Innovations for a sustainable future?

Christina Marchand
09.03.2022

Are more innovations the key to a transition into a more sustainable future? In this article we investigate the need for more innovations, versus the need to deploy existing technologies.

Are we innovating quickly enough to solve the environmental challenges, for example reach the 2050 Swiss climate objectives, and stay within the planetary boundaries? If not, where are the gaps and how could we accelerate the deployment of existing technologies to reach our objectives? These are the questions we are addressing in this article. - SEE PDF BELOW

Interviews with nine experts, survey responses from startups, and a literature review show that we already have many cleantech technologies available to succeed in reaching carbon neutrality, also known as net-zero. Mature and currently available technologies could solve 50% to 70% of the currently identified environmental issues. Most of the remainder could be addressed with technologies that exist, are demonstrated, but need to be introduced to the market.

The current challenges are therefore, by order of importance: 1. Massive scaling of the available technologies, 2. Bringing to market demonstrated, but not fully mature, technologies and 3. Further innovation to fill the remaining gap. However, the latter two are very likely to follow if the first is achieved. In other words, massively scaling the available technologies will induce a big pull for new technologies and innovation and will drive a lot of investment and interest.

Addressing the massive scaling challenge of those technologies requires decision makers at different levels to change practices and the way decisions are taken. As highlighted in the interviews, it is a mix of various actions and decisions that can, together, play a role to see a sudden change of the dynamic in the adoption of specific technologies.

The german and french versions will be available in the next few days.

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