We must work together to tackle the biggest problems of our time

Posted: June 19, 2024

The ecosystem age will be characterized by collaboration as industries partner to build a sustainable economy at scale. Work is already underway—and it’s not a moment too soon, says Helen Lamprell, Chief Legal and Transformation Officer, AVEVA

Suppose you’ve set yourself the bucket-list goal of climbing Mount Everest. Would you tackle it alone—or would you seek help from a team of experts, such as expedition guides and fitness coaches? The climate crisis is our Everest and collaboration is the only way to achieve the monumental task of safeguarding the planet.

Climate change and sustainability are complex challenges. Although each company must reduce its own emissions across all scopes, only by pooling our strengths can we innovate and deliver lasting change. Only through radical collaboration can industrial companies tackle the complex socio, environmental and economic challenges facing us.

Technology accelerates nature-inspired decarbonization

Look at Brilliant Planet. The London-based start-up grows algae in the arid Sahara Desert to capture and store gigatons of atmospheric carbon, potentially for thousands of years. The process is up to 30 times more efficient than a forest. It has taken Brilliant Planet eight years of research and development to build a scalable platform for use worldwide.

But there are just five years to leverage these and other solutions if we are to make serious climate progress. By 2030, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says atmospheric carbon emissions must drop at least 43% compared to 2019 levels.

To scale at that speed, Brilliant Planet is racing to modularize its technology, together with a team from Schneider Electric, AVEVA and our partner Platinum Electrical Engineering. We are helping Brilliant Planet ramp up carbon removal operations using solutions focused on algal monitoring and process automation, while also purchasing carbon credits.

As I explained at a London Tech Week panel recently, it’s a great demonstration of how technology and nature can partner to combat climate change.

Digital tools can slash emissions 4-10% by 2030

Technology is essential to tackling the climate crisis. Adopting existing digital technologies more quickly could reduce global emissions 4-10% by 2030 in just three sectors—energy, materials and mobility, according to the World Economic Forum. By 2050, the reductions could be 20%.

Available technologies can drive process improvements. They also enable industries to share critical enterprise and operational data for mutual benefit.

Shared data infused with artificial intelligence (AI) enhances business insights and fosters innovation. Efficiency improves, while costs and resource use declines. Alongside, transparency and trust rise across the ecosystem, driving collective progress towards sustainability targets and regulatory compliance.

Almost half of industry executives interviewed for AVEVA’s recent Industrial Intelligence Index report cite a robust industrial information infrastructure (47%) and platform-enabled data-sharing and collaboration (43%) among the top areas of investment that could drive opportunity and growth for their organizations. Collaborative data ecosystems find applications in many industries. The energy transition is essential for net-zero. However, renewables like wind and solar rely on distributed assets. In the past, it was enough to throw the switch on one large power plant—to put it crudely. Today, producers must synchronize energy flows from hundreds of wind turbines or millions of solar cells at any given moment.

AI helps by automating and aggregating data capture and analysis, adding on anomaly detection and pre-emptive safety features. The resulting insights elevate human decision making around grid management and other vital systems, so renewables can scale up to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

Teamwork unlocks innovation at scale 

In the North Sea, a renewable energy consortium uses just this kind of AI. Combining weather data with information from 300 turbines, the AI helps dynamically angle the turbines for maximum efficiency. It alerts operators to anomalies in individual turbines, improving reliability and cutting maintenance costs. And with unified operations, every partner company can view the operational state on demand. All while millions of European homes have dependable energy.

As industries become more complex, decision-makers must consider more variables. AI manages this complexity, delivering accurate, actionable insights. Key to this are data-sharing partnerships between grid operators, governments, and technology providers. This collaboration in turn nurtures joint innovation.

Dominion Energy, a US-based electric generation, transmission and distribution company, uses software to map power sources across its network and ensure that intermittent renewable supply is matched with conventional energy sources for energy security. As renewable power grows in the energy mix, Dominion found it can monetize this data by sharing it in real time with its customers, who use it to validate their own decarbonization commitments to regulators. As some of Dominion’s customers are large data warehouses, this helps close the loop for green software too.

Sustainability is about collaboration, not competition

We’re at the beginning of the ecosystem age. Dominion Energy and others use data-driven insights to augment human abilities. When shared across their partner ecosystems, industry can harness its full potential, driving transparency, spurring innovation, and ultimately fostering a resilient and sustainable future.

This kind of collaboration is taking place in nearly every industry, from manufacturing to infrastructure.  Whether energy producer, distributor, customer or Earth itself, each entity wins in a sustainable, connected ecosystem.

The work to achieve this at the global level is already underway as customers, partners and peers as well as academia come together to move the dial on both the enabling policy frameworks and in practical innovation projects.

Organizations from every industry are now joining hands to incentivize and promote sustainable solutions at every level. Collaboration with customers, partners and peers as well as academia is also essential in move the dial on both the enabling policy frameworks and in practical innovation projects.

In the UK, for example, the Aldersgate Group alliance brings together leaders from business, politics and society to drive policy action around achieving net-zero emissions and enabling the scaling up of sustainable investments. Similarly, the Corporate Leaders Groups from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership brings together business leaders and policymakers to cooperate on and advocate for solutions that keep global warming in check while enabling sustainable development. And at a global level, the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition brings together global companies to incentivize the supply, financing, and deployment of innovative climate technologies via bankable projects and offtake agreements. The Forum’s Uplink open innovation platform aims to support start-ups developing solutions to our most pressing climate challenges. For me and my AVEVA colleagues, working with these likeminded businesses is particularly stimulating.

Partnerships have shown me that achieving our sustainability goals is not a competitive race to the top of Everest (to return to my opening example), but a collaborative journey. The path to sustainability is complex, but with shared purpose, the journey promises profound impact and lasting change.

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