IBM Start – positive outcomes from the Sustainable Energy day


I have already written about how well the IBM Start event started out – well I wanted to dive a little deeper into one of the days in particular – the Smarter Energy for a Sustainable future day. Why? For me, it was by far the best day of the event.

IBM Start - Building the New Energy System

Why do I say that? A number of reasons –

  1. The speaker list had senior representation from EDF, BP, E.ON UK, British Gas, Water UK, OFGEM, Carbon Trust, Shell, B&Q, National Grid, Central Networks, WWF, Stagecoach, Power Perfector amongst others, as well as representatives from NGO’s, academia and research organisations.
  2. The delegate list was impressive as well and consequently the networking on the day was through the roof and
  3. There was far more audience participation solicited than on any of the other days I attended Start

The discussions themselves were high quality but there were far too many of them happening in parallel – I mean how do you decide between:

  • Building the new Energy System
  • Driven by Demand – Managing the New Infrastructure or
  • New Business Models for Energy in New Economies

I wanted to attend all of them!

Charles Hendry, Minister for Energy at IBM Start

Charles Hendry, Minister for Energy at IBM Start

A real surprise for me was the speech by Charles Hendry. Charles Hendry is the UK’s Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Due to the Chatham House Rule I can’t tell you what he said but what I can say is that his talk was one of the best on the day (and that’s saying a lot!). He was passionate, amazingly knowledgeable about his brief and when he concluded his presentation he opened up to take questions from the floor. I just hope he is given the freedom to carry out all he wants to in his role as minister for Energy and Climate Change!

Finally, the event was called Start, we were told, because people are tired of being told what they can’t do, so the aim of this event was to get people inspired about positive things they can do. Brilliant. To that end the Energy Day was the one day which had the most obvious positive outcome arise. Practical Action, an NGO who were in attendance, proposed the setting up of EnergyAid – an organisation analagous to WaterAid whose mandate would be to supply modern, reliable, clean energy to the world’s poorest people. Fabulous.

If the EnergyAid idea were the only positive outcome of Start, IBM could be extremely proud of the event but doubtless there will be far more positive initiatives come out of the 9 days. Watch this space for more…


IBM Summit’s first three days? – a great Start!

The Arch!

I attended the first three days of IBM’s Start summit last week and I’m definitely going back this week for more.

The venue (Lancaster House) is a sumptuous mansion in the centre of London whose opulence, defies description!

The event kicked off with a day dedicated to discussing Smarter Cities. The speaker list included Martin Powell (Boris Johnson’s Advisor on the Environment), Nigel Hugill (Chair of the board, Centre for Cities), Hamish McRae (Associate Editor, The Independent), and Emma Harrison CBE (who seemed a little out-of-place to be honest!).

IBM's Ginni Rometty spaeking at IBM Start

IBM's Ginni Rometty spaeking at IBM Start

The audience on the day included several chief executives of cities, the talks (especially Martin Powell’s Achieving a Sustainable 21st Century City Environment) were incredibly interesting, and the networking was tremendous.

Day two was Smarter Energy for a Sustainable Future. This was by far the best of the three days I attended, which says a lot considering how good the other days were! Again, the speakers (incl Charles Hendry (UK Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change), Martin Lawrence, (MD, EDF) and Rachel Fletcher, Director Distribution, Ofgem) and the audience were stellar but two things made this day stand out for me: 1) there was far more audience participation encouraged than either of the other two days and 2) most of the discussions were about Smart Grids – a topic I have had a deep interest in for some time now.

Day three was all about Smart Transportation. Once more the delegate and speaker lists were stratospheric. Speakers included Philip Hammond (UK Secretary of State for Transport), Ken Livingstone (former Mayor of London who introduced London’s Congestion Charge), Prince Charles (Prince of Wales and one of the initiators of the event), Graham Dalton (Chief Executive of the Highways Agency) and Len Porter (Chief Executive of RSSB) and Keith Ludeman (Group Chief Executive, Go-Ahead Group). Unfortunately, as I was flying home, I missed most of the afternoon sessions of the smarter transport day (and no, the irony is not lost on me!) but the morning discussions were fantastic.

Jim Steer, Director, Greenguage 21 at IBM Start

Jim Steer, Director, Greenguage 21 at IBM Start

Two things which appear not to have been covered during the Smarter Transport day were sections dedicated to shipping (though this may be covered in the Smarter Supply Chain day) and walking/bike schemes.

A few critiques – the event is being held under the Chatham House rule which, while it is supposed to foster freer discussion at the event, it stifles reporting of the event subsequently. Also, the connectivity (even 3G) at the event is ery poor – probably a consequence of the building being owned by the UK Foreign Office and finally, there was no beer on offer at the reception – only wine!!!

If those were my only gripes with the event, you know it was good. The most impressive thing for me from the three days was the fact that no speaker (IBM or otherwise) mentioned a single IBM product. This was not a sales oriented event.

I’m back again for days seven and eight and I’m really looking forward to more of the same. Well done Caroline Taylor and the IBM team.


I’ll be at IBM Start this week (and next!)

Reaching for the sun

Photo credit Tom Raftery (me!)

IBM are hosting a 9 day Sustainability Summit at Start in the UK this week (and next obviously!).

Start is an initiative inspired by the Prince of Wales Charities Foundation to help people “lead more sustainable lives and to show what a more energy efficient, cleaner and healthier future could look like”.

IBM are leading the business part of the Summit and they have a great line-up of topics:

  1. Day 1 – Smarter Cities for a Sustainable Future
  2. Day 2 – Smarter Energy for a Sustainable Future
  3. Day 3 – Smarter Transport for a Sustainable Future
  4. Day 4 – People and Skills for a Sustainable Future
  5. Day 5 – Start Young for a Sustainable Future
  6. Day 6 – Smarter Supply Chains for a Sustainable Future
  7. Day 7 – Finance and Sustainability
  8. Day 8 – Smarter Analytics for a Sustainable Future
  9. Day 9 – Smarter Business for a Sustainable Future

I’m not going to be able to attend days 4-6 but am really looking forward to the other sessions – sustainability geekery heaven!

I’ll have camera equipment with me and although the sessions themselves are being held under Chatham House Rules, I’ll be sure to nab interviews with as many of the attendees as I can!

You will be able to follow the non-Chatham House Rules talks on Twitter using the hashtag #ibmstart starting on Wednesday this week (Sept 8th) and continuing on until Thursday next week (Sept 16th).