Addressing sustainability through new technologies
With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, taking place in Glasgow, The Guild’s universities are stressing the critical contributions universities can and must make to accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement goals. The Guild shares highlights from its member universities on how the institutions, researchers and students are leading the change towards environmental sustainability, connecting the institutional, social, economic, technological and scientific responses needed to respond to the climate crisis.
The interdisciplinary capacity of our universities does not just drive critical new knowledge; it is also a principal driver for the innovations that place our universities at the heart of the innovation ecosystem.
The University of Tartu has collaborated with the Estonian autonomous vehicle manufacturer Auve Tech to develop the world's first autonomous hydrogen vehicle. The university has developed low-temperature hydrogen fuel cells which enable the shuttle bus to operate. The vehicle is capable of autonomous driving in open and closed areas, and its actions can be overseen with the help of teleoperation from a distant control centre.
Developing new technologies to generate clean energy is one of the key challenges for the 21st century. Researchers at the University of Glasgow are exploring new ways of maximising solar power generation. The research project SOLSPACE aims to devise, develop and demonstrate strategies for increasing the amount of energy produced by future large-scale solar power farms around the world. The researchers study the potential benefits of creating a constellation of satellite reflectors that would redirect sunlight from orbit towards solar power plants on Earth.
The Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern brings together researchers across a range of disciplines to model and predict the long-term dynamics of climate change, influencing policy-makers, ranging from the Canton of Bern to the United Nations. But the university also seeks to strengthen the societal ownership of sustainability through all its missions, including life-long learning modules for farmers and members of NGOs, and a current exhibition on how to bring together sustainability and quality of life.
These collaborations demonstrate the core role fundamental, interdisciplinary research done by research-intensive universities play in disruptive innovative discoveries. This interdisciplinarity is crucial not just for the discoveries themselves. They also enable universities to relate their disruptive research much better to societal needs and concerns. And they enable society more widely to engage with the transformations necessary for a more sustainable future.
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Addressing sustainability through new technologies - COP26 | 9 November 2021