Harnessing the power of technology in a changing world
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Professor Alexandra Gerbasi, Executive Dean looks at the role that technology and innovation plays in helping to solve complex environmental problems, and highlights some of the research Exeter is doing in these areas.11 May 2022
Climate change and environmental damage are the greatest challenges facing the planet, and sadly time is not on our side. Only recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relayed that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and must be nearly halved this decade to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
As I have written before, these are challenges that are at the heart of our purpose as a Business School. It is why we focus on our three strategic themes of Environmental Sustainability, Technological Transformation and Responsible Leadership.
We need to have responsible leaders to meet these global challenges of course, but where there is also cause for optimism is the power of technology to find solutions. For me, tech is an integral part of addressing these issues from monitoring the environment and biodiversity loss, offering new ways of working and travelling to actively reducing carbon output.
Many of my colleagues at Exeter are actively involved in research looking at the possibilities that tech offer us, as well as some of the challenges and limitations. I would like to use this latest Dean’s update to highlight some of the Exeter Expertise pieces that examine innovative approaches for tackling complex problems.
For a look at how digitalisation is changing the way organisations work, Alan Brown of Index provides a summary of the five big shifts driving digital transformation. It is a great read for understanding how organisations will be defined by how they address these shifts to survive in the near term and thrive in the longer term.
Much of the environmental challenge is facing up to fact that there are finite resources, and how we live and work needs to change. This is explored in a piece by Merryn Haines-Gadd who specialises in the areas of design, innovation, and sustainability. Merryn is part of a multi-institute consortium looking at the possibilities of self-healing materials – such as concrete used in construction projects. It is a fascinating look at the possibilities of getting longer, and therefore more sustainable, uses from materials.
In a totally different field, are insects the answer to global food scarcity? Fundamentally, there is enough food to go around, but for various reasons, it is estimated that as many as 811 million people still go hungry globally. My colleague, Stefano Pascucci considers what innovation can take place to deliver different sources of protein into the global food system. It’s not necessarily about bugs on a plate but extracting insect protein into various aspects of the global food value chain. Interestingly, it is estimated that about 80% of the world’s population are in countries where insects are a long-standing part of the food system. It is in Western countries where there needs to be more acceptance of insects as a food source.
Finally, Tim Biggs’s piece – Sustainability and the Need for Mining is a reminder of the trade offs inherent in trying to have a more sustainable world. Tim, who has spent decades in the mining industry looks at why mining, sometimes not considered the most environmentally friendly of sectors, is vital to sustainability. All the various metals we will need for renewable energy and new, greener forms of transport will come largely from mining.
I hope you find these articles useful, and as ever would welcome your feedback.
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