There has never been a better time to be an inventor. Or a tinkerer. Or a budding green techie. At the cusp of Industry 4.0, the opportunities for creating something new, are evenly matched by our abilities to do so. With investments into new materials, AI, cloud and cognitive computing, and even smart factories; the technology to make the impossible possible already exists.
What’s more, the world right now craves solutions to some really big ticket problems. Which of course means that there is enormous opportunity in the business of these solutions. One look at the success stories of solar power and electric vehicles tells us that consumers exist, and so does the political will to adopt green technologies and solutions.
What’s even more encouraging for green techies and tinkerers, is that their work will find eager consumers in the world of manufacturing. Across the board, there is a significant drive to adopt solutions that help businesses become more environmentally sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint; while making them more competitive.
Volvo Cars is a great example of this. Not only are they launching a new electric model every year since 2018, but have also pledged that 50% of all cars sold will be electric, by the year 2025. Additionally, they are cutting down by half, the carbon footprint of producing their cars.
For the most part, solutions today have been focused on reducing carbon footprint, pollution, and other ill effects, while helping businesses optimise their operations and reduce wastages. While this is great for now, we will soon hit a ceiling on both reductions and improvements. What happens then?
What’s needed is true ‘blue sky’ thinking - impractical, highly creative, unlimited. We need to generate ideas, even a few crazy ones, before we can find the “practical” ones. Luckily, each country has an inexhaustible supply of blue sky thinkers. They are young, highly creative, mostly opinionated, and they don’t seem to understand the concept of “impossible”: school children.
In India, we’ve managed to tap this talent pool recently to generate some incredible ideas through the Volvo Car’s Voices of Future contest. The idea for this contest was born from the interactions Volvo Cars had with school children during the first #BreatheFree campaign in 2018. During this campaign, Volvo Cars had several workshops in schools across Delhi to educate children about the use of air filters, and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of their questions, suggestions, and ideas. So this year, Volvo Cars appealed to school children across the country to send in their ideas on how to solve the environmental crisis, with a special emphasis to air quality.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the ideas that Voices of Future contest collected are very grounded in reality. For instance, Sahil Desai suggests using braking systems in cars for power generation - something that Formula 1 cars are already doing to some extent. Neel Atulkumar Raja suggests using silicon based artificial leaf technology to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then use the resulting hydrogen as fuel. Once again, this technology already exists, and needs to be scaled and applied the appropriate way. Yug Shah talks about umbrella shaped disc wind turbines - far more effective, less noisy, and less likely to kill birds than regular wind turbines. Once again, this is an idea that is almost ready for trial.
There were several other highly creative ideas that also made the Top 20, which will be compiled into an e-book. The aim of publishing this e-book is to spark ideas in the minds of entrepreneurs, tinkerers, scientists and anyone else capable of taking them to fruition. It’s time for the most qualified talent and the most motivated businesses to join hands and derive these solutions… before, that is, a school kid figures it out for them.