Monthly Archives: June 2014

Small businesses in a time of change

This post is by Sophie O’Callaghan and first appeared on the Climate & Us blog.

Smaller and medium-sized businesses are the life-blood of the UK’s economy. How are they preparing for climate change?

In the UK in 2013 the business sector accounted for around 16 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions so it’s clear that businesses have an important role to play in helping to reduce the impacts of climate change. Many businesses will also feel the impacts of climate change on their activities and on their profit margin.

At the Centre for Business and Climate Solutions we are working to help businesses to take action to prevent and adapt to future climate change. The CBCS is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund 2007-2013 under the South West Competiveness Programme.

The tourism industry is vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather.

I hope that as awareness of climate change becomes more widespread, more businesses will take notice and think about how they can best respond. Larger businesses are in a better position, as they are able to hire consultants and employ specialists to guide their decision making. But what about the smaller businesses? The majority of small businesses are taking some form of action to reduce their carbon emissions. But many business owners don’t know how to adapt and respond to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Part of my role is to help businesses to consider the best course of action.

It seems to me that the concept of climate change and its potential impacts is still relatively new to most people. Understandably, business owners therefore want to gain a better understanding before making any decisions about what to do. Add this cautious approach to a general difficulty among smaller businesses to consider the long term, plus a lack of time and money and we have a recipe for inaction.

Tourism

In my role I work on a personal, one-to-one basis with businesses. It is rewarding to help people to understand that a positive response to climate change can, in many cases, be a simple matter of identifying the risks and making effective plans. This can help a business to keep its doors open, stay profitable and maybe even get ahead of the competition. I have come across cases of businesses that have looked ahead and prepared their premises against flooding. After recent flood events they have been back to normal trading after a few days whilst their neighbours faced recovery times of several months.

It is great to see that some businesses that we work with are already taking climate change on board and beginning to act. People working in the construction sector, such as architects and builders, are telling me that they are more than ready to consider climate change impacts. This is because they can see that the decisions they make today will affect the buildings that we will all be living and working in 100 years from now. Sadly the tourism sector is quite vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events. This year many tourism businesses in the South West found that, even though only a few businesses suffered from the extreme weather earlier in 2014, people were still put off taking their holidays in the region due to a perception that the whole area was still affected.

Contact us via twitter: @ExeterCBCS or visit our website.

In search of British values

Michael Gove has rekindled the debate on British values by demanding that they should be taught in Britain’s schools. Gove’s broadside against the dangers of Islamic extremism taking a hold of our education system was backed by the Prime Minister, who rallied to his Education Secretary’s side, claiming that the incorporation of British values into the school curriculum was likely to have the ‘overwhelming support’ of the country. The Prime Minister went on to give his own view of what these values are, citing freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility, and a respect for British institutions.

This is not the first and doubtless it won’t be the last time that the question of ‘core British values’ has hit the media headlines. In 2001, in the wake of riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, the failure to identify and inculcate British values was widely thought to be the biggest stumbling block to community cohesion and a shared sense of national identity. The debate last week closely paralleled that of thirteen years ago. Anxiety about Britain becoming a more segregated, intolerant and fragmented society is as acute in 2014 as it was in 2001. The concern that ethnic minorities may have too much cultural protection, licensing them to live parallel lives, hangs over us now just as it did then. And confusion about what British values are – indeed whether they really exist – rather than diminishing over in intervening decade has, if anything, increased.

The most interesting intervention into the debate was not however that of the Education Secretary nor that of the Prime Minister. It was the interview by the Faith and Communities Minister, Baroness Warsi, which was given to BBC Radio 4’s World at One. Warsi is the first woman Muslim to serve in the cabinet. With a subtlety and sensitivity typically lacking in such debates, she drew a distinction between conservatism and extremism and cautioned against ‘tackling these matters’ in a way that made matters worse and alienated the majority of Muslims. Crucially, as calls were being heard for a national conversation about British values, Warsi underscored the necessity of all of Britain’s communities being included in that conversation.

In 2005, the authors of this blog (Rumana Begum and Andrew Thompson) went in search of British values among Britain’s first generation Asian migrants. One of us worked in a university history department, the other in an Equality and Diversity Unit of a local council. We conducted interviews with thirty men and women in the Tameside District of a Greater Manchester who had arrived in Britain from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh between 1956 to 1972. The youngest was 49, the eldest 86.

We saw ourselves as rising to the challenge issued by the former CRE Commissioner Shahid Malik, who had recently noted that ‘we know what British values are broadly-speaking’, but tellingly went on to add that: “It would be nice to get them down on paper somewhere.” We felt that the idea of core British values would remain an empty one unless there was a greater understanding of what Britain’s migrant communities considered those values to be.

Britishness

We also felt that if the voices of Britain’s ethnic minorities were rarely heard in the public debate about Britishness, the voices of Asian communities were heard even less than those of other groups. We focused our attention on the first generation, for whom Britain was a largely alien society when they arrived, but who had since come to make Britain their home.

Our findings were striking. The majority of our interviewees confidently described themselves as British Indian, British Pakistani, or British Bangladeshi. The sense of Britain being their home meant that few entertained the notion of eventually returning to their place of birth, even though they had often clung to such a possibility during their early years of settlement.

They were moreover remarkably consistent in their sense of what British values were. Alongside a legal definition of Britishness – the right to hold a passport, which they clearly prized – they identified a core set of values: religious toleration, the welfare state, respect for law and order, and the monarchy.

Having the freedom to practice their religion was clearly something very important to all of those we interviewed. When one Bangladeshi man was asked what he valued about Britain he simply replied: “They have never questioned me about my religion, which I have been able to practice freely”. There is a paradox here. The default position is to think of core British values as a quest for what culturally we have in common – a search for sameness. But the people we spoke to put the respect for diversity right at the heart of what they valued about living in Britain.

Our interviewees – who had worked tirelessly to give their children opportunities beyond their own reach – spoke of the welfare state. Many had been actively involved in voluntary activity and a wide range of community work. But they also valued the services provided by local authorities and central government – especially the NHS. They shared their concerns with us about the breakdown of the extended family in their communities – which among other things acted as a counterweight to reliance on the state. Interestingly, as we published our findings, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported the impact of ageing on the health of ethnic minorities was occurring at a comparatively younger age when compared to other sections of society, underscoring the importance of the NHS.

Respect for law an order was a value widely shared. The first generation avoided confrontation, a fact not always sufficiently recognised, and which, because it removed one line of defence, may explain their appreciation for the times when they had faced racial hostility and were supported by the police.

Two-thirds of those we spoke to identified closely with the monarchy. In fact some thought that it was the Queen who more than anyone or anything else best summed up what it meant to be British. The perception of a strong link between the royal family and the Commonwealth may well have been important here.

Values

What should we make of these first generation Asian migrants’ articulation of British values. At their worst British values can come across as little more than a collection of pious platitudes or convenient political slogans. This wasn’t true of our interviewees who spoke about these values with sincerity and in a way that related them to their day-to-day lives.

On the face of it, there is a fair overlap between their values and those of the Prime Minister – albeit tolerance had a higher priority for our interviewees, and be more explicitly linked to the question of freedom of religion.

But our study had a very different dynamic to the debate we have witnessed over the last week. We were not trying to establish whether or to what extent our interviewees agreed with what others – be they politicians, journalists or indeed Ofsted inspectors – thought core British values were. Rather, we went with open minds in search of British values in Greater Manchester’s Asian communities without presuming that they existed or that, if they did, we already knew how they were going to be defined.

We will never break out of the current cycle of confusion about British values until we allow ourselves to think differently about them. To breathe life into these values we have to work from the bottom up not the top down. We have to recognise that for something to be taught it first has to be defined, and for something to be defined it first has to be discussed. We don’t need edicts from government, however well intentioned. What we need is a nationwide dialogue about the British values we do (and perhaps don’t) share – a dialogue that spans the sacred and the secular, the north and the south, the urban and the rural, and the advantaged and disadvantaged. It may well be that our schools are among the best drivers of this dialogue, but only if we downplay its didactic purpose in favour of our best traditions of democratic debate.

Rumana Begum and Andrew Thompson

The full report is entitled: Asian Britishness. A study of first generation Asian migrants in Greater Manchester.

This blog first appeared in the AHRC Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past blog.

How subtle sexism promotes gender inequalities

As part of the University of Exeter International Women’s Day Seminar Series Professor Manuela Barreto spoke on how subtle sexism promotes gender inequalities. Helena Mattingley, Women in HE Project Officer, was there…

Professor Barreto shared her research to an audience of staff, students and members of the public. In a fascinating and fast-paced talk, she challenged her audience to think differently about sexism – showing a need for us to distinguish between blatant and subtle sexism.

Manuela showed persuasive evidence that ‘old fashioned’ sexism has been superseded by contemporary forms of discrimination. It is not that sexism has gone, but rather overt sexism has been driven underground and morphed into more subtle forms. Her question was: What consequences does this have for how women experience sexism?

Manuela explained that subtle sexism (unlike blatant sexism) does not lead to protest and anger from the target, but rather threatens that individual’s identity and sense of competence. This leads to poor performance and lower self-esteem, and can confirm gender stereotypes. The important distinction is that subtle sexism is ambiguous, difficult to challenge and leads to the target feeling flawed. Blatant discrimination often leads to anger, protest and in-group solidarity.

Professor Manuela Barreto spoke about ‘subtle sexism’ as part of the International Women’s Day seminar series

After explaining her collaborative experimental work with Professor Naomi Ellemers from Leiden University, Manuela talked on the moderating factors which lead to targets experiencing discrimination differently, such as self-esteem, and whether sexism was considered pervasive or rare, which would impact on future expectation of sexism. Many studies and examples were used to illustrate her influential research in this area.

Professor Barreto explained that subtle sexism can be made blatant by another person identifying the situation as discriminatory. Interestingly, research shows that whether this is identified as sexist by a women or a man affects the target’s perception. Her research suggests that this raised awareness of sexism only had positive effects when the source of the suggestion was male, highlighting the importance of men supporting gender initiatives.

After a question and answer session, where Manuela further elaborated on stereotype threats, unconscious bias and discrimination to minorities, the audience left with a new perspective on sexism.

The message I took away was that any form of sexism is not subtle in itself, but only while it is not publicly exposed and defined as discrimination. This means that to continue in gender equality we need to identify subtle sexism, make it blatant, and be able to protest against the discrimination.

Manuela Barreto is a Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Exeter. She leads on the Societal and Lifestyle Shifts research theme and is part of the University Athena SWAN Working Group. Manuela’s research focuses on the impact of prejudice and discrimination on its targets, on perpetrators, and on interactions between the two. She also works on morality in intra- and inter- group relations. This research was funded by a prestigious grant from the Dutch Scientific Organisation.

This talk was the third of seven seminar talks celebrating a variety of gender research in the University. This seminar series showcases the diversity of research and links celebrations from International Women’s Day 2014 to next year’s events. Find out more about past and future events.

More information about Manuela’s work can be found on her website.

The success of TickBox

 

TickBox – a website set up by Exeter student Matt Morley to help people compare election candidates and decide who to vote for – picked up two awards at this year’s SETSquared Student Enterprise Awards. TickBox Head of Marketing Alex Scott-Malden tells us about their awards experience…

Sometimes it takes a nudge from the outside to look up and realise what you have done.

In the run up to the SetSquared awards we were hardly aware they were happening. All four of us were feverishly writing proposals, meeting investors and planning the next stage of TickBox. Our stall for the event was put together in the minutes we could find in between sending emails and general working. It may sound a little self-congratulatory but I think it was when we turned up at the evening that we realised what we’d done might just have worked.

We spent a good hour talking to people about TickBox, seeing their interest pique as we mentioned the 41,000 people who’d used the site or the articles written about us, including one in the Independent. It was great to watch people having a go on our touch screen computer and seeing who they were matched with. A moment of comedy occurred when a member of the Conservative party was recommended he shouldn’t vote for himself…

The awards dinner itself was wonderful, there’s something really quite magical about going up on stage. Under the lights we ended up collecting both the Best Student Start – Up and the People’s Choice award.

From the bottom of our hearts we’d like to thank Ignite, the Students Guild, the University and everyone who came and voted for us. You all made us feel special.

2014 SETsquared Student Enterprise Awards

The SETsquared Student Enterprise awards took place at University of Exeter on 5 June; Innovation Centre Business Support Manager Joe Pearce went to the awards ceremony and has written this blog about the ceremony.

The University of Exeter played host to invited special guests, staff and students from the SETsquared partnership to celebrate the best enterprise activity from across the five Universities.

The event was a chance for everyone to recognise the great work done by the staff who support student and graduate entrepreneurs and also to celebrate the best businesses which have spun out of SETsquared in the last year.

The Exeter delegation.
Image courtesy of Exeter Students’ Guild.

The evening started with the usual networking and catching up with colleagues and friends from the different Universities, but there was also a chance for the student and graduate businesses who had been nominated for awards to exhibit what they had been up to. Every guest was given a ping pong ball and asked to drop it into the vase for the business they thought best, with the winner being given the “Peoples’ Choice” award later in the evening.

It is always great at this event to hear from the guest speakers and this year was no different, with Phil Cameron, Exeter alum and Founder of No 1 Traveller delivering the keynote. Phil‘s background was in theatre, having graduated in Drama – he is an Olivier & Tony award winning producer! – and he has been able to take the lessons learned in that tough sector and transfer them into his new business. As Phil pointed out, the key to his, and indeed most businesses, is in understanding what your customers want and making sure they get it – hopefully lessons which the budding entrepreneurs in the audience were taking on board!

And so to the awards.

Awards

Each Uni had the opportunity to recognise the invaluable work done by students and mentors who they work with to encourage, nurture and support entrepreneurship, and it is great to be able to publicly thank those who offer so much.

But the awards which really count are those which are voted for, and the judges decisions were…

Dave Jarman and his team at University of Bristol once again showed that they are leading the way in Enterprise Education, with their Spark event picking up the award for “Best Student Experience” for the second year running.

Tiqa Adinin from University of Southampton won the Social Enterprise Award for the incredible work which she has done with her business SanEco, impacting on some 11,000 people in Kenya with products and services to improve sanitary conditions and drive social change through entrepreneurship. It is another great example of how Enactus projects can spinout and take on a life of their own.

But the big winners of the night were the University of Exeter, picking up three awards. Tickbox won both the Best Student Start-Up and the Peoples’ Choice Award for the work they are doing to change the way people interact with democracy, helping them to understand which candidate in an election best represents their views.

Award winning team Tickbox with Ben Bradshaw MP and VIP guest Phil Cameron.
Image courtesy of Exeter Students’ Guild

Launched for the Euro elections in May, Tickbox attracted over 40,000 unique visitors in the days before the election. They are now getting set up to tackle the general election next year, so watch this space.

Also from Exeter and winning the Best Graduate Start up award, were Instabear. Having started as a service to print your instagram photos, the Instabear team have moved into events, providing the link between social reach and real physical interaction by offering their live photo printing service to clients such as Jaguar Land Rover, Jack Wills and Ford.

Next year promises to be a big year for them as they look to grow and establish themselves with more international clients. Also, you might be seeing much more of founder, Solly Akhtar, who is currently involved in a secret project you will hear more of later this year!

All in all a fun night, congrats to the winners, hard luck to those who walked away empty handed but do stick with your businesses because there were some great ones there.

I’m already looking forward to next year and seeing if Exeter can make it three big years in a row – but I know the teams at the other unis will have something say about it.

Also, looking forward to Uni Pop Shop  – check it out and make sure you drop in if you are in London at the end of the month.

Launch of the Research, Innovation, Learning and Development (RILD) building

The new £27.5million RILD building opened this week. The building will provide new space for world-class medical research and teaching. Katy Barwick, a PhD student in the University of Exeter Medical School, attended the opening. She works with the Neurogenetics and Community Genetics research group under the supervsision of Professor Andrew Crosby and Dr Lorna Harries. Here she gives her perspective on the launch event.

An eclectic group of 180 guests, including delegates from the Wellcome Trust and Wolfson Foundation, Exeter council members, major partners and University representatives and many more attended the launch of the RILD centre on Monday 2 June 2014.

Whilst VIPs received a private tour of the clinical research facility and laboratories during which they could witness the already well-functioning building in operation, guests were greeted with welcome drinks and canapés in the café and reception area. This was followed by inspiring and enthusiastic speeches by Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice—Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, and Angela Pedder, Chief Executive of the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, both of whom expressed their pride over the success of the facility so far, and their confidence in the potential of this multidisciplinary, collaborative work place to tackle tomorrows healthcare problems by putting the quality of patient care at the centre of research.

There was clearly a dream shared between those who have worked to create the RILD, and that is to provide an excellent facility which enables students, researchers, and NHS and University staff to come together to be trained and educated, apply knowledge in innovative ways, and work as one to improve treatment and quality of patient care. A dream which, as student who has been working at the RILD for the short time it has been operational, I can see has become a reality even in these early days.

Despite the commitment, drive and vision of all those from the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust that has been fundamental in the creation of the RILD, the development of the award winning £27.5million building would not have been possible without the generous part-funding that has come from The Wellcome Trust and The Wolfson Foundation. Thus, Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, and Sir David Weatherall, a Wolfson Foundation trustee carried out the joint unveiling of The Wellcome/Wolfson philanthropy plaque.

We were also honoured to have Dr Dennis Gillings, CBE, Hon DSc- the founder of the largest global provider of clinical trials and commercial marketing services to the pharma and biotechnology industry, Quintiles – as the keynote speaker and unveiler of RILD building plaque.

Dr M, Dr Dennis Gillings and Professor Janice Kay.

Dr Gillings has been a pioneer in the world of drug development and clinical trials, and has received a number of honorary degrees from the University of Carolina, the University of London, the University of Southampton, and the University of Exeter. He was also honoured by the Queen as Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the pharmaceutical industry, and more recently he was appointed by the Prime Minister World Dementia Envoy.

Dr Gillings’ showed great optimism and belief in the future of the RILD, describing the facility as ‘epitomising the need for multidisciplinary interactive research’ and as a development that will ‘put both Exeter and the South West on the map, and expand the national contribution from this region’. He described the health care world as ‘evolving towards personalised, stratified, precision medicine and an explosion of health data’, and the launch of the RILD as a ‘milestone event for Exeter creating its opportunity to be a major player in this new healthcare world’. He stated that ‘Exeter is doing the right thing at the right time’, and that the investment made in the RILD is ‘expanding local infrastructure’, and ‘will help the NHS transform itself into 21st century medicine’.

During the final part of the afternoon, guests were able to wonder around the building both to see the facilities, and to speak with staff about the clinical and laboratory research. As a researcher at the RILD, I found this to be a great opportunity to share our current research and show to the guests how much more the RILD is than a building, but a facility which provides an excellent working environment where communication between teams of the same and of different disciplines, and with patients, flows easily and effectively. Their interest and enthusiasm in our work was flattering and rewarding.

In all, the RILD launch day was a successful event which generated an atmosphere of enthusiasm and excitement about the future of Exeter’s role in forwarding excellence in research and patient care. I believe the event was enjoyed by all, and that its’ success is an example of the future success of both the RILD and Exeter.

New Thinking Blog: In matters of climate change, the environmental requirement must take precedent over short term economic goals

This blog first appeared on the iGov Blog.

In matters of climate change, the environmental requirement must take precedent over short term economic goals

Professor Catherine Mitchell is an IPCC lead author

Catherine Mitchell, IGov Team, 30th May, 2014

The Universities of Exeter and Leeds and the Met Office held Transformational Science: the future of climate change research following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Reports (AR5) on 15-16 May 2014.

The results of all three Working Group reports were discussed: WG1, the science report, came out in September 2013; the Report on Adaptation  in March 2014;  and the Mitigation Report in April 2014. As Thomas Stocker, Co-chair of WG1 concluded ‘limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gases ‘.

Global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, even though policies have been in place to try and reduce them for decades. Moreover, the rate of increase has increased from 1.3 per cent per annum (pa) from 1970-2000 to 2.2 per cent pa for 2000-2010. For the first time in three decades the carbon intensity of the globe – ie how much carbon is used for each GDP unit output – has risen.  The IPCC WG1 has adopted a carbon budget approach for the first time . The global carbon budget for a 2⁰ temperature change in 2100 – the contentious amount of temperature change ‘accepted’ as possible before the globe tips into ‘dangerous’ climate change – ie when human intervention may lose its ability to control ongoing consequences –   is 790 billion tonnes (bnt) of carbon:  535 bnt have already been used up and the globe emits about 10 bnt a year. That leaves about 25 years (not counting the rising rates) before we, the globe, use up the budget.

Predictions

From an energy and climate change policy perspective, the WG1 science is grim reading. WG3 sets out the various predictions, including Business as Usual which takes us to 3.7-4.8⁰ temperature rise by 2100. It estimates costs of various reduction scenarios, and in all cases it is cheaper with early action.  It also shows the amount of energy demand reduction required across various end-use sectors and the amount of low carbon energy supply for them if they are to meet the 2⁰ temperature rise. For example, for the global industry sector, energy demand reduction in 2030 should be about 20 per cent while low carbon supply should be about 35 per cent.

Britain has its own carbon budgets set out by the Committee on Climate Change – an 80 per cent cut leading to 160mt emissions in 2050 to meet the 2⁰ temperature rise in 2100. This emission reduction target is,  anyway,  challenging and Britain is not on target to meet it. However, John Barrett of Leeds (an IPCC author) has taken the new IPCC carbon budget  for a 2⁰ temperature rise  and fitted it proportionately to Britain. He estimates that we need to cut our emissions by 95 per cent by 2050 and that the CCCs 80 per cent target should be achieved by 2027,  or 22 years earlier than set out by the CCC.

Low carbon society

Global warming is now a short term issue. Any child born in the UK today and henceforth has a good chance of still being alive in 2100. We need a Government which places the vision of a low carbon society at its centre, and cascades it down through all levels of Government. An important strand of this is that Government implements a principle that in matters of climate change, the environmental imperative may take precedent over the short term economic choice – as first put forward by the UK Cabinet Office’s PIU Energy Review in 2002.  On the European and International front, we need a Government that encourages appropriate international governance institutions and targets, and does its best to meet them.

Since 1990, Britain has managed to add four per cent of low carbon energy supply to the energy mix, way below that estimated to be necessary by the IPCC. Britain has to move from ideological policy making to policy making based on best practice evidence from around the globe so that a step change in GHG reduction can be achieved, and this  will  include technological, social  and institutional change. In parallel, we as individuals and communities in civil society have to do all we can to get our politicians, neighbours, businesses, energy suppliers and so on to take climate change seriously.  Climate and energy policy must take note of the IPCC  warning and act now.