On 25 October 2017 Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) held the relaunch of SEEG, its Sustainable and Ethical Enterprise Group, hosted by its Business School.
SEEG is a hub of expertise in sustainability and innovation, aiming at promoting cross disciplinary collaboration within a broad sustainability agenda while building and supporting a community of like-minded individuals and organizations.
As representative of the Bassetti Foundation in my role as Foreign Correspondent I attended the meeting, and will collaborate with the project over the longer term through my collaboration with the External Advisory Board. The following is a short report and some personal thoughts on meeting proceedings.
After a short introduction from Professor Andrew Gibson, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering whose building hosted the event, the first Keynote Speech was given by Professor Philippe Laredo, Director of LATTS at the Ecole des Ponts in Paris.
In a speech entitled Active Transformations: Processes of designing and leading new international research centres, Prof. Laredo described how his research department had developed and the points and issues that are important when building and developing such an institution. He stressed the importance of developing a Masters program as a turning-point in capacity, the important role that internal collaborations can and must play, and the role of external partnerships and the choices made regarding choosing and nourishing them. He concluded that the core of any research organization must be training activities, as these lead to PhD and research activities.
The keynote was followed by an outline of SEEG’s proposed new vision and three year plan, delivered by Professor of Digital Business Cathy Urquhart. Professor Urquhart described the background that had led to the creation of SEEG before introducing Professor Sally Randles (a partner in the SMART-Maps project with the Bassetti Foundation), who holds the Chair of Sustainability and Innovation at MMU Business School and is SEEG co-convenor.
Professor Randles expanded upon the introduction from Prof. Urquhart offering an in depth description of what SEEG is and has historically been and what it might become. She went on to describe her aim of tying Responsible Innovation discourse to sustainability and particularly innovation within sustainability, a preclude to her Inaugural Lecture that was to follow during the afternoon session.
After a short break, the meeting continued with Professor Richard Preziosi’s lecture. In Bringing Natural Ecosystem Conservation, Biodiversity, Management and Governance Together, Professor Preziosi presented his case study of frog conservation in Equador. Preziosi explained how and why frogs are losing their habitats and the subsequent and related loss of biodiversity, describing the problems involved in addressing such issues (how to keep frogs in captivity for example when there is so little known about their lives and even diet and forms of reproduction), through analysis and descriptions of various attempts at doing so.
This lecture was followed by a panel entitled Sustainable Consumption” Pluralizing strategies of trying to ‘do good’.
The panel opened with Dr Dan Welch, who offered an overview of the academic critique of sustainable consumption and the social organization of consumption. He was followed by Dr Tom Schroeder who described food trends and multiple normatives, asking the question of what food trends actually imply. He argued that food trends (and their following) allow individual expressions of normatives and positioning as well as providing shortcuts to decision-making in a world of multiple choice possibilities, something he likened to a compass for complex decision-making navigation.
After a fine lunch Professor Sally Randles delivered the second Keynote and her Inaugaral Lecture, De-facto Responsible innovation, What is it and why does it matter?
In a very entertaining and accessible lecture, Professor Randles described her involvement in RI, the history and development of her position and the development of the concept of de-facto responsible innovation, before raising the issue of the influence of markets upon RI and RI processes.
The third and final keynote was delivered by video from Arizona, as Professor Erik Fisher described the development of RI in terms of international collaborations, and the development of future visions and their influence and effect upon the RI debate. Readers will know that Professor Fisher is well qualified for such a lecture as he is Editor in Chief of the Journal of Responsible Innovation and is an integral part of the Virtual Institute of responsible Innovation, both organizations and projects that the Foundation participates fully within.
Fisher described how roles for experts must be re-thought out in the light of current public cynicism towards science and experts, before describing his concept of Socio-technical integration through his STIR Cities Project. He explained his goal of bringing his STIR concept out of the science laboratory and into the city, offering three examples of his work across different cities.
The afternoons proceeding were then spiced and sped up with an extremely entertaining session of five minute elevator pitches from SEEG members. The first to pitch were those members from the Faculty of Business and Law, swiftly followed by those from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, representing the interdisciplinarity and broad spectrum of perspectives represented within the project.
The event was brought to drinks and refreshments with a short question and answer session hosted by Sally Randles and Olga Kuznetsova, with the floor taking the lead with a series of incisive and entertaining questions and answers.
After the refreshment the meeting hosted a question and answer and panel discussion with the Sustainability and the City Panel. This panel was made up of people who work in the Manchester area within various sustainability, climate and environmental projects, alongside representatives of the university and the Manchester City Council. The panel described the practicalities “on the ground” of their divergent approaches, followed by questions from both within the panel and the floor.
The event was brought to a close with a final reception.
This was en extremely informative but above all entertaining meeting. The 5 minute elevator pitch section really kept the event alive, bringing excitement and quick-fire responses to the afternoon. The organization was flawless, and I must add that in the 20 years or so since I was a student in Manchester services and capabilities have been transformed.
I very much look forward to continuing my collaboration with SEEG, and on behalf of the Foundation we all wish all those involved the very best with the project.