By Sandra Vlašić, #March15, @terrahubcroatia
How do you come six times faster to a spot where you want to be and you think you are already fast, smart and technologically advanced? The spot we want to be is a circular net-zero emissions economy by 2050 with no wasted resources and no emissions that can’t be absorbed. The easy stuff is already done but we are still far from decarbonisation rate we need if we want to stay below 1.5 degrees C. The serious science, the IPCC calls for a “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. How shall we do that?
Transformation, in time is the title of a new 4-year EIT Climate-KIC Strategy 2019 – 2022. Transformation is when you entirely change shape. I know we need to change and I do get the “why?”. What is difficult for me is to get the “how?”.
How the transformation and decarbonisation at an exponential rate will look like, what does it really mean for me, my family, my work and my everyday life? I know there are smart and sophisticated technologies that will help us like algorithms, machine learning, blockchain, artificial intelligence, internet of things. For an ordinary citizen these are abstract things, often even invisible. Maybe that is part of the reason why there is so little progress and so little demand for change?
A jigsaw of our future
And then, as the EIT RIS Climate-KIC Hub Croatia member, several weeks ago I attended the pitching session of twelve teams for the Greentech start-up accelerator, the largest European start-up accelerator for climate innovations, available in Croatia for the first time! The picture of how our life could look like when we transform started to get the outline.
We would be able to grow our own fruit for breakfast or veggies for salad in a home garden, the “Urban Oasis”. The home garden looks like a fridge we already have at home, except it’s more than a fridge, it is where we grow and pick fresh food for our family table. The growing conditions will be ideally created by algorithms, calculated by artificial intelligence and provided by technology. For the crops we can’t grow at home, care will be taken by the Q-Tech. A smart system that creates mist around crops which serves as frost protection. There is also Makabi, smart microcapsule that contain different bioactive components to protect the yields and help us grow bio-functional food. Yields are more productive and less vulnerable, with reduced use of agrochemicals.
Only compostable materials, less waste
We will wear shoes like MIRET sneakers, which are entirely compostable. In three-year time, after we wore them and dispose, they will degrade in the industrial composting site in the city. No fossil-fuel based components are integrated in any part of sneakers, shoes are safe for nature. Imagine if all 20 billion pairs of shoes produced each year would be compostable?!
The Smart Waste App will help us manage waste separation. It will guide us when, where and what kind of waste material we can dispose at which site close to our home and it will inform the communal company about the same – which containers with what kind of waste materials are almost full and ready for them to pick them up and feed into another material stream.
Transport and fuel savings
There are 50.000 cargo ships cruising around the world and transporting goods from faraway lands to other places. Each year those ships emit one billion tonnes of CO2 from fuel consumed but they can save fuel just due to right trim balance and smart placement of cargo load! This can be done fully automated by a software designed by Naval Hydro engineers. Another fuel-saving thing we can already do is to test and use WEPark App and book a place to park the car in advance. Did you know that 40% of traffic jams in cities are caused by cars searching for place to park? The App helps us park smoothly, it opens the gate, close the gate, pays the bill.
Cities, trees and sensors
The streets in cities and building-facades will be cooled by ShadePots, movable green nets with nice English Ivy, which cools and filters the air and additionally insulates our homes. City squares will be cooled by trees growing in Tree Spots, big mobile pots with trees and smart systems of sensors. To live smart we need sensors all around – in Tree Spots or along the main roads, bridges and streets like in a smart MMR system. MMR can use a vast network of sensors to measure different traffic and air pollution parameters. And then again – large datasets and machine learning systems would do their job and guide us faster towards optimising traffic, less pollution and less fuel consumption.
ASCALIA is another platform for smart use and management of our city in combination with Industry 4.0. The result is in optimised use of resources and minimum waste of energy. Finally, there is a Symbiotic App, which gets data from a low-cost mashed IoT network of sensors, sends data to smart computers that can use them to create early warning system for disasters, like floods or heavy storms that happen more frequently and more severely. It sends information and guidance to rescue teams and sends advice to people on how to behave. Better preparedness to disasters and fast response can save many more lives and resources.
Picture that now?
Can you picture better now the world we would be living in, when we transform? It is not science fiction, it is not Hollywood screenwriters’ imagination, it is my picture of everyday life in a five-year time. The picture came-up after I listened the pitches of 12 teams to enter the Greentech start-up accelerator programme in Croatia. So far the Climate-KIC supported more than 2000 innovative start-ups with more than 550 million EUR of investment capital attracted. After 9- month time, these and other teams will be more ready for the market. Not all, but many of them will succeed and the picture will turn into reality. First gradually, then suddenly. That will make a transformational, systemic change at an exponential rate we need to go through in the next decade.
But not everything can be done by innovative start-ups, not at all! There is a role for big companies, banks, for services. We all need to want that, to be ready to transform our daily living patterns and consumption habits. Our city administrations must be willing to transform our cities. We all need to demand that and be ready to change. Climate-KIC will help to connect us, innovations, start-ups and cities and to catalyse the change, but we are the ones on demand-side, we are the actors of change. This is a call to all of us. We have only 11 years to seriously transform and reverse carbon emissions to the opposite direction. Nothing we have experienced ever before. Just like when a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.
 European Institute for Innovation and Technology Regional Innovation Scheme Climate-KIC is a dedicated programme to accelerate climate innovation across Europe