How Imperial College London is Tackling Sustainability with Steven Prescott-Jones - Device42

How Imperial College London is Tackling Sustainability with Steven Prescott-Jones

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Join us on the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to IT” podcast as we embark on an inspiring journey with Imperial College London’s Director of Digital Infrastructure, Steven Prescott Jones. Delve into the innovative strategies and cutting-edge technologies behind Imperial College’s ambitious mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. Discover how data-driven decisions, smart energy solutions, and collaboration are shaping the university’s path towards a sustainable future. From reducing campus energy consumption to optimizing resource utilization and embracing carbon-neutral data centers, Imperial College’s roadmap for sustainability offers valuable insights for organizations worldwide. Tune in and be inspired by the bold steps being taken to create a greener, more sustainable tomorrow.


Welcome to another episode of hitchhiker’s Guide to IT podcast, brought to you by device forty

two On this show, we explore the ins and outs of modern IT management and the infinite

expanse of its universe. Whether you’re an expert in the data center or cloud or just someone

interested in the latest trends in IT technology, Hitchhiker’s Guide to IT is your go to source for

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(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

Hello, and welcome to the hitchhiker’s Guide to IT podcast series brought to you by Device42.

I’m your host Michelle Don Moody, and today we’re talking about how Imperial College is

tackling sustainability. Best British accent here, but it will be bad. So I will leave that for the

expert, not only with the British accent, but also in a lot of really exciting things that are

happening at the college. It is my pleasure to bring on Steven Prescott Jones. He is the director

of digital infrastructure for Imperial College in London. Thanks so much for joining us, Steven.

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

Hi, Michelle, good to join you. Thank you for hosting me, and hello everyone.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

Looking forward to this conversation. So before we get into it, can you give us a brief bio of, you

know, what you do, what you’ve done kinda to lead us to this point?

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

Yeah. Of course. So, I’ve been in technology since 1997. So, quite a long time after finishing

university. So I started out, doing sort of network side of things, the VEL Networks back in those

days, and then worked my through way through mainframe technologies, and identity

management, and that kind of thing, up to being a technical architect, at HP and and a solution

owner at Fujitsu, and then I headed up hybrid cloud at the Department of Worker pensions, and

then I moved to Imperial in late twenty twenty during the pandemic, to take on my current role.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

Perfect. And that leads us here today to have a pretty interesting conversation. So tell me this.

Why is Imperial moving to be carbon neutral by 2040.

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

So from imperial’s perspective, you know, we’re the leading research university in the UK So not

only are we looking at becoming carbon neutral ourselves, we also want to be at the four to

provide the solutions and collaborations and the skills necessary to help the UK as a whole,

meet its targets, for zero net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and that’s why Imperial is aiming

to be a step ahead of that. We’re aiming to hit that by 2040. We’ve got three scopes that we’ve

set up around energy around the things we consume and around, everything that Imperial

needs to utilize, not just on our own campuses and sites, but the things we consume from third

parties as well. And it’s an area that Imperial takes that extremely seriously up until late last

year. We had someone part time who was an academic lead in sustainability, and now we have

a dedicated sustainability strategy director as well. So it’s at the front of the focus of everything

we’re doing around our campuses at the moment.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

So I feel like we live in a world with a lot of extra and to try to be more sustainable, reduction

comes into play.So Tell me this. How does Imperial plan to reduce to be more sustainable?

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

Well, as I mentioned, that we’ve we’ve we’ve got we’ve got three scopes there. So we’re looking

at campus energy, you know, the energy we use in the buildings, how we better use a lot utilize

our buildings, Obviously, there’s a lot more hybrid work in these days, and we’re also set up

from a technology perspective for hybrid learning because we we had to be during the

pandemic. So that gives us the opportunity to look at the best space utilization, how we utilize

our space, how we consume power, you know, we do a lot of our own research. We generate

our own power, but we also use a lot of high performance computing as well in order to underpin

that research. So we’re looking at what we can do in that space. We’ve got a new campus that

we’re expanding out at White City at the moment for people in the UK, you might remember that

as being one of the BBC studios previously. And obviously II went there in previous roles in the

past. And we’re gonna be looking at putting carbon neutral data centers in that White City

campus as well. So we’ll be at the forefront of ensuring that high performance computers are as

energy efficient as possible, and consume as little power as possible, looking at water cooled

racks and those kinds of things to reduce that power consumption. And then, another key area

is also that, you know, in terms of the scopes, the third scope is looking at the things we

consume. You know, cloud services, for example, a great example, we still need to consider the

things that we’ve got running in, hyper scale providers because they still consume energy. You

know, they’re still part of our carbon footprint as well. So we and at the moment, in fact, these

services outside of our campuses, and the supply chains to supply services to us account for

around eighty percent of our current footprint. So that’s a really big challenge for us looking at

what we consume and looking at how we can best utilize it.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

So a lot of work to do, a lot of things to get to, of course, before that deadline. But I wanna dive

a little deeper and talk about data specifically because there is a lot out there. So what are your

plans there to kind of work with this ultimate goal in mind?

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

You’re absolutely right. And data is absolutely key to this. So, you know, we have a baseline

understanding of the power we can consume of the services we consume in what we call scope

three. So, third party services. So now it’s a case of pulling all of this data together because we

have certain, you know, building maintenance systems. We have energy systems with data. So

we’ve created, what we call in our unified data platform, we pull all of that data into that one

central repository if you like. So everyone’s got a single source of truth for starting to work with

that data, and we link that with inventory tooling and monitoring tooling, to try and start to pull

together that picture of our energy consumption, of our building usage, of our cloud utilization.

For example, when we look at the the third party footprint we’ve got in place, and try and link

that to, to to the things that we do day to day in the college and see how we can start to

maximize utilization. You know, we’ve got tools in place that look at building usage. We’re gonna

be replacing our underpinning Wi-Fi infrastructure that’ll allow us to look at attendance

monitoring around room usage, around automatically switching off lights in rooms that aren’t in

use and, projectors or screens and things that are in there. So it’s starting to move to the next

level of getting the data to a position where we can make informed choices. And part of that is

around our overall building management and how our buildings are configured. So we’re pulling

together a road map on that, which we aim to have completed by the tail end of this year. And

then that will allow us to progress on getting our buildings in a position where they can help us

achieve the net zero emissions that we’re aiming for.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

This is quite a big undertaking as you can see. Yes. So I’m curious to hear your words of

wisdom for people out there, companies, universities, etcetera. If they know that they wanna get

better, they wanna do better, where do you even start?

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

Yeah. I I think the key thing at Imperial, the key starting point has been buy-in from the top. As I

mentioned before, we’ve got a dedicated director of sustainability now. So we’re taking this

extremely seriously. So that that direction has to come from the top, it has to be collaborative, in

a university environment like Imperial, we’re we’re we’re not necessarily the same as other

organizations because we’re not quite centralized. Obviously, we have the academic side, and

we have tuition fees coming in. We have research grants coming in from charities, from

governments, from all sorts of different organizations, So getting that buy-in across the whole

community, to achieve that goal has been key. And we developed a strategy covering 21 to 26.

A sustainability strategy. And as I mentioned before, we got those three scopes in place. We

socialize those around the college, We have sustainability working groups of subcommittees

that I’m a member of as well around the infrastructure as in the technology infrastructure around

the building infrastructure, around baseline in what we’ve got, specifically subcommittees

around data and how we get best use of data So everyone within each of the different faculties

and parts of the organization has representation, within these committees, So it it is it is really, a

massive collaborative effort, I suppose. And it’s and and that feeds into people’s ways of

working, the simple things switching things off when you’re not using them, not printing if you

don’t need to print, when the new research grants are, submitted thinking about the technology

you’re using rather than, just thinking in the silo of each individual piece of research and

infrastructure.So iif you look at Imperial’s website, we’ve got a whole section on sustainability.

It’s been amazing to see, but it is a massive, massive effort. And, of course, there’s a huge cost

involved, and what we do at Imperial is we partner with organizations, so that will help us

massively as well in terms of how we can progress these things.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

Yeah. And I guess it really comes down to baby steps. I mean, clearly, if you look at that goal, it

would be a little overwhelming, but, you know, those key steps and getting a little bit better day

by day hour by hour, even minute by minute. I have to ask this before we wrap up here. How

does it feel personally for you to be involved in this type of effort?

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

It’s just really inspiring. As as you can probably tell from when when I talk about it, to be involved

in such such something that’s you know, absolutely, vital not just to imperial, but to society, and

and globally as a whole, you know, it’s, It’s something that we all need to think about for future

generations. It’s something we can all make a difference on. If we work jointly on it, so, you

know, it’s it’s massively inspiring to to me and to see in the last year or so, you know, dedicated

roles, dedicated committees, and how seriously Imperial is taking this, both internally and as I

said earlier, how we can be at the forefront, moving forward, to help drive this, to meet the UK

government’s targets as well. It’s absolutely phenomenal.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

You mentioned before about a lot more information on the website. Can you give that to us any

additional details or, you know, places that people can go to learn more about what we’re talking

about today?

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

Yeah. Of course, I can. Yeah. I can provide those links. So we’ve got, sustainable

-imperial, so I can provide a copy of that. That also gives a link to our sustainability strategy, as

well, and there’s also certain events that we put on that people will be able to see there as well.

So, yeah, I I think as I said, what we’re doing isn’t specific to just those at Imperial, there’s a lot

other organizations can learn. So if people are interested, they can look at that, or they can just

get in touch with me as well. More than happy to talk to people about it.

(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

Wonderful, exciting things are happening. Really excited to see where the future’s gonna take

you and getting to that journey and that final milestone. So, Steven Prescott Jones, director of

digital infrastructure at Theodore College of London. Thanks so much for joining me, Stephen.

Great conversation. Once again, really exciting things are happening. So best of luck to you,

and thanks so much for joining me today.

(Guest: Steven Prescott-Jones)

Yep. And thank you very much for having me, Michelle, inviting me on. I’ve really enjoyed the


(Host: Michelle Dawn Mooney)

I did as well. And I wanna thank all of you for tuning in and listening to the hitchhiker’s Guide to

IT podcast series brought to you by device forty two. Of course, we invite you to subscribe to

this podcast to hear more great conversations like the one you heard today, and you can always

visit device forty two dot com for more information on device forty two. I’m your host Michelle

Don Moody. Once again, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you again soon.