Friday 18 October 2013

Disruptive dozen technologies for the future

To help cut through the hype that surrounds the arrival of almost all new technologies, the McKinsey Global Institute examined more than 100 rapidly evolving technologies and identified 12 that are almost certain to disturb the status quo in the coming years. The MGI estimates that the combined annual economic impact of this "disruptive dozen" – which span information technology, machinery and vehicles, energy, bioscience, and materials – will reach $14-33 trillion by 2025. Much of this value – in many cases, a significant majority – is likely to accrue to consumers.

Examples of the 12 disruptive technologies include:

Advanced robotics - that is, increasingly capable robots or robotic tools, with enhanced "senses," dexterity, and intelligence - can take on tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate. These technologies can also generate significant societal benefits, including robotic surgical systems that make procedures less invasive, as well as robotic prosthetics and "exoskeletons" that restore functions of amputees and the elderly.

Next-generation genomics marries the science used for imaging nucleotide base pairs (the units that make up DNA) with rapidly advancing computational and analytic capabilities. As our understanding of the genomic makeup of humans increases, so does the ability to manipulate genes and improve health diagnostics and treatments. Next-generation genomics will offer similar advances in our understanding of plants and animals, potentially creating opportunities to improve the performance of agriculture and to create high-value substances- for instance, ethanol and biodiesel- from ordinary organisms, such as E. coli bacteria.

Energy-storage devices or physical systems store energy for later use. These technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, already power electric and hybrid vehicles, along with billions of portable consumer electronics. Over the coming decade, advancing energy-storage technology could make electric vehicles cost competitive, bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries, and improve the efficiency of the utility grid.

Source: McKinsey & C

Thursday 17 October 2013

RobecoSAM: Countries most likely to thrive in the future

A new report from investment advisors RobecoSAM does, and the results are quite different from the standard narrative. The report takes into account 17 factors, ultimately finding that Sweden is the most sustainable country on Earth--meaning it's best equipped for the future. And the least? That would be Nigeria, in 59th place, despite all that oil.

The factors include environmental (which accounts for 15% of scores, and includes things like renewable energy and emissions), social (25%; e.g. life expectancy, and level of worker unrest), and governance (60%; e.g. corruption and inequality). The aim: to provide a comprehensive picture of a "country's ability to safeguard the needs of its future generations."

Australia (which does better for governance than environmental factors), Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and the U.K. come next. The U.S. is in ninth place, scoring solidly in most categories, though lower relatively on the environment.

Sweden scores well across most of the criteria, including "use of renewable energy sources and CO2 emissions," on factors like "labor participation, education, and income inequality," and governance. Above, you can see how it lines up against Russia, which comes in 55th, just above Indonesia, Venezuela, Egypt, and Nigeria. As you might expect, the biggest differences between those countries are in things like the quality of institutions and "political risk."

Source: Fast Company and RobecoSAM

Wednesday 18 September 2013 - An online home for everything?

Imagine something like Google Maps, but instead of streets, buildings, rivers and mountains are things – objects made and used by humans. This is the essence of – to create a web platform, where you can learn about the origin, usage and recycling of man-made objects.

It's also meant to be personal – you can create a catalog of your things, make some of them public, that you want to give away, lend out or sell. If you want to get rid of something, for example an old fridge, books etc, you can find the nearest places in your neighbourhood where these items can be recycled. Or a company interested in collecting old fridges will contact you and take it away for no cost.

We all buy things – from everyday food to mobiles, cars and furniture. More often than not we are interested in some aspect of the history of this unique thing we are considering buying. It could be the composition, for instance whether a food product contains allergens, or it could be the place of origin or quality or impact on nature and the people who produced it. It could be also the ownership history, especially in the case of more expensive devices like electronics and cars.

Every  thing ever produced has potentially a unique ID in the database. This enables anyone to drill down to the details of its production history, follow its ownership trail and finally to help achieve a circular economy, where all the waste goes back into production, thus achieving a zero waste world economy. is inviting volunteers (email and crowdfunding (you can "adopt a thing").

Full disclosure: Wayne Visser is on the Advisory Board.

Friday 13 September 2013

Robeco SAM: Country Sustainability Rankings

Robeco and RobecoSAM have worked together to develop a comprehensive and systematic ESG ranking framework for countries, designed to complement sovereign bond ratings developed by traditional rating agencies. By focusing on selected ESG factors such as aging, competitiveness and environmental risks – which are long term in nature – and taking into account a country's position in the economic cycle, the country rankings offer a view into a country's strengths and weaknesses that are not typically covered by rating agencies.

Used in combination, standard sovereign bond ratings and RobecoSAM's country ESG rankings can be a powerful tool to enhance risk analysis for government bonds, enabling investors to make better-informed investment decisions. Country level ESG rankings also offer an additional perspective on the stability of the environments in which companies operate and could therefore be incorporated as an additional tool used in company analysis.

Source: RobecoSAM

Thursday 12 September 2013

Galapagos biodiversity goes online with Google Street View

This week marks the 178th anniversary of Darwin's discovery of the Galapagos Islands. This volcanic archipelago is one of the most biodiverse and unique places on the planet, with species that have remarkably adapted to their environment. Through observing the animals, Darwin made key insights that informed his theory of evolution.

In partnership with the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation, Google is launching the 360-degree images from the Galapagos Islands that they collected in May with the Street View Trekker. Now, you can visit the islands from anywhere you may be, and see many of the animals that Darwin experienced on his historic and groundbreaking journey in 1835.

Friday 6 September 2013

SpaceX demonstrates the future of design

SpaceX is exploring methods for engineers to accelerate their workflow by designing more directly in 3D. They describe their innovation as follows:

"We are integrating breakthroughs in sensor and visualization technologies to view and modify designs more naturally and efficiently than we could using purely 2D tools. We are just beginning, but eventually hope to build the fastest route between the idea of a rocket and the reality of the factory floor." Here's a demo by SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk:

SpaceX gives special thanks to Leap Motion, Siemens and Oculus VR, as well as NVIDIA, Projection Design, Provision, and to everyone enabling and challenging the world to interact with technology in exciting new ways.

Source: SpaceX

Friday 16 August 2013

Innocent Drinks: Creating shared value in Ethiopia

Between 2006 and 2009  iDE UK and drinks company Innocent helped set up over 250 apple farms in Ethiopia - providing small family run farms with additional income, improving their livelihoods and making apples readily available for all. iDE UK provided access to low cost irrigation systems to farmers, set them up with robust seedlings and trained them in apple husbandry (looking after the trees, growing the best fruit and so on).
This project proved what iDE already knew - that poor Ethiopian smallholder farmers can use innovative irrigation technologies to grow high value crops and earn a good living. In Addis the price fetched for apples is incredible – as apples are often hard to come by in Ethiopia - the dry conditions and limited water supply mean that not many people grow them. As a result of this success iDE has expanded to their work to support over 60,000 farming households (360,000 people) today.