Technology & Global Collaboration: Towards 2030 Agenda

How can Materials Deep Tech facilitate and expedite progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals? Watch this insightful discussion on the importance of a global infrastructure for harmonious problem solving.
January 22, 2022

SDG Relevance: Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11)

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.

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Eduard Alarcon  0:00  

So very good morning. Good afternoon and good evening everyone in whichever time zone now you're participating either locally here in the audience, or globally. So head on into global challenges. The theme of the panel gravitates around the puzzling theme of PUZZLE X. We need to talk about how to intertwine technology with global cooperation towards the 2030 agenda? Perhaps we need to demystify and debunk what we mean by aligning to SDGs. And that's why I'm calling the panelists, the distinguished panelists we have today, and the audience that is about to witness this discussion, and partake in it, to act a bit quixotic, with bold attitudes, and audacious. So according to Greta Thunberg, and Noam Chomsky, it's time to call for action.


Eduard Alarcon  1:05

So perhaps more than connecting the dots, we’re facing the closure of the circle. And this is a very multi dimensional puzzle that we're talking about. Now, this panel itself is a bit of a culmination  of this event, in the sense that it really talks about the backbone core topic of this gathering of scientists, experts, policymakers, and innovators. Now to address this panel, we have the pleasure and the privilege to have here with us today. Pontus Westerberg who is a program management officer in tech and innovation in UN Habitat. Pontus Welcome. We don't have Dr. Kari Hjelt he excused himself for personal reasons. We have the pleasure and privilege to have Dr. Amaya Igartua who is a co-secretary of the EU-MAT materials platforms in the Basque country. 


Eduard Alarcon  2:18

So this tries to be a pictorial representation. As a grand vision on the question on how to address the global challenge. The world is clear, the purpose should be apparent now. Perhaps the pending challenge for scientists and engineers is how to articulate solutions. This is both an artist's view. But also this diagrammatic depiction of the Grand Challenge central to this panel. The origin at the left should be clear, yet it is intricate. The landscape of knowledge, the cartography of the scientific knowledge, to which we need to anchor to which actions need to originate. You see that the very field of material science is itself articulated in multiple branches of knowledge. It's multidisciplinary by definition, by constitution. Now to the right side, we have the end of this gigantic inverted funnel, which should be clear as well. We need to land upon the SDGs which fortunately, are far more elaborated and structured than the grand challenges of humanity. We have them very well described. We understand the interplay across them in the sense that this happens to be sort of a taxonomy of humankind challenges. Now, once we pose the start and the end of the challenge, the true challenge that's now underlying should become apparent. How to react to the call for action, how to act, how to compose these choral actions, these task forces and how to engineer solutions in this multi dimensional challenge. So focus in the center. Consider three metaphorical interpretations of these collective actions. You could consider this to be beamed lights coming from talent lighthouses, the need to collide to collaborate, to create, to take collective action. You could also consider this to be a bridge. We always talk about, we need to build a bridge between science and the long term farfetched goals of addressing humanity's Grand Challenges. Perhaps there's more than a bridge that looks like a multipolar aqueduct. So with this in mind, I would like to recall a few questions with just try to stimulate and foster the discussion.


Eduard Alarcon  5:26

How should we deal with the intrinsic challenge of relating the individual and collective activity to global SDGs? The how is the core of this question? And why is this so challenging? Well, given the remarkable distance in caliber and temporal scale. Is this a curse? Is it the Achilles heel of the topic we're addressing? Or is it a blessing? How to address the multiplicity of intermediate steps? How to tackle this core multidisciplinary action? Is there a tension between what's happening bottom up, emerging organically from scientists? And tension with what's vision driven, either from the government or from the institutions? Is it a virtuous or vicious tension? How do we circumvent this tension? The second overarching question would be, what to do? Which as a verb, not a noun, to orient to as the SDGs. What should we do at an individual level? Should we all have, or most of us have a moral compass, which we cannot moralize? What's the role of education in this  question? At an institutional level, how to instill collective purpose in an institution? And then, if you recall, the quadruple helix for models of innovation, where we have citizenship, government, signs and companies, what's the role of government and citizens when facing this global aim? And a very final, a bit controversial question could be, could automatic expert driven, perhaps AI-based tools come to the rescue to navigate the complexity of the problem and guide action? And with that, I would like to give the floor to our distinguished panelists. I understand that you have a presentation from the institution you represent. And from that we'll have a take on these questions such as yours. 


Amaya Igartua  8:19  

We will be pleased to present you. First of all, the institution where I'm working for, Tekniker, is part of the Basque Alliance. The second I would like to present the data for that is the European platform materials, the alliance for materials that are how the materials can go to the market. And also the tribology, like a tool to others as safe and sustainable materials for processing products. And inside is the graphene, the 2D materials, and also how all of these can contribute to SDGs. Tekniker is a research center, where we apply ourselves with a study of 40 years with the mission to develop technologies and transfer to the industry. We specialize in materials to face but also in manufacturing. That means that we facilitate the scale up of the materials towards the market. We have a revenue of 24 million euros working 287 persons and we have a history of 33 years working for European projects with an annual turnover of 4.3 million euros and leading a quarter of those projects. We transfer these to the industries. Working for them, but also when there is not the company to introduce to the market, we create a startup. We have created 31 startups that go to themselves or go to a big company, but still we have a current portfolio compared to four companies. Atten2, which is a sensor, or companies related to maxene, and companies related to microelectronics. The way that we address the EPR is through patents, but also with IPF. We have different technology areas advanced manufacturing is through facing engineering takes and product engineering. And this specialization is dealing with the metal and resilience industry to facilitate energy transition, customers and connected healthcare, functional and active surface materials and components, using artificial intelligence for embedded products and processes. And all of them monitor sustainability because the process and the produce needs to be sustainable to enter the market. We are speaking about the Sustainable Development Goals and I address those that sample how we can deal with no poverty, hunger,andor responsible consumption production. We are working in the European markets in order to develop up-packets that are biobased that have sensors to monitor cell life and modify atmosphere and that are biodegradable and compostable in order to be committed to biogas and finalized in energy. The other is good health, wellbeing and I introduced one sample for you, that is neuronal differentiation and the cell growth in human embryo cell culture. You see micropatterning graphene to solve Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease. We are also working in your sensor lab on chip solutions.


Amaya Igartua  13:30  

Another challenge is clean water and sanitation for that we are developing antimicrobial antifungal membranes in order to clean water that can be applied to induce our process for drinking water. Another challenge. Affordable clean energy we are working in renewable lubricants for windmills, coatings for solar panels, for batteries for concentrated solar energy. We all want at the same worth an economic role. We have created 31 companies for  our portfolio. How to promote industry innovation and infrastructure? We are working in an advanced manufacturing process. For example, additive manufacturing tests to realize metamaterials, product development ,digitalization, but in Europe, we are building open innovation test beds in order to facilitate the infrastructure that is needed to scale up the material solution. For sustainable cities and communities we are developing materials in order to control the temperature in buildings, for example, to filter the light and we are part of Metabuilding Labs that is an open innovation testbed for building materials and also to demonstrate the energy efficiency of the materials. For climate action, we need to reduce CO2 and we think that tribology is the tool to reduce carbon footprint in products and processes. Life Below Water we need environmentally friendly coatings for sips to avoid a high draft friction in order to reduce the consumption of fuel. Life on land. We need sensors and IoT technologies to monitor the growth of early withdrawal products, because we have to collect just in time. And we will go for partnership to achieve this goal. Then I introduce the EuMAT materials platform that has been great with the mission of facilitating the competitiveness in Europe of advanced engineering materials. We are working in the research development and innovation policy in Europe to ensure that the stakeholders of industry are involved in defining the priorities of results. These are so more our members, we have created three research agendas that were created in 2004. 


Amaya Igartua  17:27

We have different working groups that are modeling and characterizing materials for energy, materials for dual use of military and civilian. We have nanomaterials for a structural and functional application. We consider life cycle impact and risk. Also materials for ICT and quantum technology, materials for health, materials for circular economy, and materials for additive manufacturing. But it is not enough to have the materials community we have to go to the product and the processes. 


Amaya Igartua  18:14

Also with the support of the European Commission through a coordinated A4M and EUMAT. We have the goal to integrate material research along the value chain. And we have created strategic Juvonen materials to provide the solution for tomorrow's challenge. And the role of materials for post COVID society, which has been published by European Commission. With these activities, we know FinaThinker from our network. We established a memorandum of understanding in order to collaborate, and we have collaborated on the initiative and now internally. Because we see that it's not possible to be alone in Europe, we have to work at a world level. It's one we make a piece of the puzzle, but we have to complete the puzzle because we have shown only one word. Of course is possible to go to space, but still we have to live here.


Amaya Igartua  19:26

Then this comes to the ecosystem and the cooperation bringing ideas and material no no less to go to components proton service and also to go for certain missions in order to have clean water, economy and of cancer mission, or social transformation ,mission of climate natural and smart cities, and of course, worldwide cooperation through network. I want to introduce the Tribology because we think that to review search through a mission, it is very important to use the Tribology as a tool to define durable and energy efficient systems. The population is still increasing worldwide and the resource consortium will increase from 92 gigatons in 2017 to 190 gigatons 2050. And no action will be taken, but we have to have in order to know in each research that we do that, its primary material have associated 1.3-1.8 tonnes of CO2 and the consortium primary energy forces or CO2 neutral will increase accordingly. Then we have to know or use the Tribology that is the tool to design material for energy efficient and durable produce and process. We are speaking about Tribology mechanical wear, but triple corrosion is mechanical chemical wear that means that the synergy between both because most of the of the components fail because of the way or or because of the corrosion. Then this highlights the role of material of course post COVID society. The document that we have published by the European Commission in order to derive a material solution for society and citizen demands, contains the position that new materials community audience for materials towards Europe and compiled research agendas from material stakeholders but also addressing lessons learned by COVID. And this document is aligned with green purity, some recommended plans, then we have a different charter that is possible to download by the Internet for free and the topic is related with circular economy material, sustainable raw material that we need secondary material coating new materials and also nanomaterials, such as Graphene.


Amaya Igartua  22:42

Green and clean energy, we need energy efficiency, for use of renewable energy, low carbon footprint, life cycle assessment lifecycle cost, we have to reduce the emissions of CO2 to control climate science. We have to recycle, reuse , repair and also to provide condition monitoring of the equipment's and materials in agreements. We have to go to resiliency in these future emergencies. Designed for recycling, designed for durability, we have to change our mind to the recycling system. We have to substitute critical raw materials by coatings to enable efficient proven frugal and quick response and innovation in emergency situations that came from COVID. We have to use flexible and tailored manufacturing for example, additive manufacturing or 3D printing. We have to work with biomimetic metamaterials. We have to go to social education, political impasse, and COVID time. We have to highlight etraining it is very good that we’re recording fo this event. Also to consider social aspects in life cycle assessment, Tribology inter disciplinary technology to reduce CO2 emission and to achieve resource conservation, CO2 saving that can be achieved through friction reduction. If we can see then only a 30% increase in friction reduction CO2 emissions will be reduced by two to four Gigatons of CO2 per year. Doubling the service life through wear protection and condition monitoring safe approximately 8.8 gigatons of resources per year combined with equivalent more than one tonne of CO2 per tonne of resource.


Amaya Igartua  25:08

We go for graphene and to the material use because this will be one of the solutions that can help to reduce CO2 emissions. We need lubricants to reduce the friction and increase the lower carrying capacity that can be a make introducing graphene, we need fluids for cooling and heating, corrosion protection and also increasing the threat to a variety of composites. The challenge that we need to face is, especially stability, which needs to involve improving the color control also to find out in our applications like functional seals. Recommendation to use Tribology in the same phase of the production process, to predict at the laboratory materiality simulating application, material solution including coatings lubricants, can help to reduce friction and increase the lifetime of materials or coatings. Elemental, economic, social impact is necessary to do it in each step of the research, evaluating the carbon footprint they wear and corrosion protection has economic self saving potential of between three to 5% of the gross national product. Recommendation, use sustainable by design approach using Tribology for advanced manufacturing and telogen products. Go secondary materials or recycling materials to assure raw materials or lithium functionality, circular economy, recycle, reuse, and repair to extend lifetime use advanced sensors and drones for predictive maintenance using artificial intelligence. And that is all that I prepared for you.


Eduard Alarcon  27:00  

Thank you very much Amaya. This was a very compelling instance of an institution that based upon frontier materials, you're able to have as outcome solutions that are safe and sustainable. Pontus, would you like to enlighten us with your interpretation and vision of SDGs, please?


Pontus Westerberg  27:17  

Sure, yeah. So I work for the UN United Nations, specifically UN Habitat, which is the UN agency for sustainable urbanization linked with cities. So our Sustainable Development Goal is number 11. Sustainable Citizen and communities, very much linked, of course, to the topic of smart cities here in this expo. Last year, the Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the battle for the SDGs will be won or lost in cities. And I think that is absolutely true. I mean, you put the list of the SDGs up there on the screen. And I think if we look, many of them are in many ways linked to sustainable urbanization, in addition to goal number 11. Of course, we have poverty, we have climate change, we have industry, we have equality, etc. And, you know, if we think about two key ones, which is on climate change, we know that cities are responsible for about 75% of the world's carbon emissions. So getting cities right from that perspective is absolutely crucial. And then we also, from the poverty perspective, know that we have 1 billion slum dwellers still in the world. This is a topic that we absolutely need to tackle to achieve the SDGs. But we are really late, we're already six years into the SDGs. We have nine years left, barely eight years, it's nearly 2022 until 2030. And just you know, two examples. Member states still haven't agreed on one common way of measuring cities. Is it spatial size, is it population, is it built up area? We still don't really know, so what UN Habitat we're working on, on what we call a sample of cities, because of course, the SDGs are also measured nationally. So we measure sustainable impact on cities in the sample, and then export that to the national level. But there isn't actually still an agreed way of measuring sustainable impact in cities on the national level. And the other thing, of course, is we just had COP26 in Glasgow, and it's great to see the national determined contributions and that you know, member states are taking some level of action, but the calculation shows quite clearly that if the contributions that are agreed so far, happen, we will reach 2.4 degrees of warming, quite far from the 1.5 degrees that we need in order to not face catastrophe essentially. Just a couple of words to close on the Smart City World Expo, I've seen a lot of presentations in the last few days on things like digital twins, on AI, on blockchain, but I have to say that I'm so far fairly unconvinced on the potential of these kind of technologies to actually have a serious positive impact on on the Sustainable Development Goals. I really would like someone to show me how digital twins really substantially reduces the carbon impact of a city, or how blockchain can do something the same. If someone can do it, please let me know I'd love to hear. When it comes to material sciences, it's quite a frightening stat between now and 2050. The world's urban population is going to double. That basically means that we are going to have to build the same amount of city in the next 30 years, as we have built in the whole history of humanity. It's a lot of cement, a lot of concrete and a lot of steel. I really, really, really challenge us, including me, but those of you working on material sciences, to make sure that we get to low carbon, steel and concrete because otherwise this is not going to be possible. Thank you.


Eduard Alarcon  31:33  

Very interesting, very enlightening. So a question naturally arises on whether education could have a role. Do we need to educate scientists, a new generation of scientists? Then you're calling for urgent action, the timeliness of the need for action? So perhaps we are late with education. And then we need to instill this direction, the purpose in every single action that science calls upon. Perhaps education could rescue this very notion that depending on the topic, that the new scientists and engineers will work. Is it frontier metals? Is it AI? How is it related to the SDGs? So what do you think is the role of education generally?


Amaya Igartua  32:19  

I think that education is important not only to educate the knowledge of certain specific topics, but also the values, the value, the common sense, in terms of respecting the results from the others. Having knowledge about materials and all it's about entrepreneurship and knowledge about how to manage these global talents, how to recycle, how to measure the impact in the middle month. I think that there are a aspect that we learned when by needed, when we are working, because we think that is needed also modeling tools. I think that in the past only characterization was applied, but now, also, if we use the modeling as well as characterization, we can reduce the number of experiments again, and get the development of the product faster. Also, the importance of renewable energy in order to, I think that we have to be technology neutral, and think about reduction of emission. But we should not forget any of the resources we have. Maybe carbon is the most competent and is necessary to transfer to graphene, but in order to be more sustainable. But in terms of education, materials research has to be involved in all these impacts of the materials that could help not only the process on the materials , but also the impact on the products. 


Eduard Alarcon  34:36  

So this is very interesting. So perhaps we might be optimistic in the sense that there is a brand new generation that considers upfront purposes in their activities, their educational activities, their scientific and engineering activities. Perhaps what we should do collectively is to instill to them that there is no higher, larger challenge than addressing the SDGs. So that they go from the very exciting experimental discovery of a new material of a new application to understanding that we need. That's the ultimate challenge. So, in what sense beyond education, communication and outreach could also have a role? What do you think, Pontus?


Pontus Westerberg  35:16  

I mean, first of all, of course, education is super important. It's actually a Sustainable Development Goal in itself. Goal number four, quality education, super important. And we have hundreds of millions of children who are not getting a good education. So it's super important. Of course, if you also think about the aspect of climate change, we can't wait for those children to be educated, because we will miss the targets. So it's also about using the knowledge that we have already now. And I think that a lot of that knowledge already exists. If I go back to steel and, and concrete, there is knowledge on how to produce low carbon or, or zero carbon steel at the moment, it's about their investment, it's about rolling it out and scaling it. When it comes to concrete, we know that there are ways to produce it, at least with lower emissions. For example, like many countries are not using oil, to heat kilns, etc., but, to use more sustainable materials. That knowledge is already here. It's about scaling. It's about investment. And it's also about regulation, we need to start regulating some of these things, we can't allow it to continue the way it has.


Eduard Alarcon  36:31  

So I would love to be a bit controversial with one of the questions I was posing. I do very much agree that AI per se, probably won't have an impact upon as it is. But what do you think about AI as a tool that really assists governance if the mission is clear? And do we agree that it's very complex to navigate? How do we go from a reality that we have now in which we take pretty independent and scattered action into more coordinated ways to navigate the complexity of linking and connecting and cooperation? Do you think that AI or any other type of tool could help in creating solutions? What do you think of that, either of you?


Pontus Westerberg  37:13  

So I think when it comes to AI, I think it's sometimes a little bit of an unfortunate term, artificial intelligence, because it kind of makes us think about some kind of intelligence being, science fiction, movies, etc. And I think that's not really what we're talking about a lot of the time, when we're talking about artificial intelligence, you know, only three, four years ago, in these conferences, we were talking about big data, big data analytics, I don't think maybe that was sexy enough, so we had to somehow rename it into artificial intelligence. So I'd say the majority of artificial intelligence is not that intelligent. It's an algorithm that searches through large amounts of data. And that's kind of it. Of course, there's, AI that you know will be useful. You know, I heard the other day that John Farmer, the CTO of New York City, was telling us how they were using algorithms or AI in order to basically automate energy billing for the City of New York and how that is reducing their energy consumption. I mean, that's a great, great example. 


Eduard Alarcon  38:22  

One reflection could be I've been told by the organizers that we're running out of time, it's time to act, probably more than to discuss, so we'd better stay in on Earth we shouldn’t escape to space, we should perhaps leave the digital realm, and leverage what frontier  materials have to try to reach the evidence. Without I'm forced to, we have to really continue with the next panel. I would like to appreciate, again, the panelists for your participation and the audience for your participation as well. Thank you very much. Thank you!



This panel is part of the PUZZLE X 2021 Program on 18th November.

Moderator: Dr. Eduard Alarcon, Professor at UPC

Panellists: Pontus Westerberg, Programme Management Officer Tech and Innovation at UN-Habitat | Dr. Amaya Igartua, Co-Secretary at EUMAT Materials Platform.

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