How can we reduce the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50% of their 1990 levels? This is the goal of the European Green Deal, which aims to create an economy which is both sustainable and globally competitive. Inside (formally known as ARTEMIS) shares this vision and enables it through collaboration across the continent, as Dr Wouter Leibbrandt explains.
Investing in our future
What does the European Green Deal mean to you? For Wouter, it’s part of the planet-wide effort to make sure that our children and grandchildren still have a world to live in. “That’s the Green Deal from a personal perspective,” he says. “But the sustainability issues can be different per domain. In the automotive area, it’s clear that you can save hugely on your carbon footprint if you make your mobility and the use of different modalities more intelligent. It may seem a little less obvious at first but these days we also see the footprint of digital services coming under scrutiny. Even the choice between doing something in the cloud in a distributed fashion or more centrally involves an energy consumption aspect.”
Such issues are an important aspect of his work at ESI, a TNO-led research centre focusing on strong partnerships with high-tech companies and new approaches to system design and engineering. As an example of work which contributes to the European Green Deal, Wouter looks to their past efforts on truck platooning. “Trucks join a big platoon, all driving at the same speed but also very close together so that the drag is much less. You therefore immediately save 10-20% on the fuel cost per truck. The automotive industry also has a big opportunity to invest heavily in electric mobility. They have a fair competitive position at the moment and they could really take a lead there. I’m sure that in five or ten years, everything we make will be valued on how green it is. By investing now and having the ability to make the best green products in the world, you increase your competitiveness.”
Intelligent Digital Systems on the agenda
While sustainability issues differ across industries, commonalities do emerge – although only through the close collaboration and knowledge transfers enabled by international networks like Inside. “If you look at the semiconductor manufacturing industry, which is one of the parties we work for, they make smarter and smarter chips that fuel intelligence which will hopefully bring solutions to a lot of sustainability issues. That’s pretty indirect, but without it there would be no smart phones, no smart meters in your home and maybe not even solar panels and smart grid work,” Wouter notes. “However, these technologies have a broad scope, which is also the difficult part for Inside. They touch your life in a lot of ways yet become quite intangible for the general public. That’s a bit of a paradox we’re in.”
In Wouter’s view, Inside’s ultimate contribution to the European Green Deal is twofold: bringing together the best minds in Europe but also making sure that Intelligent Digital Systems are on the agenda through work with the European Commission and Public Authorities. “It’s very nice to have all these wind parks, but if other parts of the economy are not attuned to using them, they’re no good,” he concludes. “This systems thinking in the digital domain is what the Inside community is all about and it’s why we need to work together across the boundaries in Europe. It’s important to have an association that brings all the different industries together so they speak with one voice to the powers that be.”