London Tech Week event: The Air That (We) Breathe Written by: Sophie McGinness - PR Apprentice, Racepoint Global UK

Johnson Mattey and Future Cities Catapult hosted a joint panel discussion last night to discuss the biggest problem we currently face, the air we breathe. The panel was made up of Sophie Power, Co-Founder and CEO of Airlabs, Dr Iq Mead, Lecturer in Emissions Technology at Cranfield University, Olivier Leroux, Business Development Manager of Air Purification and Automotive at Johnson Matthey and Freddie Talberg, Founder of EMSOL. They were joined by guest panellists Roland Leigh from Earthsense and Richard Greenwood from Radic8. The panel was moderated by David Page, founder of Business Mix.

Question: How can we continue to breathe clean air, whilst London becomes busier and more densely populated? The answer? - Technology.

Human beings are visual creatures, and if we cannot see the problem, we tend to assume it isn’t there. Although the air we breathe looks fine, it is full of gasses and particles that are extremely harmful to our bodies, and until now there has been no true way of cleaning it up. Airlabs is an extremely exciting project that has successfully developed the very first air cleaners for outdoor air. The company collects important data to firstly prove that air pollution is a problem and secondly prove the results. Power explained that the Northern line showed pollution levels as high as the centre of New Delhi. How can our government afford to scorn upon air pollution abroad when the UK is heading in the same direction?

Airlabs is developing the first air cleaning technology that will be available to the consumer. The ‘Air Bubble’ will clean the air in your car, which is some of the most harmful air we and our families breathe.

The panel agreed that the biggest hurdles clean air 2050 faces are education and policy. We need to inform ourselves, that we are being forced to work in dirty air environments, that our children are exposed to this air too; which can at best give them asthma, and at worst negatively impact brain development and halt the growth of vital organs.

The second hurdle is policy, which will be forced by education. If we demand the government to make serious thresholds, we will see changes. We will see clean air policy become a part and a promise of our day to day lives.

Everyone is excited about what is happening, with research, business, and product development we are seeing a rise in innovation. A clean air movement could create new jobs and lower the risk of asthma and allergies, as well as make us happier and more productive people.