The Nottingham Story – part three – The story

After my rant of yesterday I though we had better get back on track! I have suggested before that we tap into our history of being somewhat rebellious. I think the rebellion thing could provide a much needed theme.

After all it was here where King Charles I raised his standard here to start the English Civil War in 1642. So we’ve been causing trouble for over 350 years!

But part of that story is that we are also seen a fair people, the connection to Robin Hood is all-important here. He robbed from the rich to give to the poor. The beginning of the Social Service?

These can be fun things for us to latch on to. The do give us something of history. But it’s not quite enough?

I didn’t do History at School (actually I didn’t do much, but that’s another story!). I’m more of a ‘now’ person. And I think our story today is much more interesting.

Our connection with Science goes back to Jesse Boot – and we are a Science City. Stewart Adams invented Ibuprofen & Sir Peter Mansfield invented the MRI Scanner here in Nottingham. Our two Universities are brilliant and recognised the world over. But the City seems to have a disconnect with them. We need to embrace them and all that they do. They provide a weather of research and talent – which we need to keep inn the City. Lets make this place a Univercity.

In recent years we have also made great strides in the creative industries. We have the brilliant Nottingham Contemporary. We have a fantastic hot-bed of talent at Antenna and some creatives being trained next door at Confetti. Lets tap into that seam of people. Musicians, film makers and artists. Lets give them space to thrive and grow. Lets make this an Creaticity.

In a funny way the creatives and investors are rebels too – they are the new who dare to make a difference. Remember the Apple Poem?

Tomorrow – the business sector….

I wish they had taught me like this!

I mentioned yesterday in my blog that I hard seen Prof Martyn Poliakoff – and his lecture at The University of Nottingham. It was billiant.

You do notice immediately that Martyn, and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this, looks like a Scientist. You can see what I mean…

He started with his ‘fact’ of the day – that the World population would (today) reached 7bn – thats 7,000,000,000 people.If you are like me you will find this difficult to visualise or comprehend. But this is what Martyn does best – helps you breakdown facts into easy to understand bits. And to visualise the number – go and have a look at a Post Box. The fill it (metaphorically) with sand* – each grain of sand represents you. And the whole post box is the world.

The second fact was that there are more mobile phones in the world than toothbrushes. I have no idea why I needed to know this, but it made me listen!

But the real stray here is the web site Martyn and his colleagues have built – The Periodic Table of Videos. It is brilliant – and I wish this had been around when I (tried to) Chemistry. It is accessible and extremely popular. They have had 71 million hits. They have 54,000 subscribers to the site.

It is difficult to imagine anything else which could get to so many people in the time it has existed? It is a brilliant use of the internet.

This is fantastic!

* If you fill the postbox near you with sand you will get told off. Don’t do this at home therefore.

Nottingham University – a critical component of the City!

I mentioned in some tweets and in my blog at the weekend that I had spent a lot of my day on Friday at the University of Nottingham. It was their Impact campaign launch last week – five days of engaging with lots of people – inside and outside of the University. Friday was about sustainable futures – so of great interest to me!

The opening of the new University Brewing Sciences building by David Greenaway

My day started at the Sutton Bonington campus and the formal opening of a new Bio-energy and Brewing Science Building. It was great to go back into a Brewery – its where my career started all those years ago. The smell of hops reminded me of Home Brewery and Kimberley Brewery. Modern brewing kit is a bit more high tech than I remember it being. Gone are the copper mash-tuns!

After my lunch (which you know about) we had a number of talks from the researchers involved in some real life projects at the University. It is amazing how far the University permeates the community – not just here but on a Global stage. We were reminded that much of what has been achieved at Nottingham was as a result of a massive investment by Jesse Boot in 1928 – £200,000 (estimated to be worth around £9m today).

I couldn’t help but reflect on how important the University is to us as a City. It really does add something which so often is of low visibility, but of huge importance.

My last hour was spent listening to Prof Martyn Poliakoff – who deserves his very own blog post! It was entertaining and informative. And world leading…

The City is very lucky to have this Institution. I am not sure we always realise this?

A fantastic meal from NG7

I had an amazing meal yesterday at Nottingham University. Lunch was cooked by Nottingham’s only Michelin starred chef -Sat Bains. And as of a few days ago he has not one but two of these stars…


I was at an event about sustainable futures (and more of that in a later blog post) – which was fascinating. It is reckoned that next week the population of the world will pass 7bn. This population growth needs feeding – there will be much more pressure on the food chain.

Sat Bains prepared a meal which had all been sourced locally – he calls it his NG7 menu. We had food foraged from hedgerows – herbs, blackberries, pears. Local cheese and Venison rounded it off. It was delicious.

The last time I ate at Sta Bains was four years ago – and I remember it then being a real experience.

There had been a huge amount of effort put in our meal, but it did show that we don’t always need the food miles to be like telephone numbers. There is real food on our doorstep – and it was very tasty. The slightly amusing thing was that after dessert we were served herbal tea. Coffee plant, of course, isn’t prevalent in Lenton…

The Vice-Chancellor in his introduction of Sat Bains likened a Michelin star to a Nobel Prize. There was certainly plenty of talent on show! And Nottingham is lucky to house that talent.

Innes England – win win win!

Last night we were at the Insider East Midlands Property Dinner at Nottingham University. This has become the event in the property world annual calendar. With over 400 people from the East Midlands present it is an opportunity to meet lots of people – and celebrate the good things about our region.

the winning team (obviously not at sailing!)

We were also celebrating as we were announced as “Agent of the Year”. As you might expect we were just a little bit chuffed to have pipped FHP and JLL to the post…

And then earlier in the week I picked up my Estates Gazette. At this time of the year they publish their annual results survey – which used to be the Top 100 surveying firms. But, times have changed and it is now the Top 60. This is probably because lots of smaller firms have been swallowed up!

I was delighted to see my firm, Innes England, were at No.44. In a National League – we are pleased to be there.

But our real coup is that we got to the dizzy height of No.29 when we are judged on turnover per fee earner. This shows either that we all work really hard, or that we employ talented people – or both! Most firms have found in the last 12 months that they have had to earn more with less people…

The EG awards are Industry recognised and are important in our marketing strategy. That we beat our local rivals and competitor firms on both counts is great news. It is interesting though that firms are judged on turnover – and I always wonder if this is right. As I have said here before turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is king…

In the meantime we’ll settle for our new title of “Agent of the Year” and EG league table finish.

Onwards and upwards!!

The (not so) Great Mall of China

If you regularly read my blog, you will know that I have been to China twice in the last 12 months – both times to Shanghai. I was amazed to see the level of development. When we went to Ningbo, I couldn’t quite understand how you could build a city – but my questions were simply lost on the City Planners. They didn’t understand why we were questioning the demand side of the equation.

When I was in Shanghai in March I drove past hundreds (I don’t exaggerate) of apartment blocks being built. The scale of development is eye watering.

This week, my friends at Nottingham University sent me this link on You Tube. It is worth watching it! It shows the side of China the officials don’t want you to see. In essence (if you haven’t got 15 minutes) there are estimated to be 64 million empty apartments. The Mall visited by the reporter is simply empty – although they have a nice web site.

This is all rather worrying! At the end of the report the question was whether there would be an uprising and civil unrest. On the face of it you would worry, but my experience of the Chinese people is that they are incredibly tolerant; the State rules with a rod of iron.

The video…

Shanghai – day one

I am glad it is a non-stop flight, but it is still a long time in the air – 11 hours. We were assisted by a 180mph tail- wind for much of the way.

Count the tower cranes game!

Sleeping on planes has never been a strong point – and last night was no exception. Three films didn’t really help either!

Our hosts in Shanghai kindly put on an airport transfer – but this deprived me of a ‘go’ on the fantastic maglev I went on last year. They also took us out to the Hotel where the conference I am attending is to be held. It is some way out of town – but this gave me an opportunity to see the vastness of this place.

One of the measures back home of the prosperity of a City is to count the number of tower cranes. Nottingham at the moment has a handful (I am desperately trying to count them in my head – but it has been a long night!) What I do know is that Shanghai wins in that particular competition – I counted 10 – in one housing development! Next to that were another 10 and so on!

The pace of development here is breathtaking.

I met up with Saffa Riffat from Nottingham University – who has now asked me to speak at the Conference I was just attending. So I shall need to write a talk in the next 36 hours! As the saying goes ‘no pressure’!

But for the meantime, I am back in my own hotel in the centre of Shanghai – unpacking and blogging (there must be a term for that?). I need to catch up on some sleep as I have been awake for nearly 23 hours…. I mustn’t overdo the sleep thing though because I need to fool my body into Shanghai time (8 hours ahead of the UK)….

Shanghai China – my second visit

Today I leave the UK again -for the third time in a month – and this time I go East… to China. It’s my second visit to Shanghai. I was last there six months ago visting the Expo and attending some University of Nottingham events.

You could go by Prius, but it takes a little too long?

I stayed in Pudong last time – East of the Huangpujiang River. But this time I am staying in the heart of Shanghai on the West Nanjing Road.

This trip is also with the University of Nottingham. It’s a shorter trip than last time – principally to attend a conference on Sustainability on Thursday and Friday in Shanghai. I am looking forward to the event – it has a mix of UK based firms and Chinese Companies – some of who are developers, others manufacturers of ‘green technology’. Although I am interested in some of the technologies I am really keen to learn about some of the design elements. I hope that we are going to see how the technology is being integrated into new buildings at the start.

But I am also working on the research I have mentioned here – I am hoping to get some time to write up some of the details of the 12 hour plane trip! This is the worse part of the trip. And that Shanghai is 8 hours ahead of the UK – so it ‘takes’ 20 hours to get there – but only 4 to get back!

I am also keeping a diary this week for the Nottingham Evening Post – for publication next week. I guess they don’t want to follow someones ‘normal’ week of “I went to a meeting” ad nauseum?

But despite all of this ‘green’ interest and learnings my carbon footprint isn’t looking too good either this year – especially having racked up 22,500 miles in the last month. I will plant a tree I think on my return – remind me!

I will try to blog from China, but sometimes my wordpress account gets blocked…

Shanghai 2011

For the second time in a six months I will be in Shanghai, China. I have been invited by The University of Nottingham to attend a conference and workshop on Low Carbon Innovations. This event is being organised jointly by The University and The Chengxin Eco-integration Company.

The Bund - Shanghai

I met the Chengxin Group when I was at the China Expo last year.

My visit this time is relatively short – just four nights, with two days at the Conference and Workshop. I think I might try to work on UK time!

Stephen George International are working in Shanghai – in a deal forged at the last conference, but signed back here in Nottingham. I met with the guys from this practice at The Expo last year. It was good to hear of a UK company winning fee paying work from the Expo visit.

This latest exhibition is to bring together UK and Chinese companies to discuss new business opportunities on low carbon industry/building projects. As this new technology develops we are getting more involved in this arena.

There will be discussions on a wide range of topics including sustainable construction, building materials, low carbon technologies, architecture environmental design, energy management, smart grid, building information systems, water saving, water treatment, noise control, waste management, CHP, renewable energy, HVAC systems, energy saving devices and waste heat recovery systems.

I am looking forward to going back to this mad place – I thoroughly enjoyed my last visit. Partly because of the Expo, but partly for the trip I had to Ningbo. This time, it will be much more business focussed. I am looking forward to learning something at the two day conference, but also to the challenges of trying to win business…

There are huge opportunities in China, both to help them as they grow their economy, but also as they start to invest in our economy. We have already seen some of that investment in Nottingham. Hopefully we can capitalise on this – and bring some more!

Shanghai China – the World Expo 2010

As this blog is published I will be still (hopefully) in the air on my way to Shanghai and the World Expo. I left Heathrow last night, my 12 hour flight plus the time difference puts me into Pudong Airport at lunchtime – China time. I will then be seven hours ahead. I wrote this blog back in the UK, but hope to be able to update my blog from my hotel in Shanghai over the next week or so.

The UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010

I am in China for two reasons – firstly to visit the World Expo and secondly to have a look around the University of Nottingham campus at Ningbo.

I am really looking forward to the Expo -which has cost an estimated US$54 billion to build. In terms of economic and social impact it is reckoned the Expo is the third largest ‘event’ on the planet. The first is the Olympics, the second the FIFA Football World Cup.

The theme is “Better City, Better Life“. Essentially this all about us creating better places for future generations to live in – in the future.

70 million people are likely to visit the Expo during its six month life. We are to visit pavilions of all shapes and sizes with exhibitions from 240 countries vying for attention on both sides of the Huangpu River. Looking at some of the images, it certainly looks amazing. There has been some controversy about the Expo; in the pre-construction phase 18,000 families were decanted into new tower blocks. Including some who didn’t want to move?

I am travelling with a delegation from Nottingham City Council and other private sector firms in the East Midlands. Latterly we have been successful locally in securing sales and partnerships with companies in this region of China. In 2009 the East Midlands exported £33.5 million of goods to China, an increase of around 15.5% from 2008.

I shall be at a conference for two days – hosted in the London Pavilion – the theme is one of sustainability. In between I hope to see some of the Expo pavilions – although stories of 6 hour queues is not something I am particularly keen on. I am also hoping to see some of Shanghai itself.

I then get to travel to Ningbo – and the home of Nottingham University’s second campus! I am told this too is an amazing place, built in record time and with buildings mirroring the Nottingham campus. We also get to tour Ningbo itself.

As I said, I hope to update my blog with news from the conference. Watch this space. If it’s strangely quiet for a few days, I have not been able to connect the wires up!