8 years ago today, City Science was born.
Okay, I know it’s an act of incredible corporate self-indulgence to celebrate something as inconsequential as our 8th birthday. But please bear with me.
As a company, we’ve not really celebrated any of our other birthdays to date (we’ve been too busy), but now we also feel we can’t wait until we’re 10 before we start reflecting on everything we’ve learned. So that’s why we’re doing it.
But we’re also doing it because our origin story is one of the best ways to understand why we do what we do. Our origin story is the thing our staff fall in love with, it’s what shapes how they act and what they do. And so… we feel it’s only right that we share some of that and our insights from the last 8 years with you.
City Science is unlike other companies. Our company started with a single question: how do you take a city, a place or a region to Net Zero?
How do you take a city, a place or a region to Net Zero?
Our first stop for trying to address this question was to try to understand the data. If we could understand places in terms of their key carbon drivers, our hope was we would be able to put in place all the elements needed to decarbonise. What we found will come as no surprise to most of you – local authorities broadly view their regional emissions through the lens of inventory data from BEIS/DESNEZ, which provides a breakdown by local authority.
This data splits emissions down by:
Emissions from the domestic sector – electricity and other fuels we use to heat and power our homes
Emissions from industry and commerce – emissions associated with businesses and
Emissions from transport.
There are some other bits but these are the big three.
So we set out to build a company around these elements. We built an expert Net Zero energy team to bring whole system understanding to decarbonisation strategy. We built a thought-leading transport team with specialisms in carbon quantification, demand reduction, public transport, active travel and alternative fuels. We developed industry-leading expertise in building energy modelling and consumer behaviour. And we built a team of carbon accountants to support the decarbonisation of businesses and support financing for the delivery of all the other elements. And we put these teams together in a way that would facilitate knowledge sharing, not the traditional silos that we observed were holding back progress.
The power of multidisciplinary collaboration
So this brings us to one of our key insights from our 8 years in business - the power of multidisciplinary collaboration. We understood early on that addressing the complex challenge of achieving Net Zero requires expertise from a wide range of disciplines including planning, engineering, data science, software development, engagement and behaviour change, and finance. By bringing together professionals from diverse backgrounds, our goal was to foster a culture of innovation and holistic solutions focused on our decarbonisation mission.
However, doing so has certainly not been smooth sailing. New companies focusing on one thing often find it immensely challenging to progress, but we were focused on many things.
To an external observer, it might have appeared like we didn’t have any focus at all! And it’s certainly the case that development has not progressed at the same pace across all the areas we set out to cover – some have moved more quickly, others have taken longer to become recognised and in some others we’re only just breaking through.
But, after 8 years, we can finally see the strategy coming together – we now have a sustainable business operating across all the essential areas our clients need to consider whenever they think about decarbonisation. And that is no mean feat.
Data needs to underpin everything
In those early days, we also knew that data had a massive role to play in helping to underpin everything including:
Understanding the starting point or baseline for a place – what emissions are being generated and from where? What human behaviours, assets or processes are underpinning the emissions produced?
Informing options and decision-making – supporting leaders of cities and regions with the tools to answer pressing ‘what if’ questions about the future.
Addressing scepticism or challenge – using evidence clearly and articulately to gain buy-in for transformational programmes
Monitoring impact and progress – streamlining future data gathering so that it can continuously inform future decarbonisation actions
And, as part of the solution – utilising new technologies, software and tools to help move people towards lower carbon behaviours.
The last 8 years have convinced us even more that city and regional leaders need data and data-driven decision-making at their fingertips, so that they can continue to progress ambitious action. If we can reduce the time it takes to produce strategies, we can spend far more of our time supporting actions and so we’ve invested huge amounts of our R&D funding into the most streamlined processes in the market.
So what’s the plan for the next 8 years?
Well, 8 years from now we’ll be in 2031. Many of our clients have declared Net Zero dates of 2030, so in the next 8 years we need as many regions as possible to achieve that goal. The forward-thinking regions that we work with have a huge amount to do, with limited resources and continued uncertainty around the national policy picture.
For the last 8 years, we’ve been pushing innovation and thought-leadership, and we’ve built the tools, processes and systems to help local authorities wherever they are on their Net Zero journey.
But for the next 8 years, we need to scale up delivery. That’s why today, on our 8th birthday, we’re launching our Net Zero Partnership programme, which will essentially allow Local Authorities to outsource the legwork of their Net Zero roadmaps and delivery.
We recognise how difficult it is for local authorities to move forward with decarbonising their regions. From creating practical strategies and plans, to quickly and easily accessing the data they need, from navigating complex procurement procedures to securing funding, there are many barriers that stand in their way of meeting ambitious Net Zero targets.
But we can help. We can help with all of that.
Getting it done - the value of a Net Zero partnership
Here at City Science, we are uniquely placed to support local authorities through their whole decarbonisation journey, from the top level all the way down to successful implementation.
We’ve created countless Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs) and Net Zero Action Plans, so we really understand how to create effective strategies that engage the general public and account for their desires, while setting out a realistic roadmap for meeting Net Zero targets.
But it doesn’t have to stop there. We don’t have to just hand over a report or a strategy and leave local authorities to navigate on their own. What truly sets us apart is our ability to execute these plans, taking concrete actions to assist them in achieving their goals.
We’ll act as an extension of their team, holistically looking at transport, energy, infrastructure and industry, to create and execute a roadmap towards Net Zero.
As I said earlier in this blog, when we started out with City Science, the big question we wanted to answer was ‘how do you take a city, a place or a region to Net Zero’?
And we’ve found our answer: Net Zero Partnerships.
If you’re an ambitious leader who would like to learn more about a Net Zero Partnership and what it might mean for you and your city, place or region, get in touch with us on email@example.com