Happy New Year. Let’s leave the stormy weather behind!

photograph courtesy of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Woodland

Happy New Year! We hope you saw it in the best way you know.

And we really do hope that if the Covid-19 virus has, or does swing by your house, it won’t affect you and yours as much as it might have done a year ago.

Certainly that’s what Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and the government’s life sciences adviser, thinks.

We’ve followed Sir John’s pronouncements in particular this year and it seems to us that his approach has been more balanced, pragmatic and cautiously optimistic than others.

In a recent interview with the BBC’s Today programme, he said: “The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago – intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely – that is now history in my view and I think we should reassured that that’s likely to continue.”

Of course he knows, as do we all, that Covid-19 is a wiley disease and has caught us out before. However, we’re backing Sir John’s pronouncements.

At Business & Innovation Magazine we’re excited about 2022. There are many really crap things about a pandemic, but it does give everything a major shake up, which in the long term can turn out to be a good thing.

Remember the epic hurricane in 1987 (yup – the one that the famous BBC weather forecaster, Michael Fish, didn’t forecast?!),

It was, they said, the most destructive storm to hit the UK since 1703. Power lines were brought down and buildings ripped apart as winds of more than 100mph lashed parts of the UK. People lost their lives.

Thousands were left without power for days, and many others were forced out of their homes due to flooding.

The repair bill for damage to roads and utilities caused by the high winds ran into the £billions.

Millions of trees were lost for ever from our landscape.

But many of the trees that fell that night were quickly reclaimed by nature, and in many places revealed a landscape ripe with new possibilities.

In some areas of the UK, the urge to restore what was there before was overwhelming, and diggers ploughed into the devastated woods and forests even before Weatherman Fish and the Met Office had finishing apologising, clearing away the deadwood and planting hundreds of trees – each protected by blue plastic tubing.

In other areas the landscape was left to nature, allowing the trees to decay which in turn enriched the soil, allowing wild flowers to germinate and wildlife to thrive.

So, just perhaps, the answer is not to build back the same from this pandemic, or even to build back better (in the short term anyway), but just to look at the post-pandemic landscape and ponder a little before jumping in. Let’s look at the new landscape and take time to re-evaluate what’s important to us all.

A bit of perspective is important.

So what else will 2022 bring the region’s businesses? More electric vehicles seems a safe bet. And the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence in business.

Zap-Map, the leading, Bristol-based electric vehicle charging app, has released the results of a new survey of EV drivers across the country. The results are strong evidence of a continuing shift in consumer attitudes towards electric vehicles. Not only do they show that those who plump for electric in the New Year won’t regret it, but they also suggest that EV drivers are increasingly confident about driving long distances.

Zap-Map’s poll revealed that more than 90 per cent of drivers are extremely happy with their EV and would not want to replace it with a petrol or diesel car. The data highlights the positive impact of EVs on drivers who have benefited from a great driving experience, low running costs and low emissions. Less than one per cent wanted a return to a petrol or diesel vehicle.

Technology is going further. Electric vehicles can also power our houses. You can read about this and other electric technologies in our main feature: Our Friends Electric, in the printed January issue of Business & Innovation Magazine, out next week.

But the internal combustion engine won’t disappear overnight. And there is an argument that it could be better for the environment to carry on driving your old-fashioned car for as long as it’s roadworthy, rather than investing in an EV until you really need to.

Because extracting the raw materials, particularly lithium to make the lithium-ion technology in EV batteries requires large quantities of energy and water. But our scientists are already on the case, and major research continues around the world to look at alternative, greener and cheaper battery technologies.

Much of that research is going on across the region. Our January issue also includes a Small Giants feature, which has tracked down some of the most exciting early stage businesses in all sectors which we predict could grow into the blockbuster businesses of the future.

Our two interviews in our January issue involve two men who are innovators in entirely different fields.

Adam Barmy is a true visionary who has developed an innovative electric assisted vehicle which could banish vans and HGVs from urban areas for ever, significantly improving air quality in our towns and cities. He’s now manufacturing these in Oxfordshire and exporting them across the world.

A few years ago, former banker Nigel Whitehouse discovered that what many of us mistake for small clods of earth are in fact truffles, one of the world’s most desirable culinary ingredients. His business is now making a growing range of condiments and selling them across the world, all from a production facility near Cirencester.

So here’s to an epic 2022. It’s going to be a belter.