Next Frontiers in Connectivity

Imagine a world where we are connected with the scenery around us. How can Frontier Materials enable ultimate connectivity? Watch this insightful discussion with the Graphene Nobel Laureate, ZTE and GSMA.
January 22, 2022

SDG Relevance: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9)

About PUZZLE X™:

PUZZLE X 2021 | Nov 16-18 is the world's first collision grounds for science, business, venture and societal impact. It brings Frontier Materials to the forefront to aid the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations by 2030.

View PUZZLE X 2021 program here.

Want to be a part of PUZZLE X? Register your interest here.

#PUZZLEX #PUZZLEX21 #sustainability #manufacturing #frontiermaterials #sustainability #innovation #research #development #SDGs #industry #connectivity

No items found.

What SDG is this related to?

No items found.

MATTERverse Activity

No items found.

John Hoffman  0:00  

And as I said, Welcome to this, you know, first session of PUZZLE X. Guys, you know, this is a special time to be the first because you set the agenda for everyone. And they all have to react to you. Frontier, deep tech, SDGs meets the telco world. I'm the telco guy. You guys are experts from Singapore to Europe, to the globe. From Singapore this gentleman needs no introduction. None. Sir Kostya Novoselov is a Russian British physicist, Professor for the Center of Advanced 2D materials and the National Institute at the University of Singapore, from the University of Manchester from university institutions in Russia, and Europe. Kostya, you got more titles, more awards than I think is fair for the rest of us.

Kostya Novoselov 1:04  

John, that I guess, I guess that's why my head is actually the size of you guys.

John Hoffman  1:12  

More than 400 papers that have been peer reviewed. And then on October 22 2004, a Friday I believe. You discovered? No, no. You told me you found graphene. But did you know, Kostya, that October 22 is national nut day? You didn't know that? 

Kostya Novoselov 1:44  


John Hoffman  1:45 

Now it’s not nuts, as in crazy, but nuts as in the kind that you eat. So, you not only discovered graphene, but you also celebrated National Nut Day. But October 22, 2004, is going to be viewed as the day that our world changed. And it changed for the better. With your discovery, it also earned you and your colleague Andre, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Just six short years later. Kostya, welcome. 

Kostya Novoselov 2:31

It’s a pleasure. 

John Hoffman  2:33

Next may I introduce Mr. Alex Sinclair. Alex and I are colleagues, friends. Alex is the CTO of GSMA, the global industry association for the mobility industry. More than 30 years of tech, telco, and mobile experience, Alex has worked in satellites on the ground, part of the D1 launch team in Germany Centerburg launch team, you are electrical engineer, and we will not hold that against you, from the University of Bristol. And as you describe a gearhead down to the core. Alex, it is a pleasure and honor to have you with us today.

Alex Sinclair  3:12  

The honor is mine.

John Hoffman  3:15  

And last but not least, Mr. Han's Neff. ZTE. Hans is the CTO Group integrated solutions department, with more than 25 years of telco and IT experience. Hans has worked as an architect, consultant integrator, for vendors and operators all over the world bringing a global perspective, your focus on innovation and efficiency is perfect for this discussion. You joined ZTE in 2014, the CTO Group in 2017. And then just a few years ago, in 2018, became the director. Welcome Hans to our stage. 

Hans Neff  3:48 

It's a pleasure to be here. 

John Hoffman  3:50  

So let's get started. Kostya, over to you first. You found graphene, so what does PUZZLE X bring to the field of Frontier materials, and how is it going to help us solve some of the grand challenges of humanity? And my follow up question, if I may, are you excited to participate in this PUZZLE X event and what do you hope to gain as the result?

Kostya Novoselov  4:20  

Let me start from the end...I don't do things which are not exciting. So I am excited for sure. And thanks a lot, again for the introduction, it's really flattering. But one of the reasons I am calling you from Singapore is that I think graphene is really great and we all really enjoyed working with it and it's really opened a chapter in physics and in material science. But it is important not to not stop there. And I think that the number of discoveries which were made over the last several decades in material science are really enough to revolutionize the world and we're still producing those new materials and those new discoveries.  What we see is that we don't implement them as fast as we can, and sometimes we're even short of ideas about what we can do with those new materials. Because to create a new material is one thing, but to find an application for it is actually much more complex, because you really have to think about the unthinkable if those applications don't exist, you just cannot dream about them. For that you need discussion between different parties, entrepreneurs, engineers, material scientists, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, so we use a lot of AI these days for material discovery. And that's exactly what I really hope PUZZLE X will bring to us. This is amelting pot of ideas.

John Hoffman  6:33  

Yeah, thank you, we, we talked, and I'm sure you get invited to a lot of scientific conferences around the world. But this one's a little different. This is actually as you described it, a melting pot. Everyone from the government, to very technical, scientific entrepreneurs, the thought leaders that are going to hopefully change the world by convening today, and then more importantly, as Zina said, into the future. So thank you. Alex, let me turn to you. As the CTO of the GSMA, what does the telecom ecosystem commitment to innovation mean to PUZZLE x? And then my follow up question. What opportunities does the integration to 5G, require that we do differently, and how can we use these frontier materials and the SDGs to solve those goals?

Alex Sinclair  7:33  

Great question, John. So let me start with something you probably all know, the mobile industry is the first to come out in total support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. That's why we all carry these little pins. And we produce an annual impact report every year, which highlights all the contributions that actually all our operators make, we don't do it, they do to virtually all of the SDGs. And I mean, literally all of them every year. Now that could easily be complacent, we could say job done, that's enough, but that's clearly not the case. There are so many challenges we still have to face. And after COP26 last week, I would say climate is one, right? It's it's top of my mind. We have a Climate Action Task Force at the GSMA. Most of the big carriers, the big operators are already committed to science based targets on their path to net zero emissions. But you know, we use a lot of energy as well. And that's a bit of a challenge for us. 5G brings its own unique challenges, we've got massive MIMO antennas, we're expecting the networks to have to be denser, more sites. And clearly, that means we also have to keep up with the demand from all of you because that's still growing exponentially. So we have this kind of challenge and trade off between using the best possible techniques to be good at energy management, as well. Now we've done a lot of innovative things, you know, we've got innovative passive cooling, we no longer have air conditioning units at every site. And that's a start. But I think we need to see a lot more innovation in secure supply and efficient usage of energy. That means obviously, things like hybrid wind and solar, which we're using a lot of already. But the one area I would give you as a challenge and as an example, is storage. Battery technology does not follow Moore's Law, I'm terribly sorry, it doesn't. And I think that's an area where we could really see a breakthrough, because if you look at most of the networks, most of the time, if you did a heat map, they're mostly blue, they're mostly cold. It's just the peak times, the peak locations where you're using all that energy. If you can time shift that, if you can store, you don't need to generate as much in the first place. And I think that's a perfect example. There are already companies out there working with material scientists using graphene for battery technologies, but if you're looking for one area that's absolutely ripe for disruption, and self servingly would do us all a big favor, that would be it

John Hoffman  9:59  

Fantastic! So Hans, you join us as a representative from the deep tech slash industry. At ZTE, you're a sponsor of PUZZLE X, so you saw some kernel of opportunity here, right, some germ of an idea that says, I want to be here and I want to support. So what do you see the future of deep tech materials and the SDGs, from your perspective? 

Hans Neff  10:32

I think the future itself is not written. But with every new material discovered with every new function detected, it's becoming more and more bright, to be frank and honest. We ourselves cannot see what the future brings. I have no crystal ball, I'm very sorry for that. But we see what drives us. We see that we are motivated for more, to have growth, to have a better life. This brought us to where we are, in both a good way and in a bad way. In a good way, we are successful, all of us here. In the bad way, maybe we don't respect the border of our planet, which is basically what the UN SDGs forces us and commits us to do. I think it will require an immediate change and this immediate change will follow up on building a resilient infrastructure, for example. To promote sustainable industrial growth, or even foster innovation in a green and basically social way. If you just take a look at institutions like industry 5.0, which from my perspective is a kind of refurbished industry 4.0, sorry to say, is still focusing on performance. It's still focusing on better implementation ways, better ways to realize things, more digitalization. But being frank and honest, there's a major aspect added. It's the personalization. So really being more than just the job factory, the growth factory of the world, really refining, let's say, the position of industry in the social ecosystem. This is the main set. And to achieve such inclusion, I think, collision grounds like PUZZLE X, for example, or initiatives, international or national, are the perfect foundations to build up industries growth and innovation in one set and in one hand. To be honest, ideas out of this are already driving to some extent, as you already mentioned, for cooling, as you mentioned, basic for let's say AI, finding new materials or others, the industry itself, such as going for remote health care support, going for basically remote learning support, fulfilling UN SDGs and having their more prospective way of production, for example. So yes, we're committed to and applying them. 

John Hoffman  13:00

Awesome, great, great start. So Kostya, let me turn back to you. So what does the future look like to you? Let's time shift a little bit to 2050. What sectors will be the recipients of the biggest shifts, and how do you envision the future of telecoms playing into that? And then my follow up, which is what will the mindset be around sustainability and good corporate, personal and civic consumption? As a scientist, will we demand sustainable solutions using deep tech?

Kostya Novoselov  13:42  

50 years is a very long way. You know, if you look back 50 years ago, no mobile phones, probably, our energy consumption is quite, no green energy practically at all, batteries are very basic, and if you take twice that 100 years ago, there isn’t even silicon, no atomic  nuclear energy at all. So 50 years, I don't think you would have any chance to predict at all, but at least what we can say and the trends which we see now is, first of all, I think the focus on the ambient energy will be there,  which we have started doing already, but I think it will be one of the major the major focus for the future that you, yourself ,is the is the source of enough energy for you for all your electronic gadget. So you emit 100 watts power all the time through the heat, which you do in a lot of moments, and gears electric which can be generated. So I think that's one of the directions and I think we will realize it within 50 years. But that's of course, only one small aspect, important, but small aspect in terms of energy consumption and sustainability. What about all the devices which will consume that energy, which will manage to save and generate ourselves? I really don't know. So I'm sure that flexible electronics, probably built inside of your skin integrated into your brain and into your eye, doesn't sound like science fiction anymore. I'm quite positive, we'll achieve this very, very soon. Whether we need it or not, it's a second question, but I'm sure it is, if possible, it will be done. And, human to machine interfaces, that's another important aspect, which I'm sure will be developed extremely rapidly in the next several decades.

John Hoffman  16:51  

Sounds good sci fi stuff going to become reality though. Alex? What's the future like, from your chair? And will the change in the tech field, frontiers materials and SDGs? Will they shape telecoms by 2050.

Alex Sinclair  17:15  

I think Kostya said it right. 2050 is a long way away. If you think in, in mobile years, that's three generations. And I sincerely hope we won't be calling 8G, because I'm tired of just saying a 5,6,7 8G. But in reality, by then the network's will have undergone a silent, invisible transformation. They're going to be all completely software. You said I was an electrical engineer, I'm too lazy. I've never spent an honest day's work in electrical engineering, I went straight into software because it was more fun. The networks are all going to be completely soft. They're going to be virtualized, and the difference between cloud providers and telecom providers will be blurring. More importantly, because Hans mentioned 5Dotto, they'll be more open than ever before, you've all heard a network slicing by then it's going to be everywhere. So every other sector will be using our networks. That means there's going to be a lot of private networks, we're already seeing it. Some of those will be virtual, some will also be separated physically, we'll see them in ports, manufacturing plants. I sincerely hope again, Hans mentioned health again. I think we will revitalize health completely, they’re already starting remote diagnosis and monitoring is incredibly important for that. So I think that's kind of the network side, devices side, it's a bit Kostya said, I mean, when we finally get rid of these little rectangular blocks, we all carry around with it, I suspect so. I think XR, AR VR will have revitalized glass, with Smart Glass going to be everywhere. And I'm looking forward to that, I have to say, because that's gonna be very interesting. But if you come back to the core by 2050, if we're not sustainable, then it's too late. I think sustainability is going to have to be there. I am actually optimistic because if you look at the corporate trend, in ESG, good governance, investors are already demanding it. That means board members have to listen or they're not going to get the kind of investment they need. If we look more inwardly to the telco industry, we will have had to solve the energy management problem. But there's a much bigger problem, which is what we call the circular economy. We can't go on producing components that can't be reused and recycled effectively. So that's a big challenge for us. And I think that's where all of you experts in the room could really help as well.

John Hoffman  19:29  

And things like graphene, we can recycle those, reuse them, these nanomaterials, these frontier matures, we can use them in a new way, that thus far hasn't been done, and it's going to help on the sustainability side. 

Alex Sinclair  19:44 


John Hoffman  19:45 

Sounds good. So a follow up. Is sustainability going to be at the core of what you're doing into the future and can we afford not to do it?

Alex Sinclair  19:54  

Well, as I said, I think it has to be there or it'll be too late. And I'm generally optimistic on a long timescale, maybe not in 2021, but I think it's essential. And I think it will be there. As I said, the thing that gives me hope is the fact that corporate governance is already completely dominated by ESG. If your board members aren't dancing to that tune, then they're already out of sync. So if the pressure is already coming from investors, and you want investment in your company, I hope that is going to be a huge push or pull factor to actually make it possible. I believe we will solve the challenges. I'm an engineer, I think every challenge is an opportunity. I think we're smart people, we can do really smart things. And we can say what we like about COP26. And you know, some people will be disappointed, others will be at least pleased that something came out of it. I'm optimistic that together we can solve those problems and we are finally getting the right level of attention from governments and investors. So yeah, I think it can happen.

John Hoffman  20:56  

Sounds good Hans. Let's flip over now to ZTE and sustainability, and the impact of how you conduct research and design all the way through manufacturing. Are frontier materials and sustainability part of that process? 

Hans Neff  21:19

They are already part of the process, and they will become much more important in the future to fulfill required changes on having more performance, fulfilling new technologies, new services, new structures, being more reliable and more sustainable and more green at the end. We're focusing on using those products, those projects, those materials, already in real life projects. I mentioned before healthcare, and you picked it up also, where in South America, we basically  do remote health care for decentralized places. Where we do, for example, remote education for places who cannot afford traveling to some universities or schools, using a BO meter, you might have seen this on the last MWC, where they’re making a natural environmental control. So all those elements and all those sets are already in use. We have it in our Bingjan factory. They're basically 5G produced with 5G, meaning a real full 5G Campus set, producing our latest excellent phones with graphene cooling and heat dissipation set having latest technology innovations to have their gallium nitride power amplifier for the radio modules to have reduced size and increased performance, having basically a better set of material and a better set of product. So mainly, it's the intention of those new materials to produce the smallest, the lightest, the most performant, the most sustainable, the most green product out of it, and we are on the track to do so. One example is we are at the moment on a project, experimenting with metal material, self reflecting and tennis, combining this with an open hole diet and module on the front side to really be able to steer and control which frequency to which angle has to be reflected to. So the answer is in short, yes, I'm sorry. 

John Hoffman  20:14  

So now, a little follow up. Okay, we're starting the 5G era, right? I mean, we're kind of into it. But, Hans, as we think about 5G and 6G era, I'm not doing 6G I've done all the other G's, somebody else can do 6, will you be a leader and ZTE be a leader, a follower, an innovator or just more of the same?

Hans Neff  21:42

Let's start a little bit on 6G, what it is before we try to say what we are, because I think 6G is such a broad topic and such an open environment going for basically, holographic mind sets, going for eminent coverage, going for terahertz communication, going basically for personalized connectivity, and at the end connectivity of sensors, for example, that this field including vertical integration, application integration is so broad that you have so many aspects being a leader or being a follower in one or two or three of those points that….you cannot say in general, I’m a leader or I'm something else. We have to focus to our strengths, what we think is on radio on radio sets, on having their green sustainable radio products on the market with high performance, this will be a focus of our company also for 6G, 7G and maybe in 50 years 8G, we will pick that up. We are going for vertical integration, having more sustainable products and reinforcing basically the product into the social ecosystem. So this will be a focus for us.

John Hoffman  24:56

Awesome, thank you. Now a question for each of you. PUZZLE X is the first step in a process of change. To talk, to look at the issues, to dig deep around tech, frontier materials, sustainability. Yet, that's not our endgame, it's really just our start. So next, we have to figure out how we find uses for these new products, new businesses, new ideas, innovation, and do it all in a better, cheaper, faster way? So can you see this happening? Can these PUZZLE X seeds that we're sowing here over the next few day, can they be cultivated? Can they be grown? Can we morph into new ideas? Can we challenge and then find answers that are, yes, and does that excite you? Kostya,

Kostya Novoselov  26:07 

Personally, I really trust the invisible hand of the market. And I believe that those processes which are self-sustained are the most efficient. So what PUZZLE X needs to be doing is really to support those processes. And we know that we, as humans, are very greedy, we’re greedy for knowledge, and we're greedy for money, and we are greedy for new technologies. And let's try to use it. So we need to use the greediness of the customers, we need to use the greediness of the scientists, we need to use the greediness of engineers, in different senses, but still, and try to give it a push. And how do we do it? Again, it's really, as Zina said, less talking on the stage as we're as we're doing now, but more communication of the stage. And I think I would love to see more people, more postdocs and PhD students here because it's for them to really push all the new technologies. So we can discuss and chart and show the nice screen but at the end of the day, all those bright old ideas, either in business or in technology coming from the hard working PhD students. So PUZZLE X needs to be as democratic as possible to include people on the ground who actually produce those ideas.

John Hoffman  28:06  

Awesome, Alex?

Alex Sinclair  28:09  

Well, first of all, let me say that as an industry, we're definitely greedy. We want to consume everything you guys can produce. But I'd like to pick up on what Kostya said and what was in the video at the start. For me, the key word was intersection. I started in telco actually more than 35 years ago, and the only people I ever spoke to were other telcos. That's changed over the years, we started talking to automobile companies and I learnt a lot about how they work and I was actually quite impressed. We speak to financial companies and I've learned a lot about that, we speak to manufacturing companies, you get a new perspective and we both get new ideas. I mean, at the moment, we did some fantastic work on fraud prevention, with the finance community and both sides were staggered by what the other guys were doing. Both guys learned from it and they both benefited. And that's why I am excited about your question. I think, again, as Kostya said, not just talking heads on stage, but the kind of conversations that are going to be happening over the next couple of days. When you talk to people outside of your normal sphere, you always learn some things and be open to that and it might guide your thoughts on what you might do differently.

John Hoffman  29:14  

A collision. A collision. Hans?

Hans Neff  29:19

Maybe I’ve overused the term, but I learned it today, the collision ground, but to be frank and honest, what t you see in industry, especially in telecom industry, ]that whenever such a collision happens, let's say virtualization comes to telco, let's say applications comes to telco, whenever two parties, specialists or entrepreneurs, of two topics meet or multiple topics meet there is room for more and to be more than the sum of its parts. I think this is the big step forward, which an event like PUZZLE X can do, and which can basically force these new ideas and bring new ideas in. For sure, I agree with university PhD students and telco evolutions, but those ideas which will drive us in the future are not even born. So we will see how having the new materials ready, how they basically influenced our structuring future. So I'm very excited to be here and see it. Seeing how metamaterials really evolved industries, sprayable antennas will go for it. For energy, for example, their fuels, there is the fuel cell hydrogen conversion to have it stored in a hydrogen set, and having there basically no batteries anymore and agreeing to totally respect that this cannot be the future going on battery. So I think it's one of the most exciting places to be for new ideas and I'm happy to be here. Thank you. 

John Hoffman  30:38

Awesome. Well, we're reaching the end of this first session, almost time to wrap up. But PUZZLE X is just kicking off. As I said, you know, being first, is kind of the place to be. Everybody has to follow. So what do you want to challenge the rest of the program? The speakers, the attendees, the virtual and in person folks that are tuning in to listen to what is this PUZZLE X thing? What do you want them to do over the next three days? What do you want to see from PUZZLE X? What do you want to bring from sustainability, from frontier materials, from deep tech? And how do you want others to execute your vision, now and into the future? And Hans I'm going to start with you 

Hans Neff  31:29

Sure. I start with two terms, I learned from two different people. One of my teacher told me, no idea is stupid, so speak it out, talk about it, find a solution that for use it. And basically the second idea, which was told to me by a nice lady in a private moment, she said, words are nice, actions are better. Such as, talk about it, find a solution, try it, find yourself a solution for the next step, go for new innovations. I think here you have the perfect playground, the perfect fundament to go for and do so show your innovation, basically, show your latest ideas and expect the unexpected. 

John Hoffman  32:09

Very good. Alex.

Alex Sinclair  32:11  

Again, I'll come back to collision intersection, whatever you want to call it. I think the most important thing is and I think Zina said it in the beginning. This is just the start, it's a process. it's not just an event. So it's really important that you start to talk to people, not necessarily the people you normally talk to, the more people you can intersect with, the better educated all sides will be and the more understanding you have of common problems. Because to me, that's the kind of lifecycle; interest, you're here, it must be an interesting discussion, you're interested in having an open discussion with the people around you and the bits to Hans's point where is where it really really gets interesting because it is when you start working together to solve common problems.

John Hoffman  32:55  

Excellent. Kostya, what are your thoughts?

Kostya Novoselov  33:00  

Oh, you see, John, I'm an experimental physicist, so I'd like to see practical results and working in condensed matter means that I wanted to see them yesterday. So let's be practical, and let's set ourselves up for some practical goal. I think conversion would be a good story. So if by the end of PUZZLE X, we'll see one engineer from telco-converted, and is being convinced that he needs to do some research in material science, or a PhD student from material science group converts one of the CEOs from telco company to create a new startup, two of such events would be good for me to say that PUZZLE X is a success.

John Hoffman  33:59  

Excellent. Well, we have a couple of minutes left. So I'm going to have one opportunity for final thoughts before we turn it over. So Hans, final thoughts. 

Hans Neff  34:13

Final thoughts? I’ll pick up the thing about let’ talk for the future. Let's talk about how to solve issues. Becoming the industry back to the social environment is becoming new technologies driven out of innovation. Let's find materials helping industry, helping social environments to bring forward, and to leverage basically what is needed to have the UN SDGs. Thank you. 

John Hoffman  34:40

Good. Alex.

Alex Sinclair  34:39  

Again, I think I just reiterate, stats are great. But when you start to see results, that's when things get really exciting. So I look forward to the day when, exactly as Kostya said, PUZZLE X starts producing some results, some products, materials that can actually be used in anger in the real world. That's incredibly exciting, and I look forward to that very much

John Hoffman  35:00  


Kostya Novoselov  35:02  

I think we have enough baggage in our hands now to start applying things. So we can, and I think sustainability is a good direction. So we can probably start this PUZZLE X with thinking about sustainable models for equipment and their energy. And I will really be happy to see some ideas in this direction and I'm happy to work with anyone who would who like this journey

John Hoffman  35:38  

Very good. Thank you. Okay. Gentlemen, thank you for kicking off this first session of PUZZLE X. I would have one request to you as well as to all of our guests. As Zina mentioned, we have the wall outside immediately to your right, to leave your thoughts to leave your challenges to leave your issues for us to contemplate as we move forward. And as the moderator, you know, I'm supposed to be the eye candy. You guys are, are the real stars. But I'm going to leave you with one thought. What I heard today was a simple word. Leadership. We're talking about leadership. And leadership is hard. It's difficult. It flies in the face of obstacles. What we need and what you provided was leadership. On behalf of Zina, myself, everyone here at PUZZLE X. Thank you very much. And I wish you a great three days! Kostya, thank you. Alex and Hans, thank you. Ladies and gentlemen.

This panel is part of the PUZZLE X 2021 Program on 16th November.

Moderator: John Hoffman, CEO at GSMA ltd

Panellists: Sir Kostya Novoselov, Professor & Nobel Laureate at the National University of Singapore | Hans Neff, Senior Director of CTO Group at ZTE Corporation | Alex Sinclair, CTO at GSMA ltd.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.