As I made clear in my editorial, whether we like it or not, since 24th February 2022, we are living in a new world, darkened by a revival of all the worst aspects of the past. It seems incredible to think that in the 21st century, we should find ourselves reliving the barbarism of the 20th century. But every day we are forced to witness scenes that could be taken from a 1940s newsreel: the reckless bombardment of homes and hospitals – even nuclear power stations – resulting in lines of fleeing citizens – women and children, the elderly, the wounded. Trains crammed with desperate refugees leave for the safety of the border, while thousands of young men fight vicious battles on all fronts with countless casualties.
And all this in a world facing existential threats in terms of climate change and the huge challenge to reduce our carbon dependency to net-zero by 2050 if we are to secure a safe future for the planet and its human population. Indeed, the UN Climate Chief has only recently urged governments to submit more ambitious national climate plans for COP 27 due later this year in Egypt. “The science is clear: we must see more climate action this decade if we’re to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and, ultimately the 1.5-degree goal.”
With a major war on European soil for the first time since 1945, it is tempting to give up the attempt of meeting our COP commitments as futile. But we must not give up.
Instead, we must draw on our reserves of hope, faith, and ingenuity. As I suggested in my editorial, this calamitous situation may counter- intuitively provide a turbo-charged boost to our endeavours, giving the strongest possible incentive for the green revolution we so desperately need. With Europe and the United States committing to reduce to zero the dependence on Russian fossil fuel, the task is clear: to fast-track green alternatives, to invest, to invent, to innovate in all fields.
EU Tech and the European Senate have long been committed to the quest for sanity and global salvation. Last year – months before the cataclysm of Ukraine – EU Tech announced our first annual SDG awards. These were based on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which cover such essentials as poverty, education, energy, growth, clean seas, and global peace. We invited companies to offer innovative programmes for each of the 17 goals and got a magnificent response: over 1,000 entries came in and our judges had the challenging task of whittling them down to ten in each category, resulting in 170 companies competing in the finals. Each had to pitch their idea to our online audience which then voted for the winners of each of the 17 SDGs. The prize for each winner was a 10,000 EUR marketing budget for advertising, promotion publicity and support.
As you will have seen, this whole edition of Visions for Europe is devoted to SDGs and our SDG awards. We are proud and delighted to be able to give each successful company a platform to share and explain their brilliant ideas. Each winner responded to an interview questionnaire yielding an article intended to draw out the challenges they have experienced and the prospects they envision for their award-winning projects. Let us take one example. Volker Kunze, who describes himself as a Technology Scout and Expansion Manager, is a veteran of the radical programme to achieve Digital Transformation across a wide field of endeavour. Kunze’s work is radical – revolutionary in fact. For over 25 years he has been dragging the present into the future. Or perhaps a better way of putting it is that he has brought the future into the present. In a phrase, it is about transforming the analogue world into the digital world. The analogue world is not obsolete, but it should be and will be very soon. And the sooner the better.
The reasons? For a start, it is so wasteful – of time, effort and material. Take the pioneering developments in 3D printing. To the uninitiated, this can seem like magic. How can you have a technology that seems able to ‘photocopy’ anything – from a gun to a spare part – at the press of a button? But once you can, where are the limits – and how much are you cutting out of the supply chain in terms of manufacturing investment, man-hours, and transport? There is an obvious optimization of costs which contributes to the
increased sustainability in the entire process.
It is not surprising the word Disruptive crops us so often concerning Kunze’s revolutionary innovations. It’s as if he and his colleagues have picked up a volume of Sci-Fi stories and simply turned fiction in. As that analogy suggests, so much of the recent technology the world so desperately needs is the product of imagination and preparedness to think outside the box: blue-sky thinking, where there is the freedom to think without boundaries and fear of failure.
Thinking and training people to think, is at the heart of Kunze’s revolutionary mindset. One of his main concerns is sustainability in education via global digital teaching.
Just as 3D printing delivers the required component when and where it is needed, it makes sense to deliver instruction to those who need it when they need it and where they need it. The pace of change is such that we do not necessarily have time to build schools and colleges. Why wait three years before you can help train the engineers of the future in an African country determined to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels? Put as bluntly as that, it is obvious there is no need to wait. There is an obvious need to roll out the training immediately.
Creativity once believed to be the prerogative of a tiny elite, now turns out to be the human quality upon which our successful journey into a sustainable future most depends. And with our development of Artificial Intelligence, we are freeing up more thinking time. Human beings are not going to be replaced – or enslaved – by AI; on the contrary, they are going to be liberated to concentrate their minds on conquering the huge challenges that face us all.
But we must embrace the new mindset. As Kunze points out in his interview, most companies and businesses are still wedded to the old ways– despite the Covid pandemic and other ruptures in the analogue value chains. And they are no longer fit for purpose these days. At their best, they produce 99% of what is possible. But with the new basket of possibilities – Additive Manufacturing, New Design, and Freedom of Design with its seedbed in the new globally expanding model of educating and training, there is the prospect of a 70% potential improvement.
In these darkest of days, faced with a barbaric attempt to drag the world back into the wasteland of the past, our responsibility is to redouble our commitment to the new world order. Hope is the only option. Despair would be fatal. But surveying the unquestionable success of our first SDG awards, I can confidently report that we have strong grounds for optimism.
The response to our challenge was overwhelming and the plethora of brilliant ideas was simply astounding. To repeat, we had over 1,000 applicants for the awards; we reduced them to 170 businesses and companies to be voted on by our jury of attendees to produce our first 17 winners. That demonstrates an extensive and encouraging level of interest.
We are already planning next year’s SDG awards and look forward to welcoming back a majority of those who contributed last year, and of course a new swathe of companies who might be interested.
We will announce the details of the competition in the Q3 edition of Visions for Europe and launch in November. In the meantime, anyone wondering whether it is for them and their business, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our congratulations go to the 2021 winners and extend our thanks to the 1,000+ entrants and those who participated in the final round of assessment. We wish success to all of you and a safe passage through the dangers and difficulties of the months ahead.
Meanwhile, the fight for the planet and a safe and sustainable future for its billions of inhabitants must continue unceasingly.
Florian Frhr. von Tucher
EU Tech Chamber