Tech for urban sustainability - Datacity

Tech for urban sustainability

On December 11. NUMA organized Tech For Planet at Station F in Paris, in collaboration with the French Presidency. The event focused on solutions and the role of technology in the fight against climate change, whether this change comes from startups, large companies or visionaries. 4 startups, partners or Alumni of DataCity were also represented at Tech For Planet: Linc, Quantmetry, Dataiku, 

Emmanuel Léger – DataCity program director and master of ceremony at Tech For Planet – introduced the “cities” topic with irrevocable figures: if the first 100 cities represent 25% of the world population and 75% of greenhouse gas emissions, “we have to look at cities, urban resilience is key in the fight against climate change”.

The question is no longer about finding solutions. Technological breakthroughs and amazing innovations with the potential to solve climate change issues already exist, the question is how quickly can we implement them and scale them ?

Tech for planet by NUMA. December 11th, 2017 – Station F – Photo © Benjamin Boccas for NUMA

Technology is only the tip of the iceberg

Dirk Ahlborn, founder and CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies – one of the companies racing to develop and implement Elon Musk’s innovation – was one of the keynote speakers at Tech For Planet. His analysis leaves no doubt: “the technology already exists and actually has been around for some time now”. Previous companies who tried to make this happen failed, because “it takes more than a company, it’s a movement”. His company is based on a unique approach that makes it the biggest outsourcing project on the planet: several universities are working on it, 800 people around the world work on it in exchange for stock options, other companies are also working on it in exchange for participations. The approach is both global and local with offices in Barcelona, the US, Slovakia, the Emirates, and recently France with a new R&D center in Toulouse. From our perspective, innovation is no longer about creating something new with great potential but also having the ability to move fast and roll out globally.

Dirk Albhorn, CEO, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

New-born startups and Silicon Valley unicorns don’t have the monopoly on innovation. Larger corporations born in the 19th or 20th century can also move to a more collaborative approach, working closely with tech entrepreneurs. Emmanuel Lagarrigue – Chief Strategy Officer at Schneider Electric – was also a keynote speaker at Tech For Planet and calls for more collaboration between startups and corporations: “if we want to offer new solutions, better for the planet, working with startups is probably the best way to innovate. He also announced Schneider Electric’s intention to renew and step-up their commitment to external innovation through a program called “innovating at the edge”. The program will foster deeper interactions with startups in major ecosystems and will also multiply by three the financial commitment to support innovation developed outside Schneider Electric.


We must scale solutions for global impact

If technical solutions are not the problem, what is it? If a solution exists, has funding and visibility, what could be blocking it from scaling?

On a macro level, lack of global collaboration and regulation can be an issue. For Dirk Ahlborn “innovation can be very fast, but governments are sometimes very slow”. The way forward is to work with some of them proactively, like Hyperloop TT is doing in Indonesia, India, the Emirates, South Korea Czech Republic and France. At DataCity we also believe that this can be achieved through co-design. The states and cities can have a direct implication from the start.

Scaling solutions also means thinking globally: for Emmanuel Lagarrigue “the cities of tomorrow will be in Asia and Africa, and the model of development that was used for northern cities is not going to make it to the south because it’s not sustainable.” Through a partnership with Sunna Design, they were able to scale solar impact in different parts of the world. They now hope to keep scaling this solution for global impact.

Last but not least, solutions can only be scaled if they have market potential and solve a common issue in more than one region in the world. In the case of Hyperloop, traffic and pollution are one of the biggest problems for cities, no metro in the world is profitable so a green solution like hyperloop that produces more energy that it consumes would benefit states, citizens and the planet. To put it like Dirk Ahlborn in his keynote: “it’s completely green: it uses solar, wind, kinetic energy and even geo-thermal. But we don’t do this just because it’s green, it also makes business sense”. This is, indubitably, another key element to keep in mind when we talk about scaling solutions.

From left to right, Marie Vorgan Le Barzic CEO of NUMA, Emmanuel Macron French President, Emmanuel Leger DataCity Managing Director, NUMA – Photo © Benjamin Boccas for NUMA