Delivering positive change for the environment is increasingly big business.
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What if you turned the tap on and nothing came out? By 2050, three quarters of the global population could face that question.
It is a catastrophe already affecting both rural and urban areas around the world, from rural India to London; even many of the world’s wealthiest cities struggle to source, distribute and manage water in a smart and sustainable way.
Of course, water is just one aspect of a global climate crisis now dominating the news agenda. Recent months have even seen a UK Parliament state of emergency declaration, with firmer carbon targets being set nationally and internationally.
Action is also happening at local levels. More than 25 towns and cities around the UK have declared a climate emergency.
The pressure comes from a more conscientious population too. Citizens around the world are increasingly aware, educated and vocal about their desire for cities to have less congestion, improved safety and more planet-friendly energy usage.
Meanwhile, this year sees the arrival of 5G networks in the UK. The rollout is limited so real consumer cut-through will take some time, but it will still bring a fundamentally different level of speed and performance.
5G delivers an instant, always-on layer of connectivity to power everything from self-driving cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to connected transport and smart cities. So what will that mean for today’s budding entrepreneurs, looking for problems to solve and new technological platforms to build on?
Tackling crisis through entrepreneurship
Delivering positive change to address such challenges is what’s driving many of Enzen’s current projects. We’re collaborating with cities on everything from smarter street lights and air quality monitoring to charging Electric Vehicles (EV) and enabling the ‘20-minute maximum commute’ for urban residents.
But these are just a few examples – there is a vast array of pressing problems to be solved.
For communities around the world, new infrastructure powered by 5G and IoT could prove critical in tackling many of these environmental challenges. And in tackling these challenges, we increasingly see knowledge, ideas and innovation clustering around several key themes.
One example is energy efficiency and security, which will play a central role in creating smart, sustainable, climate-friendly cities in the future. Increasingly, a combination of renewable generation, storage and EV charging and discharging will help the grid provide vital public service, with minimum risk, disruption and impact on the planet.
While 4G was influential in the evolution of connectivity, 5G will play a transformational role in writing a new chapter for energy – the increased connectivity of devices and sensors will allow us to monitor, manage and optimise energy like never before.
A similar impact will occur in sectors such as transport, where the ‘mobility as a service’ approach is set to flourish thanks to the radical improvements offered by 5G connectivity.
Longstanding issues like the integration of public and private mobility, ‘first and last mile’ mobility and richer, more accurate navigation applications can all be addressed. If 5G can power a connected, electric, shared mobility ecosystem, the positive environmental outcomes will be significant.
New ideas and new value chains
This new connected era will require an acceleration in new environmental ideas and possibilities – and that’s where entrepreneurs come in. Savvy tech start-ups have already seen an opportunity to build business empires, and tackle the global climate crisis in the process.
Across many of these sectors, rising venture investment and government incentives will also be prevalent, a good signal of fertile ground for entrepreneurs looking to tackle environmental challenges through innovation.
This support will prove key in helping incumbents and newcomers create new solutions and build new value chains – such as the emerging battery value chain supporting EVs and the new mobility ecosystem.
This won’t be the only route to growth, either – in fact, Mergermarket analysis recently showed that some entrepreneurs in areas like ‘water-tech’ are turning away from traditional venture capital funding.
Instead they’re choosing to work with equally ambitious corporate partners who can help them tap into existing supply chains and partnership ecosystems to scale their businesses rapidly.
Sustainable solutions and driving change
The potential of this approach is something we’ve seen first-hand at Enzen, following our year-long search to find the world’s most promising environmental-tech entrepreneurs. From more than 700 entries from across the globe, four winners will now begin an incubator journey with us.
They’ll have access to Enzen grants and mentoring so they can take their solutions to market and deliver long-lasting value that will help solve some of our planet’s greatest challenges.
Again we see areas where 5G could have a considerable impact. Winning team The Leaksters is developing hardware and software to reimagine the way water distribution is monitored and managed.
With connected sensors fitted into water pipes, improved connectivity like 5G will help power The Leaksters’s ability to collect, communicate and interpret leakage data in real-time.
The potential benefit of The Leaksters’s concept for cities and citizens is clear. Water loss from burst pipes, leaks and water theft accounts for up to 50% of the total global supply, reaching a staggering 75% in emerging markets.
At Enzen, we believe challenges like this can only be solved through smarter collaboration and innovation. As we bring new ideas to market, cross-pollinate them with existing customers and networks, advise on regulations or extol the virtues of a 5G-powered world, the long-term objective remains the same.
We need to use these incredible technologies to help our planet on a local and global scale, and build a better, sustainable future for each other in the process.
Tacis Gavoyannis is Global Head of Smart Cities at Enzen.