Revolution not evolution

Using the power of community and innovation to tackle climate change

Warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, and rising sea levels are just a few of the irrevocable signs of climate change, most of which have been caused by human activity.

The impact on the environment and on human society has been stark. According to a recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), ​since 1950 flooding on a global scale has increased fifteen-fold, extreme temperature events twenty-fold, and wildfires seven-fold. Rather than incremental improvements, we now require a revolution to avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change. EIT Climate-KIC, one of eight European Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), was launched in 2010 to help meet this urgent need.

Our economies need to be reprogrammed and redesigned on multiple dimensions to reduce not only carbon emissions, but also land and water degradation, the depletion of natural habitat and resources, as well as air pollution Line Gry Knudsen, Acting Director of Education at EIT Climate-KIC.

The organization’s purpose is to tackle climate change through innovation. It operates as the community hub of diverse organizations, bringing together 350 formal organizational partners from across 25 countries. It also builds the skills and competencies of students and professionals, for example, at The Journey, a summer school program offering transformative learning and hands-on business experience.

EIT Climate-KIC enables a community of partners to work with and through a portfolio of multiple, diverse and connected innovation experiments. These include predictive algorithms that assist in energy management and environmental performance, and the creation of more efficient solar energy capture using lenses that focus the sun’s rays. It is also an active member of organizations such as the Copernicus Academy, which uses data collected from space to address climate change issues.

Bringing people closer to real-life issues

For the consequences of climate change, there is little to draw on in way of precedence. This is why EIT Climate-KIC seeks to empower young people and professionals with the skills and competencies needed to trigger climate innovation. “In my experience, bringing people closer to real-life climate change challenges leads to better and more effective learning outcomes. The Journey has given our students innovative ideas to work on and find creative solutions to limit global warming,” says Knudsen.

At the heart of EIT Climate-KIC’s approach lies an understanding of the need for systemic change. “As climate change is very complex in nature, we need to bring all resources and partners on board to work with us on systemic change, as opposed to single point innovations. We bring together research, business, and education to generate connected solutions while nurturing the skills and competencies needed in the European labor force. For example, through our learning offer and certification activities,” says Knudsen.

The collaboration between the three – what Knudsen refers to as “the knowledge triangle integration” empowers students and enables them to learn more about how the system works, identifying drivers of change and how they can be harnessed.

A community of partners

“We see ourselves as co-designers of change,” Knudsen says. “We are delivering the results together with our community of partners. We are here to deliver coordinated interventions that connect and empower people to enact change.”

EIT Climate-KIC has a diverse community of partners, members, alumni, start-ups, students, and other stakeholders covering the fields of business (including E.ON, Ferrovial, KLM, and Veolia); education (such as Technical University of Denmark, the Sorbonne, and Imperial College London); and city authorities and NGOs (such as the City of Helsinki, the Greater London Authority, and the World Wildlife Fund).

To shape the green economy in Europe, EIT Climate-KIC runs connected programs in research and innovation, entrepreneurship, and education with the mission to unlock change at the speed and scale needed to decarbonise the economy. It offers a portfolio of deliberate initiatives and funding to accelerate such change.

Climathon is one of its annual events, which has grown to be a global movement built around a 24-hour event that supports cities in prioritizing the climate challenges they face, and motivating their citizens to develop innovative solutions to resolve them. EIT Climate- KIC also runs Climate Launchpad, the world’s biggest competition for green business ideas, operating in 35+ countries and generating more than 1,000 actionable ideas each year.

Adopting a portfolio mindset

Knowing which projects to say “yes” to is also an important lesson the organization has learned. “We need to focus on our resources in leveraging European ingenuity in places where we have strategic opportunity for impact aligning with our key thematic impact goals,” says Robin Muller, Education Manager.

EIT Climate-KIC is calling all partners to operate with a portfolio mindset, ensuring that there are spillover benefits. “We will do this with the aim of achieving systemic change through innovation in co-operation with the community of research and business partners the organization has built and nurtured over recent years,” says Knudsen.

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The complexity and magnitude of problems currently faced by governments and individuals have few historical precedents. Our planet is under huge environmental pressure; wealth inequality is worsening, and workers face ever stiffer competition – increasingly from computers with deep artificial intelligence. These problems are interlinked, and education is pivotal to resolving them.

Credit Suisse has witnessed the life-changing impact of education on individuals, communities and societies.

At the current rate of progress, in 2030 there will be more than 800 million children and young people lacking the basic skills or qualifications for the modern workforce. To meet the UN’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) of ensuring universal primary and secondary education by 2030 – and fill an annual funding shortfall of $26bn – will require a radical response.

Get it right and it’s impossible to overstate the potential impact. If the world was to achieve universal upper-secondary education by 2030 it would bring forward the goal of eliminating poverty by 10 years. If all women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) completed secondary education, the mortality rate for children under five would fall by nearly half – a saving of three million lives annually.

The Value of Knowledge is not academic but profound.

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