Snapshot: Connectivity and Circularity Key for Sustainable Innovation

Snapshot: Connectivity and Circularity Key for Sustainable Innovation

Ulrika Mann

Ulrika Mann,

Can innovating for sustainability help us reduce energy, lower emissions and be more overall resource-efficient? During Snapshot Breakfast: Innovation for Good speakers from Telia, Epiroc, Bioteria and Cognizant shared their ongoing projects and initiatives from the frontier of 5G, connectivity, smart bacteria and Design Thinking. 

Being a major telco operator and internet interconnect provider (a majority of the EU citizens use Telia networks on a daily basis) Telia Company is really at the heart of connectivity. With 5G around the corner at scale, there are new possibilities for innovative solutions that will lower CO2 emissions and create a more resource-efficient society, according to Mats Lundbäck, Head of Business Innovation at Telia Company.

How will it happen? 5G alone isn’t the secret sauce, it’s the combination of the 5G pillar technology with Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data and Analytics that will make sustainable innovation happen. Today, Telia among other things work with smart buildings with real-time demand monitoring, grid monitoring where electricity is optimized, and connected devices in industrial processes. 

The starting point is UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Telia has aligned its goals accordingly. Recently, Telia launched two ambitious environmental goals with the intention of becoming the world’s greenest telco: by 2030, it will be CO2 neutral and generate zero waste through a circular business model. 

Utilization Instead of Availability Only
Another field where connectivity brings new advantages is within the closed ecosystem of a mine. Olav Kvist works with business development at Epiroc, a Swedish company that services mining and constructing. The customers’ businesses aren’t exactly sustainable per se, says Olov Kvist, but the way operations are run can be more sustainable. 

Mining is done where the metal is, meaning that Epiroc’s customers are spread out over 150 countries, often in remote areas. This used to require extensive travelling in order to understand the operations. Sensors, remote automation, IoT and connectivity have changed all that. Every morning, from his office, Olav Kvist can check how the 2,800 large machines spread around the world are doing.

Thanks to the higher granularity of information provided through the monitoring, Epiroc can continuously improve the understanding of operations and focus on utilization rather than availability – both locally and globally. 

Smart Bacteria Against Grease
A much smaller machine, capable of doing very smart things though, is bacteria. Charlotta Buch is Head of Scientific Affairs at Bioteria, a company dedicated to take waste and wastewater treatment to a new level. The company targets commercial buildings that handle food, like schools and restaurants.

Grease is an increasingly challenging problem, especially in cities (remember the fatberg that blocked Londons sewage system?). It clogs the sewerage systems, causes the wastewater to be discharged into lakes and seas, and the frequent emptying of restaurants’ large grease traps causes heavy traffic and CO2 emissions. Bioteria’s solution – a biosystem – eliminates several of the problems and costs caused by fat, even before they arise. Microorganisms are added and the environment is optimized to degrade fat, resulting in a 90 % smell reduction and no need of transports.

This can also be used in the garbage rooms; when bacteria are sprayed on garbage there is no need to cool down the room anymore. The next step is to use connected devices to optimize bio processes and have a more controlled situation.

Include Sustainability from the Start
At Bioteria, sustainability is the very business fundament – but how can sustainability be build-in from the start of any innovation process also at incumbent firms? Sven Jagebro, Nordic Head of Digital Strategy Consulting at Cognizant, says that the Design Thinking model for innovation needs to be changed. 

When Design Thinking was established as an innovation model, sustainability wasn’t considered one of its essential building blocks. The model is now massively proliferated in society, but with focus on profitability and feasibility only, it runs the risk of innovating for short-term gains with undesirable side effects.

To drive innovation in the right direction, we need to start with circular innovation, says Sven Jagebro. This should be done by adding a new element to the Design Thinking process: sustainability; always ask yourself “Should we do it?”. And it’s not only to do good – it’s also beneficial to business; ESG investing shows that sustainability is already reshaping global markets.

Watch the whole seminar Innovation for Good on-demand.