On 12 December, the One Planet Summit will gather world leaders to determine how those working in public and private finance can innovate to support and accelerate efforts to fight climate change. Nick Michell spoke with Emmanuel Léger, Managing Director of DataCity at NUMA Paris, about their side event, Tech For Planet, which will provide space for 30 startups to showcase and pitch their climate change solutions
Why has Tech For Planet been organised?
Tech For Planet is designed to serve as an introduction to the One Planet Summit, and will take place on 11 December. Our objective is to send those leaders a powerful message: another wake up call won’t get us there. Solutions to fight climate change already exist, and now is the time to scale them.
Tech For Planet will be divided in two main areas:
The Manifesto Arena, where leaders will explain how they are fighting climate change: Bertrand Piccard, Founder and CEO of Solar Impulse Foundation; Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies; Brad Smith, President of Microsoft and Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, CEO of BNP Paribas have already confirmed their presence.
The Tech Forum will be a dedicated space for 30 innovative startups to showcase and pitch their solutions: Zephyr & Borée, the sailing freight boat; Agricool, the urban indoor farming solution and Pili, the future of dye manufacturing are among the selected projects.
Is there enough support from those working in public and private finance towards finding and investing in innovations that fight climate change?
A few months ago, NUMA decided to take a stand on climate change. Though sustainability was always a criteria in selecting our projects, it has now become our primary focus in all of our activities. The DataCity programme, dedicated to building resilient and clean cities, is one concrete example of our commitment.
Most of our events revolve around this topic. Our mission statement is now clear: NUMA empowers tech entrepreneurs solving global problems of 2030. We even redesigned our Acceleration Programme to give more room and support to sustainable startups.
Generally speaking, this is a shift that we’ve seen in the tech industry. Bill Gates, just one year ago, launched Energy Breakthrough Ventures, a US$1 billion fund dedicated to Green Tech. In November, Bertand Piccard, founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, launched the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, to “bring together the main actors involved in developing, financing or promoting products, services, processes and technologies that protect the environment in a profitable way.”
Financial institutions are realising not only that many innovations fighting climate change are necessary from an environmental point of view, but also that they stand to make better, more profitable investments through sustainable choices.
How easy will it be to change the business-as-usual attitude that some countries and corporations choose to adopt?
We don’t expect anything to be easy, far from it. But we also believe that our position in the tech industry, at the crossroads of startups, corporates, public institutions and universities, requires us to act. The question is not if corporations and countries will change, but rather when.
What we realised when putting together the event is that some corporations are already committed to making a change for the better. At the event, we will be alongside BNP Paribas, Microsoft, and Schneider Electric, with the support of SUEZ. They are successful companies, and are leading the way towards a change of attitude.
Besides that, big cities are committing to very ambitious plans to reduce their CO2 emissions through smart city solutions. Major countries, such as France, India, and China, are leading the way to a clean and sustainable future. Our hope is that those policies consolidate into a reality. There is no “Planet B”. At some point, everybody has to do their part: countries, corporations, startups and citizens.
How important is it for multiple actors to work on initiatives that have a positive impact on global warming?
Collaboration is key. That’s why, for years now, we have developed programmes gathering startups, corporates, and public institutions on particular subjects, and the results have been amazing.
In 2015, we started a “Smart City program” aimed at finding concrete smart city solutions for Paris, with DataCity’s corporate partners making their data available. The City of Paris offered some experimentation areas, and NUMA selected the best startups to build the solutions. Two years later, 15 concrete projects have been developed all over Paris through DataCity, and the programme has been launched in Barcelona, Bengaluru, Casablanca and Singapore.
This is one of our flagship innovation programmes because it shows exactly how different actors can work together. This collaborative approach needs to be adopted in the fight against climate change, so that the right solutions can be reproduced and given a chance to scale.