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Awards presented for Developing the Green Economy

Four local companies who have been focussing on their business’ sustainability have won Awards from Bangor University.

The four winning organisations were selected from among over 300 businesses, agencies and social enterprises in Wales who have taken part in a project to develop a sustainable Green Economy in Wales and Ireland.

The Green Innovation Future Technologies Project (GIFT), run in Wales by Bangor University, has enabled small businesses to make sizeable steps towards sustainability, by up-skilling their staff and sharing best practice.

Now at a close, the pioneering three-year project between Bangor University, Waterford Institute of Technology and University College Dublin, Ireland has been celebrating the success of the participants.

All the companies and organisations involved, who have taken part in workshops, courses and networking were invited to a celebratory event marking the end of project, but also the growth of a green economy.

Stuart Bond, project manager said the network has been all about “the conversations that you have, the networks that you make and the dreams that you dream up”

Dr Joe Revetz from the Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy, the keynote speaker for the event said:

“We’re in a state of double, triple overload with our response to climate change and diminishing global resources. We need to blow the cobwebs off our minds and find ways for business communities to continue to grow and learn, stretching our minds to encompass whole economy intelligence. Small businesses like those forming the Green innovation Network are integral to this shift and this European funded project has been one means to help these businesses. It’s vital that it doesn’t stop here. There is a new European funded project, the Common Assessment for Sustainability Innovation which started in 2014 which is creating a library of examples and looking for ways to scale up from SMEs to whole economy scale to continue these ideas”.

Four Awards were presented in Wales, and four in Ireland, to companies, individuals or organisations who the project felt had exemplified core aspects of the green economy – resource efficiency, low carbon and social inclusion.

The four Award winners were Datblygu Egni Gwledig; Tourism accommodation provider, Mark Edwards; Malcolm Innes and Mr & Mrs Whitehead of Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House.

Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig (DEG) received the Sustainable Innovation Award. DEG are a new Community Interest Company set up to boost community sustainable energy across Gwynedd, Conwy and Môn.

On behalf of the Awarding committee, Stuart Bond, Manager of the GIFT Project said: “Choosing one out of so many companies for this and all the awards was challenging, but DEG have encapsulated a number of key areas, linking together community, energy and finance. Their innovative approach to working with communities by upskilling local groups ensures that the benefits of renewable energy projects stay within the communities they support.”

Grant Peisley, Director of DEG commented:

“Being part of the GIFT network has helped us to grow our network and develop our brand. The connections that we’ve made helped us in our work to keep the benefits of our natural heritage local”

The Sustainable Technologies Award was presented to Celia and John Whitehead, owners of Bryn Elltyd, a sustainable Eco Guest House  in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is completely powered by renewable energy.

Stuart Bond, Manager of the GIFT Project said:

“John and Celia are a small business making a big difference, blazing a trail with their pioneering approach to sustainable technologies. They are certainly not afraid of hard work and have done much of the work on the guest house themselves. They regularly compete against large hotel chains such as the Savoy and Best Western in national awards based on their pioneering and persistence approach to pursuing what they believe. "

John Whitehead says: “GIFT has helped Wales address the problem of sustainability. As a tiny, but very green business running on renewable energy, getting our message out and sharing good practice is a problem. Most green scheme organisations refuse to publicise or share practice unless they have directly helped a business on their journey towards more sustainable business. GIFT are different. They celebrate excellence where ever they find it.  For this they must be congratulated.”

Mark Edwards of Bryn Bella Guest House in Betws y Coed was awarded the Sustainable Tourism Award. The Bed & Breakfast business has adopted sustainable technologies and practices.

Stuart Bond said:

“Mark has been a tireless campaigner for green tourism, green energy and many other aspects of the green economy.

Mark Edwards says:

“The fact that the GIFT network takes us outside of Wales has helped immensely as it opens up whole new possibilities to network, share experiences and to look at the problems we face from a different perspective. Simply by bringing together many diverse businesses from different countries has highlighted just how different we all are and yet at the same time how similar our needs are to achieve a sustainable business model. We can think of no other network forum where we can be rubbing shoulders with senior managers of one of the country’s largest landowners discussing the merits of Marine Heat Source Pumps, and then be speaking to a farmer in the mountains of Snowdonia who is about to install a hydroelectric system. Everybody we have met through GIFT has brought something to the table and left with a volume of knowledge that could not have been gained as easily anywhere else.”

Malcolm Innes, from Bangor, who developed an energy from compost system was presented the Sustainable Resources Award.

Stuart Bond explained: “Malcolm Innes is a great innovator and has been working on this fantastic system whereby you can create useable heat from compost and still use the compost. Malcolm Innes has made an outstanding contribution to sustainable resource management, taking forward ideas developed in the 60s and 70s and turning them into a viable and commercial business.”

On receiving the Award, Malcolm Innes said:

“It’s been a great pleasure to be involved with the GIFT project over the last few years – we’ve learnt such a lot through the people we’ve met. It’s come across to me how vulnerable to and dependable on we are on the powers that be. It’s so important that we bring our ideas together collectively and the project provided the opportunity to do that”

Dr Gareth Griffiths who led the multi-disciplinary project and is based at the University’s Business School said:

“One important strand of the project has been to create a forum for people to share good ideas and good practice, through the Green Innovation Network. Seeing other people adopting new technologies can provide people with the confidence to move forward with their own businesses. These Award Winners have highlighted how adopting sustainable technologies has helped these individuals and organisations to ‘green’ their businesses and enter new markets.”

Funded with €2.3 million from the Economic Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg IVA programme, the GIFT project and the Green Innovation Network has focussed on promoting sustainable development in the areas of the Green Economy, Green Tourism, Waste Management and Green Technology.

Publication date: 15 October 2014