An evening in the Lions’ Lair

On Tuesday 26th February Solutions for the Planet were invited to exhibit at the IGEM’s London Showcase and Lions’ Lair.  Jen Baughan, CEO of Solutions for the Planet, shares her account of the event:

I really didn’t know what the evening would have in store but I quickly found out that the Lions’ Lair meant that fantastic innovators in the gas industry were going to be pitching their Big Ideas to a panel of judges (aka ‘Lions’).  Needless to say I was excited!

I was there to promote our partnership and network with prospective mentors.  It was also great to catch up with Chris Bielby, Director of Industry Liaison at SGN who has supported our programme for a number of years now, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I arrived at the venue after our final Big Ideas Day of the season, inspired and excited by all the ideas and energy flowing out of students at Oaks Park High School in Ilford.  Our exhibition stand was between ControlPoint and ULC Robotics who had some really cool products that they are working with.  The first person I met was Sean Monks, Business Development Manager at ControlPoint and he told me about how they are developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help engineers to connect new plastic gas piping more efficiently: that’s right, AI which tells you when you’ve not ticked all the boxes by analysing photos before you weld new pipes together to help reduce joint leakages and reduce the costs of replacements.  Super clever! Sean went on to do an awesome pitch in the Lions’ Lair.

I then spoke to Barry Whyte from ULC Robotics who talked me through one of their pieces of robotic technology which can be placed inside the older style cast iron gas pipes and fix joints from the inside of the pipe while being remotely controlled from an engineer above ground.  Who’d have thought!

The event was introduced by Sam Wilson, Operations Director at ULC Robotics, and Chair of the IGEM London, Southern & Eastern Section.  He spoke about the work that IGEM do with Solutions for the Planet and the charity that they support, The Ben Kinsella Trust.  The Ben Kinsella Trust is tackling knife crime through education and campaigning.  This couldn’t be a more current issue – on Tuesday evening in Ilford (the same area in which we’d been delivering a Big Ideas Day earlier in the day), a man was stabbed to death, and this was the fourth knife attack in the capital within eight hours.  Knife crime is, for good reason, at the forefront of the minds of some of the young people we have been working with on the Big Ideas Days.

Steve Edwards (the Director of Regulation and Commercial at Wales & West Utilities and President of IGEM), then went on to talk more about some of the innovations that are going on in the gas industry, including h21, HyDeploy and InTEGRel: all projects looking at the future of gas and a more renewable gas mix.

The Lions’ Lair was really fun, and although some of the presentations went slightly above my head, what I took from the event is that STEM skills really are important and innovation is needed everywhere.

Finally we heard from Mark Horsley, CEO at Northern Gas Networks.  Mark’s keynote focussed mainly on company culture and how transformational change in the business has come from a focus on NGN employees being Happy, Community-Focussed, Empowered, Intellectually Curious, Trailblazing and Heartfelt.  These are values that can transform the way businesses work, from companies the size of NGN down to small social enterprises like Solutions for the Planet.  A great note for my time at the IGEM Showcase and Lions’ Lair to end on (and a few new mentors signed up too!).

Written by: Jen Baughan, CEO

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd.


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