First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship
First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

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First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

1.1 My impressions of innovation and entrepreneurship

In the following activity, you will consider your existing ideas about innovation and entrepreneurship.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow about 50 minutes for this activity
  1. What words or images come to mind when you hear the words innovation or entrepreneurship? Write down these first thoughts before continuing with the task. In the case of an image, try to give a short description.
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  1. Now watch this six-minute video, which profiles Westmill Wind Farm [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , a community-owned wind farm that began operations in the south of England in 2008.
Download this video clip.Video player: b205_2016j_vid001-320x176.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

[SOUND EFFECTS PLAYING]
[ELECTRICITY CRACKLING]
[TURBINE SPINNING]
[MUSIC PLAYING]
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
Ready?
GIRL
Whoo!
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
What’s really exciting is when we come up here with actually adults and children. The first word you hear is ‘Wow!’
[TURBINE SPINNING]
ADAM TWINE
So here, out west, we’re on the farm on the Oxford and Wiltshire border. I farm here. This is our crop of barley at the back here – golden, blowing brightly in the breeze.
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
So I’m called Liz. This is Sue.
Well, I’m sort of inevitably involved with the wind farm because my partner is Adam Twine, and he set it up. It was crucial, from our point of view, that it should be a community-owned wind farm.
[PEOPLE TALKING AND BACKGROUND NOISES]
ADAM TWINE
In the crop, there were 2500 people who invested into the wind farm. It’s not owned by me. The wind turbine is not owned by a large company but by local people. It’s the bit about the wind farm which is the most exciting bit to me.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
Every year, we have an open day so people can come and learn about the turbine.
COLIN WILSON
So we are here today because we invested in these wind turbines about four years ago, and it’s really nice to see them working. And today, we’ve had the opportunity to go inside them and see them very close at hand.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
SARAH WOOD
I’ve seen them in the distance, but I’ve never, sort of, wandered around one or been quite as close.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
EOIN LEES
Open days are crucial because there is so much unthinking resistance to wind farms. We get people here, and the first thing they say is, ‘They’re not as noisy as I thought they were going to be.’ Everyone says that to me.
SARAH WOOD
Well, I thought people said they were noisy, but I mean, it’s just incredibly quiet.
REBECCA DALE
I think when they see them, they’re so majestic. They’re like sculpture. And I think that, hopefully, it’s reassured a lot more people.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
BOY:
Yeah.
LIZ DALE
Now, are you ready to play with the kite?
[MUSIC PLAYING]
MIKE BLANCH
The wind farm generates about 12 gigawatt hours a year, which equates with income of about a million pounds a year. And that goes back to help pay for the wind farm, which cost about 8 million originally. So it’s about an eight-year payback.
ADAM TWINE
Westmill has two and a half thousand shareholders. They put in between 250 quid or 20,000 pounds each. The average was 2000 pounds investment, and they would hope to get a return of 16 per cent. That’s what we have in our share offer. At the moment, we’re on track for doing that.
[WHOOPING]
[MUSIC FADING]
BOY
If you just follow me around to over here.
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
‘WeSET’ stands for ‘Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust’, and we’re a charity that was set up immediately that the cohort was formed, really. And the idea is that all our shareholders have agreed that we can take 0.5 per cent of the income each year in order to dedicate it to encourage sustainability in our local area, and what that looks like is that we run a lot of education projects.
REBECCA DALE
I think it’s really good for the children to come and see what’s around, see whether they can get other forms of energy without draining too many resources.
BOY 1
Now, who wants to have a guess at how many houses each turbine can power? Yes?
STUDENT
60.
BOY 2
Higher. A lot higher.
BOY 1
Higher.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
BOY 1
Each one of these turbines powers 500 houses, which is 2500 total.
BOY 2
Solar group, if you want to gather around here.
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
We’ve got this fantastic team of student environmental educators who we’ve been working with in the local secondary school.
BOY 2
It’s called an ‘anemometer’. Have any of you heard of them before?
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
It’s a sort of cascaded learning.
BOY 1
Peter, that one’s wrong. It’s got metres per second.
BOY 2
No wait. I’m just showing them how.
BOY 1
No. Swap them around.
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
OK. What’s really exciting about that, from our point of view, is to see young people taking ownership of the place. We already have a sense that some people feel these are their wind turbines. I just had a young girl come up to me just now and say, ‘That’s the turbine my school named.’
[MUSIC PLAYING]
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
Then there’s a whole other stream, which is really developing now, which is looking to see how we can offer possibilities in the local community in terms of what they might do about their building.
COLIN BELL
This is our local village hall, and we’ve just paid for insulation here. It’s 300 square metres of loft insulation, so this has all been done through money we’ve generated through the wind turbines and buying resets. The plan is that we use this as a base for sustainable energy surges, and we’ll offer advice to local people on how they can save money through different sustainable energy solutions.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
ADAM TWINE
These wind turbines arrived just three years ago. I’ve felt it’s a bit like the hunting issue in rural communities. It just divides people. It’s a challenge.
[CHUCKLING]
[MUSIC PLAYING]
ADAM TWINE
It took a long time to get them up here. We were, I think, 12 years in planning nearly. You don’t get anywhere without upsetting people.
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
The day they first started putting up the turbine, we were just beside ourselves with excitement.
ADAM TWINE
I mean, it was a complete roller-coaster from the start to finish. And at any one time, it might not have happened
[MUSIC PLAYING]
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
I think the things that we learn are always communicate, always be honest, never misrepresent. Just say it how it is and keep saying it how it is, and be prepared for a long haul.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
COLIN WILSON
It’s investing in the community and investing in the future.
GIRL
Being able to watch TV on the computer just by using the wind. So I just think that’s a really good idea.
EOIN LEES
I feel very proud, and the reason I do feel proud is because I have helped create that. I own a bit of that.
LIZ ROTHSCHILD
These turbines are like five hearts beating in our community producing power for us all.
[MUSIC FADING]
[SOUND EFFECTS PLAYING]
[ELECTRICITY CRACKLING]
End transcript
 
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Record your responses to the following questions:

  •  

    • a.What (if anything) about Westmill Wind Farm would you describe as ‘innovative’?
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  •  

    • b.Who (if any), of the people featured in the video, would you categorise as ‘entrepreneurial’?
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  •  

    • c.What types of challenge has Westmill Wind Farm experienced over the years?
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  •  

    • d.How would you determine whether Westmill Wind Farm had achieved its aims?
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  1. Watch the video a second time. Revisit your answers, modifying them if necessary.
  2. Look back at the ideas about innovation and entrepreneurship that you recorded in question 1. Would you change them after watching this video?

Discussion

We selected a slightly unusual example of innovation to encourage you to review your existing ideas and assumptions about innovation and entrepreneurship. Consider, for example, why you thought a particular feature of Westmill Wind Farm was innovative – did your list include the wind turbines (i.e. the technology) or did you see it as too well-established to fit that description? Did you identify other features, such as the financing and ownership model (i.e. a community-based online share issue), or did that fall outside your image of innovation? Turning to the search for entrepreneurs, did you see the founders of Westmill Wind Farm as fitting that category? If so, what was it that made them fit your definition? If not, why did they not meet your criteria for being an entrepreneur? Would you categorise any of the other people featured (e.g. the local investors or the volunteers at the open day) as entrepreneurial?

As an optional follow-on activity, you might find it interesting to compare Westmill Wind Farm to its sister organisation Westmill Solar, the UK’s first co-operative, community-run solar farm.

B205_1

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