you can throw at him”. They also say he’s well known for starting things brilliantly before leaving others to finish them off – apart from a bottle of wine.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Richard Miller.
Thank you very much for this award; although I have to say I feel a bit of a fraud compared to the companies and individuals we have seen honoured here, who have been successfully delivering amazing new clean technology to the market place.
I have been involved in developing and supporting clean technologies for nearly 25 years. I take a very broad view of what clean technology is. For me, it is all about delivering the products and services that society wants, using the minimum of resources and with the minimum of impact on the environment. Products and services that balance the demands of people, planet and profit.
Over that time, I have seen clean technology move from something you could just about justify if there was an immediate cost benefit, to something much more mainstream supported by legislation, regulation and the demands of us as consumers.
And I am very optimistic about the future.
John Beddington’s ‘perfect storm’ of population growth, climate change and resource crunches is now embedded in the way many businesses and politicians talk about the future.
The UK economy’s Gross Value Added is about £1.7 trillion, and almost £500 billion of that will be delivered in a completely different way in 20 years’ time. I don’t know how it will be delivered, but it will be different. Governments around the planet are demanding change, and companies feel the pressure of raw materials availability and cost. Business as usual is simply not possible.
And those pressures are feeding through into major changes. Look at the global energy market. In 2015 about half the total new electricity generation capacity was renewable.
The cost of both wind and solar energy continues to fall dramatically. And whilst there is a real debate about when wind and solar become no-brainers for future investment, no one doubts that it is coming.
These tipping points are being reached everywhere, and thousands of cleantech innovations will fight it out in the market over the coming years in every part of the economy.
As the ‘perfect storm’ becomes more immediate, more visible, the pace of change will accelerate.
Today we have seen a wide range of green technologies honoured. There is still plenty of room for others.
More and more market sectors will be looking for more and more clean and green solutions. They have no choice. You can provide those solutions.