Sustainability and Innovation

Friday March 26th, 2010 by Johan de Ruijter

The theme of the Satori study tour is ‘sustainability and innovation’.

Sustainability can definitely be regarded as a hot topic nowadays. Global warming has been issue since the mid-20th century, though concerns rose dramatically in the past decade. Are those concerns justified? A majority of scientists all over the world agree that there is indeed a significant rise in temperature, that it is very likely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities and that this trend will likely continue throughout the current century.
However, sceptics claim that it is not that simple. Some say that an increase of temperature is a natural effect, due to for example solar variation. Others believe that the climate will cool down on its own and that appropriate action is therefore not needed.
But whatever the truth of global warming is, humanity cannot afford to sit still as fossil fuels are running out anyway. Climate change critics, who oppose any form of investments in a sustainable future, overlook the fact that we will be unable to rely on oil and gas in 30-50 years from now. But well before supplies run out, prices will rise to such a level that no man can even afford energy. When that time comes, humanity will probably not be willing to give up all the technological advancement we have grown so accustomed to, but has come at the price of rising energy usage.
So sustainability has become the single word that describes the changes that society has to go through now.
The history of technological evolvement can be divided into four periods. At first, humanity was poor and clean. Technology did not exist and we were one with nature. Then we became poor and dirty, as nature had to make way for our cities. Industrialisation gave us wealth, making us rich and dirty. The final stage is one in which we maintain our wealth and knowledge, but minimize the harm we do to nature. 

It is our challenge, as engineers of the near future, to create this new sustainable society. To find new energy resources that will not run out. But also to leave no or as little footprint as possible on our planet. As electrical engineers, we are particularly close to innovations in new energy sources. Sustainability, however, reaches much further than that. It is a design approach to increase efficiency and reduce usage of resources. It can be found in all forms of technology, but also in companies and business.

The second theme of our study tour is innovation. Eindhoven, University of Technology calls itself the ‘land of the innovator’. We believe that there is only one true land of the innovator. Japan has been at the cradle of electrical engineering, but is also always first ahead. It is part of the unique Japanese mentality to be the best at what you do, whereas Western businesses tend to limit themselves by being the best for a certain price. We want to see all the new technologies Japan has to offer. We want to see, the innovator.

Sustainability and Innovation. Two separate subjects, but also unitable. One very actual topic and one about being actual. Those two will be the guiding light of the Satori study tour.

Study Tour SATORI