Author Archives: Peter Hopkinson

About Peter Hopkinson

Peter Hopkinson is professor of Innovation and environmental Strategy at the Bradford School of Management, Director of the University's new Sustainable Enterprise Centre and academic director of the partnership programme with the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

Specialties

+        Circular economy
+        Business models for radical resource productivity
+        Organisational change and adaptation to external environmental issues

What’s in a name? Re:thinking sustainability for our new re:centre

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re:centre University of Bradford

In July 2013, Bradford University opens the doors of a new £6m building in the heart of the city campus. re:centre is an exciting and dynamic space, which aims to inspire the innovative design of products, services and infrastructure to deliver radical new business solutions to current and future economic and societal challenges.

The new centre offers three major areas of access and activity:

  • Business: A base for innovative business start up and knowledge transfer
  • Research: World class analytical research facilities including over 100 academic experts
  • Enterprise & innovation: An in-house team to help provide advice and support to develop proposals into a sound business / management idea, and support innovation and re-thinking the future within an inspirational environment.

But since many of the existing university buildings are named after the Victorian streets that existed before the main campus was built in the 1960s – Richmond Building (Richmond Road); Chesham Building (Chesham Street) – how on earth did we arrive at a name like re:centre?

The birth and death of the ‘Sustainable Enterprise Centre’

Let us cast our minds back to 2007, when the building idea was conceived. We began with a working title of the ‘Sustainable Enterprise Centre’. It  was a useful working title at the time: but whilst people liked the idea of the building as a focal point for business engagement and collaboration, the name of the building was a turn-off for the audiences we wanted to attract.

‘Sustainable’ and ‘enterprise’ gave the impression of a relatively narrow field of activities and assumptions that the activities were environmentally focussed. Moreover, a quick Google search reveals literally hundreds of other sustainability centres, all doing the same thing. How was our centre to stand out as different? What about the research facilities and pool of on-site academic and business management experts that few other centres can boast?

So here was our challenge: How do you go about naming a new building to reflect a wide range of activities in support of enterprise, entrepreneurship, practical business needs and university expertise in science, technology, health, engineering, social science and business?

A committee was formed to devise a name. Familiar terms emerged such as “eco” and “green” etc; understandably as the building had partly emerged from the successful 2007 University Ecoversity programme. But a lot had happened since then – not least the global economic crash, recession, unemployment and business downturn – and we had moved on. The word “sustainability” had become overused as a general attachment to anything deemed as “good”. The final straw came when I saw an advert for a seminar on ‘sustainable land mines.’ Even a sustainability commentator would admit that the time for etymological innovation with ’sustainability’ was definitely over!

re:invention and the circular economy

Image courtesy of 6mitrepassage.co.uk / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 6mitrepassage.co.uk / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So where did this leave us? We had a fantastic, iconic, breathable, naturally-ventilated building built from hemp; with the highest BREEAM score  at design stage of any building in the world and packed full of innovative and integrative design features.  The activities in the building were planned to match both business needs and university R&D capabilities, as well as have a strong educational focus. At the heart of the activities were a need to drive innovation and support business start up and growth.

Victorian street names were out as we didn’t want to look back, and the building aesthetic didn’t lend itself naturally to modern nomenclature like The Gherkin or The Shard.

 

 

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The light bulb moment came earlier this year, when I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, to launch the second EMF/McKinsey report on the circular economy. The Guardian covered the event and I discussed it in my blog, How can businesses profit from the circular economy.

Courtesy of ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

Courtesy of ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

While out there, I was writing a short piece about the building for another purpose and began scribbling words that described some of the activities to be carried out in the building, or the outcomes we wanted. The first word that came out was research – a key university activity. Words that followed included regeneration and recovery (economic and social), restoration (ecological) and then re-thinking the future and business.

What a re:ally smart idea!

At this point it dawned on me that a common feature of many of the words was the double letter combination “re” – not only at the start of words but also within and at the end of words such as future, creativity and entrepreneur. Words such as re-engineer, re-manufacture, recover, regenerative, recommend are great descriptions for a wide range of university educational and R&D activities. Gradually the name for the building started emerging. And then we got it – re:centre (lower case!) and punctuation made all the difference!

 

We road tested it with a range of internal and external colleagues and businesses. Most liked it but you can’t please everyone. Feedback commented that it  was short, snappy and mirrored core university activities (research, reflection), and that it linked to a host of business and societal issues (regeneration, resources,  re-thinking the future) without having to re:vert to the sustainability tag and all that baggage. The name avoids the need for a logo – the name is the logo and is just a bit different. Even a fellow director of a nearby university sustainability centre was impressed: remarking recently: smart move!

The next step was to pitch it to our dean and our funders.  When I realised I could present to Jon Re:ast, acting dean at the School of Management, it was of course a no-brainer!

Once you get a really good name, you know it. It feels so obvious! That’s what this word has felt to us. So we are now up and running: the building opens in July, a new website is under construction and a programme of events being developed. Tenants are being lined up to take space and we are now ready for business! If you run a start up business, require space to develop a new venture, want to inspire your business management team, or just think that re:centre sounds as exciting as we do, please contact Emma Griffiths, re:centre Commercial Manager, for an informal discussion or to arrange a visit.