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Shifting Gears: the first in our new event series


On 7th June, one year on from launching London’s Living Testbed, SHIFT brought together government, academic, business and community innovators, from east London and further afield, in the first of our ‘Shifting Gears’ event series.


The major challenges facing cities today will take innovations big and small, and demand collaborative action from each of us. We see SHIFT’s role as helping to make meaningful connections and investments to enable innovation to scale and have the impact we need for a better urban future in London and in cities around the world. This new programme of events will drive that intentional collaboration between all different parts of the innovation economy locally, so that we can mobilise and together enable and scale the interventions that will deliver meaningful change faster.

Our June event was hosted at The Lab E20, located in the Park’s East Village and designed by Christopher Raeburn. Founded on the three pillars of climate action, the circular economy and regenerative design, the Lab provided the perfect backdrop for the evening and the conversation that SHIFT is seeking to facilitate. In fact, the event kicked off with a welcome from The Lab’s curator Yasmin Jones-Henry, who highlighted the alignment between its ethos and Shift’s own mission.

Alongside our Chair for the evening, SHIFT’s Head of Innovation Francesca Colloca, we were delighted to be joined by a line-up of fantastic lighting speakers who shared their stories as key innovative players across industries and sectors in the race against climate change.

First up was Eddie Copeland, Director of the London Office of Technology & Innovation (LOTI). Highlighting  the challenge of trying to effect change at a truly pan-London scale, LOTI in part exists to drive collaboration across London’s 33 boroughs to unlock the innovation that we will need if we are going to tackle big issues like the climate emergency. That collaboration is required across data; the big issues that effect this city have zero respect for borough boundaries, and if we are to come up with effective solutions we must have data that traverses those boundaries. We need to bring it together, analyse it and act upon it collectively. Collaboration is required across knowledge; between London boroughs and people in this room we have so many of the answers, but we will need to together use all of the tools at our disposal to effect the change that we want to see.

An exemplar of the power of collaboration in practice came from Tom Webster, CTO of GrowUp Farms, who shared their 10 year journey from Kickstarter campaign to a UK leader in vertical farming. Reflecting on the energy challenge that they have had to overcome to become a truly sustainable way of growing food, forming successful partnerships have enabled them to access onsite renewables and meet their values of sustainability at scale.

On the topic of energy, Rebel Energy’s Penelope Hope spoke on her journey of co-founding a renewable energy business with a social mission to end fuel poverty, and inspired us with hopes for the future of energy in the UK.

I think this future is quite inspiring, and I think that businesses – and this is where the Olympic Park comes in – are probably best placed to achieve some of this change“.

Penelope Hope, Co-Founder – Rebel Energy

Speaking of an inspiring future, our final lightning talk came from Lulu Wallis of award-winning local company Notpla who shared the great work they are doing to drive a pivotal change in the future of packaging. Taking inspiration from nature, Notpla’s use of the ‘miracle crop’ seaweed to develop packaging solutions that disappear naturally is giving consumers the convenience of single-use, without the plastic waste. SHIFT is extremely excited to be trialling Notpla’s Ooho product at London Aquatics Centre over the Summer, giving the public a chance to try their iconic edible bubbles and be part of Notpla’s journey to roll out Ooho wider.

A big thank you to our brilliant speakers, hosts and everyone who came along to join in the conversation. SHIFT is now looking forward to opening up our membership network, a series of upcoming innovation programmes and many more events to come in the ‘Shifting Gears’ series. If you’re interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you!


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