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Winter 2018-19

Journal entries are minted every eight to twelve weeks

Studio Space

Parliament TV

Korean Restaurants
Expert Witness Services

It’s January 2019!

December 2018 is an ancient memory. Before we forget, a lot happened over Christmas to make sure January was off to a flying start.

We signed the lease on our first ever studio space and so said our goodbyes to the lovely folk of Tramshed Tech — the best co-working space around.

Thank you to Guy, Will, Tom and Gwenno especially for looking after us, and thanks also to all of the welcoming tenants of Tramshed Tech. This place is buzzing with tech startup talent; if you’re reading this and need a chatbot to sort out your customer service pains, then seriously, get in touch with We Build Bots (tell them we sent you). Amplify are doing mind-boggling things with big data and machine learning, and All Trousers will massively upgrade your marketing reach and analytics.

Business Director Dan Clugston did a sterling job on the new studio fit-out and painting (with family assistance). The interior is suitably fresh and minimal — yes, we have trestles, high stools and even succulents! We're exciting for the upcoming studio warming once we've had time to settle in.

One of the benefits of being a smaller consultancy is the ability to move fast and shape things as you wish — no more fluorescent lighting for a start! Ai retains it’s Swansea University address (post!) but our day-to-day operations are now located above one of Wales’s premier private art galleries — the Kooywood Gallery on Museum Place in Cardiff. Unsurprisingly it’s hopping distance from The National Museum, but also a superb coffee hut, and the haven of the Pen & Wig pub. The latter not entirely by co-incidence.

As a business, we remain 100% independent and our financing model for 2019 is to continue to grow whilst being fully revenue funded. Unlike trade-groups, professional member organisations or public bodies, we enjoy a degree of commercial agility that comes through in our project delivery and unique scope of services.

In February we’ll be expanding to a second space in the new building, the ‘Old Library Room’, to develop our in-house GIS and analytical capacity.

32 inch UHD 4K monitors here we come!

The new year brings exciting developments with some major transport operators and large infrastructure clients, as well as the ongoing R&D into novel herbicide applications over at ai:LAB.

Information design is becoming an increasingly requested service in our project work and the entire team at Ai is getting up to speed on the Adobe suite. Empirical scientific work is all the more useful when it is keenly interrogated. Hard science needs to be understood in the bigger context of it's relations to the complex gamut of social and ecological issues caused by invasive species.

On the R&D side; Iván Martin-Domínguez has just published a superb case study on secondary re-invasion focusing on Himalayan balsam control. We’re integrating Japanese knotweed treatment into a much more complete toolkit of total invasive species management. For clients this means better margins on primary treatments and superior overall biodiversity performance.

We’ve been on a lot of trains, to Leeds, Manchester and Windsor, but mostly to London; the highlight of which was a team visit to Parliament at Portcullis House.

Dr Dan Jones was personally invited to give evidence to the first session of the Commons Science & Technology Select Committee; Japanese knotweed and the built environment inquiry. A taut 3,000 word submission from Ai was sent out within 2018, well before the January 2019 deadline.​

The inquiry is a big step forward in the industry at large and it’s well worth skimming through the twenty-six or so submissions to get a sense of the breadth and depth of differing views. Across contractors, surveyors, statutory bodies and law firms we thought some excellent points were made in the round. Credit to the inquiry panel, and especially chairman Norman Lamb MP, for the incisive and at times challenging questioning. We we're particularly pleased to hear our work directly referred to.

You can view the session on Parliament TV — Dan Jones takes centre stage and there are some familiar faces in the public gallery towards the back. We twigged a freelance journalist taking notes for Quentin Letts’s fanciful Mail Online column (we don’t either), but did enjoy his satirical cast of characters including an ‘intense consultant from Wales’.

More seriously; inaccurate tabloid stories, of which Quentin excels in, have been incredibly unhelpful in fuelling the public hysteria surrounding Japanese knotweed.

Our Digital Team set the record straight on Quentin Letts's Twitter feed; we’re not expecting him to take up our (sincere!) offer of a guided tour of our Invasives Research Centre in South Wales.

Above all, there is a lot to be done to reduce the impacts of Japanese knotweed on homeowners.

Dr Gareth Bruce had to leave Parliament early to return to his expert witness training with the Academy of Experts at Grays Inn; and is launching our expert witness services offer with Dan Clugston.

Ai is one of the only specialist consultancies with direct commercial experience across all levels of the invasive plant species industry, and we work closely with some of the leading barristers in the country who specialise in knotweed-related liability.

Quick thank you to Tina of the London Holborn Premier Inn for such a welcoming stay [side note; superb Korean restaurants nearby — Dan C].

Rewind to the first two weeks of January and Legal and General generously hosted us at an excellent event for surveyors; the LGSS Annual Conference in Oulton Hall, Leeds where  Dr Dan Jones was a guest speaker. Thank you to L&Gs Jayne Green for organising everything, and also Kevin Webb for such a warm welcome — Oulton Hall is a fantastic venue. The highlight for us was a talk by Chartered Structural Engineer Simon Pitchers of Bristol based firm Craddys. Simon gave a truly energising brief ‘Surveyors X-Ray Vision’. Who knew the history of flue design is so captivating?! Dan also spoke at a second L&G event for valuers, this time near Windsor.

Speaking at events is becoming a regular feature in our diary and Dr Gareth Bruce is heading up our CPD and CSR workshop offer for barristers, surveyors, big infrastructure and property professionals. We launch in February.

Unlike most of the existing CPD events available on Japanese knotweed, ours fundamentally interrogates ‘best practices’ and is constantly updated with on the ground feedback from our active client-side projects. It’s going to shake things up in a big way.

That’s it for a few weeks, phew!

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