IEA introduces Montserrat Minister to UK SMEs
News, March 2019
By Sally Stevens
The Institute for Environmental Analytics’ (IEA) renewable energy work in Montserrat has opened opportunities for trade with SMEs in the Thames Valley with Montserrat’s Minister of Communications, Works, Energy and Labour visiting Berkshire.
Minister Paul Lewis extended his trip to a Commonwealth meeting in London in February to include two days meeting small and medium enterprise businesses with expertise in cyber security and clean transport, discussing apprenticeships and exploring future links with the University of Reading.
Montserrat is one of six Small Island Developing States that the IEA is working with to support their renewable energy targets, backed by £2.7m funding from the UK Space Agency International Partnerships programme (IPP) and using RE-SAT, the IEA’s innovative renewable energy planning platform.
The island of Montserrat was devastated by a volcano in 1995 which has left much of it inaccessible. The government is keen to grow skills, encourage new businesses to create jobs, and to build sustainable expertise within government departments.
Minister Lewis said: “We are in the early stages of building up expertise – we have appointed an ICT Coordinator as the first member of staff in our ICT Unit and one member in the Energy Unit and we are in the process of recruiting an Energy Director and other staff. We are in the process of setting up a national cyber security unit.
“We are hoping that Montserrat-based cyber security practitioners can be exposed to and operate to the international cyber security standard and work on international projects while based in Montserrat.”
Linking with Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce
Through the IEA the Thames Valley Chamber of Trade connected Minister Lewis to CyberCrowd, a thriving information risk, data protection and cyber security services provider based on Thatcham Business Park, part of the TechPulse Group, and to Bloova, a Slough-based renewable energy company that provides electric vehicle infrastructure including electric vehicle charging solutions for homes, the workplace and commercial organisations. Bloova also manufactures electric scooters, motorbikes and charging stations.
Dr Maria Noguer, Climate Programme Manager at the IEA and leader of the RE-SAT programme, said: “Having been made very welcome in Montserrat by Minister Lewis and his colleagues, we were pleased to invite him to meet our University colleagues and to introduce him to local businesses.”
Apprentices discuss cyber skills training
At CyberCrowd Minister Lewis met CEO Steve Kirby, Client Director Janine Gill and Business Development Executive Greg Jones. He heard how the company provides a managed service offering, InfoGAPS, that allows customers to quickly scale their security team, providing invaluable access to security expertise that will support and advise them before, during or after any breach. The InfoGAPS service will also review any security arrangements, processes and policies, people and technology to ensure customers have best practice governance in place to protect their business and its intellectual property. He also met apprentices and heard how they are supported in studying while working at CyberCrowd, developing skills which are in short demand while learning every aspect of the business.
Minister Lewis met Bobby Ravji, MD of Bloova, and was enthusiastic about the firm’s electric scooter and charging station packages which offer reliable, clean transport businesses to governments and developing countries, plus the opportunity to offset costs by providing a charging point service. They are currently in the process of discussing a pilot initiative.
Links with University of Reading
At the University of Reading Minister Lewis met Prof Gavin Brooks, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Dr Phil Newton, Research Dean for Environment to explore potential for scholarships and collaborative research. The Minister also visited the Department of Computer Science with a tour of the facilities and a meeting with Dr Frederic Stahl to learn about the University offering for undergraduate and Masters degrees. The Meteorology Department’s Prof Geoff Wadge was the chairman of the FCO’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Montserrat volcanic activity and Minister Lewis was very pleased to meet him, as The Wadge Report is widely cited in Montserrat. The Minister also met with Dr Maria Vahdati, Programme Director of the MSc (Master of Science) Renewable Energy: Technology & Sustainability at the University and was very interested in exploring possible scholarships that would allow students in Montserrat access to the MSc.
Reading Enterprise Centre
At the Reading Enterprise Centre Minister Lewis met Andy Krafft, COO of Assuria, which provides cyber software security and monitoring programmes to businesses and public sector organisations. They plan to continue their discussions about providing training, capacity building and establishing regional best practices.
The IEA’s RE-SAT team is due back in Montserrat later this year as part of the 3-year programme to support the government’s move away from fossil fuels, which will include training for Montserratians working in government, public utilities and energy companies on the energy planning platform.