As part of my work at UndauntedImperial College London’s climate and sustainability innovation activity – I get to see many people from a range of backgrounds who have innovative ideas which could genuinely change the world in which we live – writes Alyssa Gilbert (pictured above), Director of Innovation, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment.

We’re often with these innovators from the start of their journey; we help them understand the challenges of climate change, develop their skills and support their early-stage work in our dedicated accelerator programme, The Greenhouse.

There’s lots that needs to be done to tackle climate change and CleanTech and innovation are one of the important tools in this battle. Not only do we need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we also need to prepare and make changes that will help us adapt to the climate change impacts that are already baked into the climate system because of our previous emissions. Innovation – either in terms of processes and services that help us use existing technology or technology that is developed from scratch – assists on all levels.

Innovation to tackle climate change

Innovation is particularly required in sectors where it is difficult to reduce emissions, such as in heavy industry, aviation and shipping, agriculture and in materials – from those used in manufacturing to those which are used in the fashion industry.

Climate change action can come from anywhere in society. Anyone can be an innovator who comes up with new ideas to solve problems or deliver a better future.

The Women in CleanTech (WiCT) network that Undaunted coordinates is a gateway into the sphere for women who might not necessarily know how to develop their ideas, understand their roles as entrepreneurs and attract the financial backing needed to make them a success.

The planet doesn’t mind if women save it!

Innovation shouldn’t have a gender barrier. The WiCT programme helps make women, who might not otherwise feel comfortable as entrepreneurs or confident to start, step into the innovation space. The inclusion of women innovators secures the full diversity of thought and solutions that we need to tackle climate change. This programme helps emphasise that in climate innovation, everyone is welcome. The characteristics that make good innovators – flexibility, adaptability, determination, ambition – bring budding entrepreneurs together.

Socioeconomic diversity is just as important a factor as gender, too. We need everyone to bring their experiences and ideas to help us protect the planet and deliver solutions that are relevant to all parts of society.

The planet wants people from all walks of life to save it!

It can be financially demanding to be an entrepreneur; there needs to be a significant investment of time without pay and also that might not result in financial gain, which limits the involvement of some innovators. It’s therefore important to show everyone, including WiCT participants just starting out their careers, how exciting it is to start off your working life as an entrepreneur, including highlighting the support that exists. Larger companies’ job adverts spread through traditional outlets quickly and are often already on graduates’ radar. Jobs advertised by smaller companies in the innovation space are harder to find, which is why they are usually filled by people plucked from a much smaller pool. It’s harder to reach these roles, so WiCT equips its participants with the tools needed to enter the job market with confidence.

The climate challenge is not going to go away any time soon, but there are people out there who can help us tackle it. And that person could be anyone.

Undaunted is a collaboration between Imperial College London and the Royal Institution. The Greenhouse programme is supported by ERDF, HSBC and the Greater London Authority.

Alyssa Gilbert biography

Alyssa Gilbert is the Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute – Climate change and the Environment at Imperial College London where she leads Imperial’s climate change and sustainability innovation activities, linking innovative students, staff and alumni to opportunities to make a difference. She is the Director of Undaunted, a collaborative activity between Imperial and the Royal Institution that is seeking to create a home for climate innovation in London, supporting successful creation and scale up of businesses that tackle climate change.

Alyssa is also the co-Chair of the UK Universities climate network, which brought together academic expertise on climate change ahead of the international negotiations in November 2021. Previously Alyssa was the Director of Policy and Translation at the Grantham Institute. Prior to joining the university, she worked at a specialist energy and climate consultancy for nearly 12 years on a range of climate change mitigation and adaptation topics. Alyssa has worked with the UK and many other national governments and at the international level. She has also been a member of the Natural Environment Council’s Advisory Network.