The weeks and months have passed in light speed this year, and it was already time for this years’ CERAWEEK. And thankfully, it was an in-person event again. I spent my time at the Agora, where innovators from corporates and startups can meet in highly accessible settings, along with policymakers, analysts and investors.
First of all, I must say that it has been very refreshing to meet people in real life (again!) and have the opportunity of coincidentally meeting both known and new persons. These sentiments I could hear from very many people that I met. There was a lot of energy in the air!
The messaging was clear, and ambitions are to move forward with the energy transition and to have a clear road map for carbon-neutral industries.
There is so much work to do; status quo or “too difficult to solve” answers are no longer acceptable. Everyone needs to work on their contributions to reduce the carbon footprint and make it affordable/or able to contribute to customers’ financial performance: Change or lose your license to operate.
The industry community is aware of the challenges. Review the abatement plans for industries — and there is awareness around, like talks on carbon-free steel made possible with pilot production in Sweden.
Steel, cement, automotive industries need to put together robust action plans. Similarly, it should also be the case for semiconductor manufacturing — which is a more significant polluter than automotive and one of the largest water users (for references, see my article “The Pledge”, https://medium.com/illumination/the-pledge-making-industries-safer-better-and-greener-a1522a8533d1 )
The whole setting was so inspiring and positive, and excellent for networking:
- I talked with operator experts on the energy transition and how technology needs to scale up through enabling innovation ecosystems.
- Oilfield service companies are stepping up their part of the game to enable the industry to be more efficient and transparent.
- Innovators require funding, but even more to show that they can deliver based on received funding.
- Operator executives talk about how we need to see carbon as an asset — we have to work on reducing and handling the volume.
- Also, innovation is not a game to handle by yourself; for seamless collaboration, ensure that you have the right investors with you as a startup. The VC team can also accelerate technology implementation with a dedicated support team.
- Particular corporate VC’s have specific implementation teams, ensuring that the startup puts its best efforts into solving operator problems and understanding how to package its technology into products and services.
- Don’t talk about offsets — take action and fix it!
- An industry expert talked about carbon and carbon emissions; it is part of our life cycle, we need it for life. It is not our enemy; neither is oil and gas production. However, we need to get proper mechanisms and processes to deal with the large volume of carbon emissions.
Heard in various Agora sessions
The industry’s needs and possibilities for more profound AI and improved process control systems are vital for improving energy efficiency.
We have to complete 100%, all in for all major industries /referring to decarbonization.
“Investability” — we need proper projects and repeatability/scalability in the energy transition space. And the funds’ trajectory is tremendous.
We must remember that about 30% of global carbon emissions come from manufacturing.
Building awareness on the many steps required to get carbon neutral is ambitious. Improving operational efficiency by removing the blind spots. Digitalization with an incentive to decarbonize needs to be the target. Then come the steps with clean energy sources, carbon capture, etc. We can do a lot, and for the existential battle for corporates, they need to see the urgency and drive the change.
Innovation eco systems
One of the sessions I enjoyed most was on the innovation ecosystems. One of the panelists (all women, by the way!) referred to themselves as “David and Goliath or Emily and Barbara,” as in Emily Kunert and Barbara Burger.
They see their role central in making small and big to work together. One issue was to get corporates to share their problems and issues. How would otherwise startups develop something that is part of solving problems? Sharing knowledge has probably been a hurdle for many corporates but also a part of the transformation to open innovation.
Also, labs, accelerators, or whatever you call your innovation ecosystem needs to have a collaborative approach. Competition does not work. And don’t see the single unit alone. Look into synergies with other labs and accelerators. Open engagement is vital.
Part of innovation is failures and mistakes:
Adapt your venture model to the case — environmental and other long cycle developments requiring policy changes need a lot longer perspective than typical 5–7 year growth and exits, as some businesses might not carry revenue in the first ten years.
See how you can give support and build partnerships — not just financially but also in the form of infrastructure for testing and other in-kind contributions.
Build models and interaction ways to facilitate win-win solutions. Ventures role — be the bridge to the mother company and the startup. De-risk technology brings more tangible assets than just money. No harm to either party; facilitate the implementation.
Corporate venture arms can also help co-investors, as corporates like Chevron are large enterprises with many assets capable of new technology deployments.
“Gigaton problem” needs companies capable of comprehending and handling the gigaton approach. Scale is key. Corporates have the scale of expertise. Connect corporate (expertise) with outside innovation.
But what about the fear of corporates crushing small companies? Corporates have a sophistication level that handles this well, and startups have the power of word of mouth. Reputation matters both ways!
Innovation is not like going to the grocery shop — it requires a lot of collaboration and interaction to solve the problems (can be hidden under several layers of makeup solutions). You need to be able to scale. You need to be able to integrate new technology into the industrial systems.
Not all figured out yet, there is still so much to improve with innovation ecosystems; the panelists seemed to have specific targets:
- Need for advanced manufacturing.
- Supply chain review and support. Critical with scale.
- Scaleups need peer companies. There is a set of new needs.
- Third-party facilitation for quick testing beyond piloting.
The climate hack
Silicon Valley is used to building a prototype in the garage and taking Wall Street in 3 years. We cannot hack climate the same way. We cannot think this way for climate — put it in time scales of 20, 50 years. Break it down to shorter time scales in terms of actions.
The future of gas is key to the energy transition and liabilities with gas. It builds so many utilities. Can we scale hydrogen (infrastructure — used or stranded?), and is renewables scalable and sustainable (wow)!?
To make the energy transition happen, governments need to make it happen. They need to be creative and bold to drive impact.
Technology can be fantastic and part of solving challenges. I observe that we mostly forget to discuss how to make the talents and workforce capacity adapt to change quickly. How do we get the right mindset? How to dare to take risks, dare to make mistakes to succeed? Dare to win because change innovation at a large scale making an impact is critical. Remember to take care of and ensure that every individual has the mental capacity and strength to cope with rapid changes and innovation. Mental fatigue and burnout can be severe. I see this as so necessary that I will put this on my plan to discuss the topic more in a future conference panel.
My main conclusion of the (CERA)week is that it was in abundance of energy and ambition to make the energy transition happen with the abatement of everything possible. With all this energy, I think it was not just the 40th CERAWEEK but a real CERAWATT!