Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has publicly backed plans to create a cleantech hub in west London, to position London as the green tech capital of Europe.
When most people think of cleantech, they think about the capital intensive investment into solar panels, wind farms, recycling plants, electric cars and batteries, but this asset-heavy cleantech industry is not the only approach to sustainability.
Cleanweb, a blend of cleantech and the internet, is an alternative way to use the existing resources of people, green technology, data and the internet to meet the same sustainability goals.
London needs to invest in people empowered by cleanweb. The tightly packed city’s 8.6 million population is bigger than ever before – it has overtaken the pre-Second World War peak. This is a resource to take advantage of.
People are London’s strength, and are at the heart of successful industries – finance, fashion, media. Many are within walking distance of each other, allowing people to network across industries within close proximity. There’s always an opportunity for serendipitous conversation to spark a revolutionary new idea.
Cleanweb sits at the intersection between cleantech, web technology, the Internet of Things and collaborative consumption. It uses the internet to democratise and connect. It combines technology innovation, new business models and commercial sustainability objectives with reducing our impact on the environment.
London already has the technology focus, much of which is being showcased at London Tech Week among a myriad of networking and learning opportunities celebrating London’s global strengths of tech innovation, business successes, entrepreneurship and creativity. The cleanweb movement is a way of allowing this existing ecosystem to have more of an impact, with some additional goals.
Companies are already using a cleanweb approach around the world. BlaBlaCar are unleashing the power of underused assets through ride-sharing. Startups like Mastodon C and Demand Logic are crunching big data sets to find valuable insights for companies. Companies like Open Sensors and Xively are connecting machines together to support the Internet of Things. These companies may be small, but their impact is disproportionately large. BlaBlaCar, Europe’s leading car sharing platform, transports more people than the Eurostar every year.
London’s startup and technology culture has exploded over the last few years. More than 340 London-based tech companies have attracted investment of over £1.47bn to the city between 2010 and 2013, making tech as important as banking or tourism in terms of the city’s economic infrastructure. Just today, GP Bullhound revealed London is now home to 17 billion-dollar unicorn companies, with this success largely people-driven, mobile, flexible and supported.
A similar approach can be taken to combating climate change through cleanweb. A recent working paper ‘Cleanweb UK: How British Companies are using the Web for Economic Growth & Environmental Impact’ by Sonny Masero and Jack Townsend, looked into the state of play of cleanweb, and stated the UK can take a lead in Europe in shaping the sector with the right support.
This is what London could be known for – addressing climate change, air pollution and recycling using data, the internet and the power of people. While investment in more cleantech renewable assets is still needed, it’s cleanweb that will bring about a true green revolution. Let’s hope #LDNTechWeek takes away this message.
James Johnston is CEO of Open Utility, a renewable energy startup based in Shoreditch, London. The company has partnered with Good Energy to trial Piclo, the UK’s first online renewable energy marketplace