Flying the flag for Britain’s green innovation

Senior reporter

Britain’s environmental innovation will be on display this week as the government leads its first green trade mission.

Intelligent Energy, which helped develop the world’s first fuel cell motorbike and manned aircraft, and windfarm construction firm RES Group are among the six companies on the five-day trip to the US.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) hopes the mission will create new openings and investment opportunities for UK firms.

‘There is terrific potential to unlock the UK’s green sector and missions such as these are crucial if we are to accelerate export growth,’ said Intelligent Energy’s VP of business development, Dennis Hayter.

Climate change minister Greg Barker will also use the trip to tout Britain’s green credentials.

‘I’ll be telling the people I meet about the transformation of the UK economy that we are delivering through the green deal, our reforms of the electricity market and the creation of the green investment bank,’ he said.

Back in the UK, energy secretary Chris Huhne will be promoting more innovation by formally opening Durham University’s new Energy Institute (DEI) today.

The research centre actually began operating back in 2009 but recently collaborated in winning a £54m grant towards the application of smart grid technology in thousands of homes and businesses across the north of England.

DEI director Richard Davies said: ‘DEI research into renewable energy sources never takes place in a vacuum; we always make sure it’s framed by how it will work within society and the energy needs of society.

‘That strand runs through all our leading research projects including carbon capture and storage, geothermal energy, smart grids, wind power and solar power. We consider the affordability, practicality and its acceptability within society.’

Those with an interest in green engineering should look out for The Engineer’s sustainability supplement coming out on 25 April.

Turning to more immediate issues, as NATO continues its bombing of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in Libya under the mandate of protecting citizens, defence experts are meeting in London today for the start of a three-day conference on precision weapons.

Given what the conference organisers describe as ‘the asymmetric nature of modern warfare’ – i.e. when we’re fighting enemies who can’t possibly hope to match our military technology – the pressure is on to create more accurate air-to-surface munitions that can reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties.

DefenceIQ says Small Precision Weapons 2011 ‘will provide a comprehensive overview of the small precision weapons in development, an in depth assessment of how to reduce the collateral damage of your current missiles and the latest efforts to integrate these weapons onto unmanned, rotary and fixed wing platforms’.

Meanwhile, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) will tomorrow hold a presentation by BAE Systems on sustainability and value in the UK submarine industry.

BAE’s future submarines director Tony Burbridge will argue that the government needs to provide regular programmes of design and construction activities, otherwise the UK won’t have the skills to build new nuclear submarines should they be needed.

Finally, Briefing would like to congratulate civil engineer Michelle McDowell for winning the title of Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year.

The chair of civil and structural engineering at architecture firm BDP was rewarded for her work on low-carbon building and promoting engineering as a career for everyone.

‘Women are scarce, perhaps it’s the image of construction – dirty, muddy boots; an unreconstructed working environment. But now the image is transforming, even on site,’ she told the BBC.

‘I’ve had to show a level of determination and hard work and make it easier for others to come through – through encouragement and bursaries.

‘Even just two weeks in a design office or on a construction site can make it gel that it’s a career for someone rather than something to settle for.’