Business people and consultants at the KEG launch

Flying start for £750,000 project

A £750,000 project to develop knowledge and expertise in sustainable construction in the South West, got off to a flying start when it was launched at Somerset College’s Genesis Centre in Taunton to businesses and the community.

The funding was secured from the European Regional Development Fund and South West Regional Development Agency, and aims to increase sustainability in the built environment throughout the South West and beyond.

The £750,000 Knowledge Exchange at Genesis (KEG) project was launched at a special three day conference recently for businesses, schools and the public, which aimed to explain green technologies relevant to business and home.

The KEG project has been awarded £375,000 by the European Regional Development Fund and £187,500 by the South West Regional Development Agency. Additional funding of £187,500 is being invested from partners including Somerset College, which is leading the project, Weymouth College, City of Bristol College, City College Plymouth, and University of Plymouth.

The business day of the conference saw over 200 businesses and consultants visit the Genesis Centre, to find out how green energy can benefit them. They also heard keynote speeches on environmental topics from such speakers as Peaches Golding OBE of the Prince’s Mayday Network, founded by HRH The Prince of Wales, Lex Cumber, Business Development Manager of the Midas Group – one of the UK’s largest sustainable construction companies, and Peter Lacy, Managing Director of Accenture Sustainability Services.

The public events saw hundreds of schoolchildren and families visit the Genesis Centre to also find out about green technologies in the home, as well as enjoy hands-on activities from baking pizzas in an earth oven, to creating a plastic bottle greenhouse.

Phil Sharratt, Project Manager for the KEG project said: “The events were a fantastic launch pad for KEG, which will be a regional learning resource for businesses in the South West, focussed on sustainable construction and technology, providing tangible, practical learning and acting as a conduit between education and the business community.

“It will be a two way process – ensuring the transfer of knowledge from education to businesses, and also working to understand business needs and best practice so that young people gain appropriate skills for a green economy.”

Nigel Howells, Head of ERDF Competitiveness said: “It is important for projects like KEG to be created to give businesses the opportunity to learn about sustainability and gain first hand advice and guidance. A priority of European funding is to support the development of green practices in the South West and we look forward to seeing how the project aids businesses.”

To launch the KEG project and demonstrate how green technologies can be used by businesses and the general public, Devon based renewable energy consultancy Granted was engaged to design and oversee the transformation of the Genesis Centre.

An integrated heating system was installed by Fair Energy, a renewables company, showing solar thermal, air source heat pump and biomass boiler. Solar thermal and Photovoltaic systems have also been set up by Solar Systems Ltd, for both demonstrations and training in dedicated training rooms; other works and sponsors include Roth UK, Nu-Heat, Plumb Centre, Thermal Engineering Systems and Thorne Construction.

A number of county and regional organisations supported the three day event, including Taunton Deane Borough Council, Somerset County Council, Federation of Small Businesses, the Prince’s Mayday Network, Regen South West and Somerset Waste Partnership.

Genesis event – Front row, left to right: Finian Parrick of Fair Energy, Peaches Golding of the Prince’s Mayday Network, Phil Sharratt, Project Manager for the KEG project, Helen Ridler of Somerset Waste Partnership. Back row: Jonathan Davis of Granted Consultancy, Philip Grabham and Matthew Guise of Solar Systems Ltd, Alex Chalkley of Granted, Matt Mellen of the Prince’s Mayday Network, Rachel Davies, Principal of Somerset College.