Dr Andrew Douglas Garrad
Doctor of Engineering
10 July 2009 - Orator: Professor Alan Champneys
I ask you to cast your mind back to the dark days of 1984, when politics in the UK was highly polarised and renewable energy was a discipline enunciated mostly by people in smocks and sandals. It was in that year that today's honorary graduand Dr Andrew Garrad, an engineer in brogues and corduroys, was prepared to take a huge risk. He had been working for five years for a civil engineering contractor developing mathematical models for wind turbines. With his wife just having given birth to the first of their four children, Andrew and his colleague Unsal Hassan cashed in their modest pensions, remortgaged their houses and started their own business. With no forward order book they did a deal with City University London to get free space in exchange for one day a week's teaching. The company they founded, Garrad Hassan Ltd, now based in Bristol, currently employs over 370 staff in 19 countries and is the world's leading renewable energy consultancy, having twice won the Queen's Award for Enterprise.
The Garrad family connections to Bristol go much further back. Andrew's parents, who are both here today, were born locally and five generations of the family can be traced to the village of Long Ashton, just a few miles from here, where Andrew has himself lived for 18 years. There are also links to the great benefactors of this University and indeed this building, the Wills family. Andrew's great great uncle, a clergyman, married into the family and when at the pinnacle of his ecclesiastical career, was known colloquially as ‘the Bishop of Bath and Wills’.
Andrew was born and grew up in Worcester. In 1971 he won a scholarship to New College, Oxford, applying to do both mathematics and engineering. He was only forced to choose engineering because that interview came first. An Engineering Mathematics degree, like those awarded today, was not then available. Andrew's love of mathematics came to the fore though during his PhD in fluid mechanics at the University of Exeter. The opportunity then arose to apply his expertise on boundary layer flow directly within the Navy, who saw its relevance to underwater cigar-shaped objects.
Not wishing to pursue a career in defence, Andrew by luck chose instead renewable energy, or alternative energy, as it was then called. He went to work for Taylor Woodrow Construction in a talented team that became the Wind Energy Group, a collaboration with GEC and British Aerospace. He was allowed a free rein; his initial work on dynamical stability of turbines proved fascinating mathematically but of little real interest, since no wind turbine has ever become mechanically unstable. Nevertheless, the early Wind Energy Group turbines were world-leading, partly through Andrew's analytical skills and the monitoring programme run by Unsal Hassan.
It remains a story for another occasion how Britain lost its early advantage in wind turbine manufacture, but the lack of commercial push by Wind Energy Group and the Conservative government's insistence on competition when the main competitor received direct support from the Danish government were contributory factors. So, it was a tough time for the early Garrad Hassan. They had no money, no work, but a good deal of audacity. Despite some contracts from turbine manufacturers, their main income sources were government and EU handouts. The big change came with the privatisation of the UK electricity industry, when Garrad Hassan began to diversify into wind farm management. However, British ‘nimbyism’ soon caused the enterprise to founder in a storm of planning protests. This forced Andrew and Unsal to adopt a new business strategy of ‘Go abroad or die’ and to set up remote offices in Scotland and New Zealand. Their network now extends to Spain,Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, the US, Denmark, China, India, Brazil, Australia and Mexico.
When the time came for Garrad Hassan to establish their own head office, they relocated to Bristol; first in St Stephen Street and then in the outbuildings of Andrew's newly purchased house in Long Ashton. Outgrowing this, about eight years ago the company bought the run-down Victorian St Vincent Works behind Temple Meads Station, which they have lovingly restored and extended.
As the company grew, clear roles became established; Andrew is the managing director and Unsal, who retired a few years ago, was content with a more back-room role. The company's remit has continually expanded; their newest product is a short-term wind forecast that removes uncertainty from wind farms, making them appear to the grid like conventional power stations. They have also diversified into marine and solar energy. Garrad Hassan's policy of having no direct stake in any installation has garnered them a reputation for being truly independent. Indeed, they have acted as Technical Advisors for about 25% of the world's installed capacity of wind farms, some 20 billion dollars’ worth of investment and, in 2007 alone, on 11 billion Euro’s worth of mergers and acquisitions. These figures show how far wind energy has moved since the dark days of the 1980s.
Andrew's advice is frequently sought by international bodies, most recently the Chinese government. He is a committed European and in 1991 wrote the pioneering ‘Wind energy in Europe – Time for Action’, translated into all the EU languages. He also played a significant part in the authoritative ‘Wind Energy - The Facts’ published in 2005. He has been chair of the British Wind Energy Association, and is a decorated fellow or board member of numerous institutes and centres across Europe, being the only Briton to receive the European Wind Energy Association's la Cour Prize for outstanding individual contribution. He was once an Honorary Fellow in Aerospace Engineering at this University, but was sacked (very politely) for non-attendance. Possibly in atonement, Andrew has recently joined the advisory board of the BRITE Futures Institute, a new Bristol University research initiative, joining expertise in energy, climate modelling and systems research. Garrad Hassan are also sponsoring a team of Bristol students in the international wind-powered vehicle race.
And what of Andrew Garrad the man? Mr Vice-Chancellor, with his gruff voice and no nonsense approach you might imagine that Andrew is a ruthless businessman. He is. But that is not the whole story. A lifelong Labour voter, he is a model employer. Since the Long Ashton days, where the only nearby entertainment was a pub, the company has provided free healthy lunches for all its employees, the norm then being to have picnics on Andrew's lawn. Free lunch is now provided in a common room, with the proviso that, no matter how busy, employees must not eat at their desks. All staff are encouraged to travel, and free language tuition is offered in Chinese, French, Spanish and Italian.
With his huge financial risks and frequent periods of absence, credit must go to Andrew's accommodating wife Emma, whom he met as an undergraduate. Their family are important to them and despite his busy schedule Andrew has made a point of visiting each of their four children while on their various far-flung pre-University gap years. Their youngest, Harriet is currently in Ecuador. Johanna, Alice and George are here today and have variously studied history of art, sports science and politics, with Alice having represented England at hockey.
Mr Vice-Chancellor, Andrew Garrad is an inspiration, a true entrepreneur -- a visionary and risk-taker -- yet also a selfless champion of renewable energy and an exemplary employer and family man.
Mr Vice Chancellor, I present to you Andrew Douglas Garrad as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.