Five minutes with Laurence Kemball-Cook

Five minutes with Laurence Kemball-Cook

Laurence Kemball-Cook wants to turn the everyday stroll into the future of renewable energy.

He founded Pavegen in his bedroom in 2009 with just £200 and a steadfast belief that every community in the world should have access to energy. He has since developed a tile that generates renewable electricity from footsteps, as well as collects data to curate information about how people move in cities.

For Laurence, sustainability is integral to a vibrant economy.

“Not an Internet of Things but an Internet of Beings”

It means bringing together the human, digital and physical. If we’re going to do an ‘Internet of…’ the focus has to be on finding a way for people to engage with their environments in a better way and make their lives happier. That’s why we’ve found it more useful thinking about it as an Internet of Beings.

“I strongly believe that sustainability means more than just energy”

Real sustainability is about engaging and looking after future generations. What Pavegen offers is a way to engage and educate people for the long term and take it to the heart, not just a masking campaign. This is deeply embedded in the youth of today’s heart and allows them to think differently about how everything works. It means we can shift how people see energy and transform the whole generation of millennials to look at energy in a different way. For me, a vibrant economy is one where sustainability is paramount and is more than just green energy. It’s about educating the future generation and people are happy, productive and the environments where they live are stimulating and help them grow and develop as people. A vibrant economy is based on wellbeing, sustainable growth and realising the potential of what an economy like ours can do.

“I think millennials see energy in a completely different way”

Millennials need to work for companies that have a strong socially responsible ethic. We are seeing effects of global warming in a very real way. Take air pollution in London; it’s a serious problem that is driven home when you look at how many people are getting asthma. We can’t ignore it any longer and millennials are proving to be socially aware, and these issues are deeply important to them.

“Cities are the new frontier”

Some 1.5 million people join the urban population every week. Having the ability to generate energy where and when we need it will allow us to shift demand from huge off grid stations that are currently powering out cities to more sustainable ones that provide localised energy sources. We call it decentralised power networks. That is a key way, along with using other technologies, to cut energy demand in our cities.

“Any entrepreneur who is a true entrepreneur lives by what they believe in”

Nothing is more important than that objective – that desire to change the world. I think that’s something that if you don’t feel then there’s no point being an entrepreneur.

“The problem with politics is the short-termism”

They are working in four-year stints, which is nothing compared to how a business thinks and operates. If you’re going to undertake a massive transformation on how a city interacts with energy, it is going to take far longer than four years. So, we need big companies to do the long-term, they are the ones that have the resources and the longevity to do it.

“I think the idea that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a small offshoot located in a business’s basement is long gone”

CSR should be at the core, the very essence of what a business is about. Business is not just about making money, it’s about positive impact on communities, for the company itself and for local geographies. People working together to improve their wellbeing and their environment.

“Consumers hold the power”

I believe the issues of sustainability are already deeply embedded – but we can go further, it touches upon a lot of different corners of our lives, for example the choices we make when buying clothes. Consumers have all the power and the next generation of millennials need to use their buying power to change the way big companies operate. If they do that, there’s no stopping us.

“Large organisations can starve creativity”

You need small organisations to rapidly innovate so that they can help big corporates. The way a blue chip operates compared with a start-up is completely different. More and more big businesses are setting up accelerator programmes as investment vehicles, I would love to see more of them.

“The most powerful people in this world came out of a creative technical background”

Four out of five young people would consider a STEM career but half don’t know what careers in STEM entail. So, there’s a big gap between what people want and what they know. I would say that design technology is one of the most powerful subjects that young people do, along with science and maths and English. But, it’s not being utilised to its full extent. From Google to Uber to SpaceX we need to work harder to create innovation at a young age and help young people be the future founders and leaders of those companies.

“We need the contributions of big business”

Look at the power of big business when compared to government or individuals and see just how powerful it is. This conversation is a key way to get big business thinking about it more. The power of some CEOs is more than an elected official in terms of how much their decision will impact people’s lives.