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Cities and regions can drive demand for sustainable business models

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Cities and regions can drive demand for sustainable business models

How cleantech improves cities and regions

The economy is overshooting planetary boundaries. Learn how cities and innovative companies can cooperate to drive the change.

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This summer has again shown how our economies are intertwined with the natural boundaries our planet is providing us with. The heat waves and droughts, the energy nexus between drought, glacier melting and energy supply, as well as the resulting supply chain disruptions, made it clear to everybody: sustainability has become a strategic topic. In order to secure economic success, companies and political entities have to innovate and radically transform their business models, products and services.

At Basel Area Business & Innovation, we provide local businesses and entrepreneurs with stimuli, skills and networks to face this challenge as an opportunity rather than a threat. It is our mission to build an ecosystem, where entrepreneurs together with academia and corporations are working together in order to build the wealth of future generations, while staying within the planetary boundaries earth gives us. As a result, we have dedicated our networking event series to sustainability in business. Our speakers help startups and businesses on their journey to more sustainable business models.

This article introduces the Solar Impulse Foundation and summarizes the keynote held by Robin Henri on the 25th of August at Impact Hub Basel.

About the Solar Impulse Foundation

The Solar Impulse Foundation was founded by the Swiss pioneer and visionary Bertrand Piccard and was named after the historic flight project Solar Impulse. Bertrand Piccard and his team designed, built a solar airplane and finally flew it around the globe.

40’000 km without fuel, a first in energy to lay down a marker for the future. Now, take it further!

Bertrand PiccardChairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation

Something most experts back in 2016 deemed impossible has proven to be possible after all through innovation, endurance, trial and error, in short: thanks to entrepreneurial spirit.

This spirit is guiding the Solar Impulse Foundation. It advocates the adoption of existing and profitable solutions that allow us to address sustainability challenges while enabling economic growth. Bertrand Piccard has always advocated that solving climate change is a fantastic market opportunity, rather than an expensive problem. He actively speaks out against the absurdly outdated polluting devices and systems we are still using and promotes the benefits of existing efficient technologies to motivate governments and industries to take action.

The chief mission of the foundation is to identify solutions that help us solve major sustainability challenges while having a profitable business model, and boost their adoption. The team has now identified more than 1400 of those solutions. These are found in nine sectors and are often consolidated as cleantech:

  • Energy
  • Buildings
  • Infrastructure
  • Mobility
  • Industry & Goods
  • Agriculture & Food
  • Waste & Pollution
  • Freight

In those sectors, the Solar Pulse Foundation is pushing for change.

Four steps to get sustainable technologies off the ground

The Solar Impulse Foundation supports sustainable technologies with four crucial steps:

1. Certification:

Innovative sustainable technologies often face the challenge that their potential buyers face big risks in adopting a new solution. In order to win the needed confidence, the solution needs references and certifications. Achieving this is time consuming and costly, because early adopters are attracted through the offering of considerable discounts. The Solar Impulse Foundation certifies innovative products and technologies and verifies that they are applicable with its own label. The label certifies the solution’s positive impact on nature compared to the status quo and its financial viability. Compared to other services the certification is free of charge and thus the going-to-market process is shortened considerably. Find out if your solution qualifies! More information on the certificate and the link to the application here:

2. Acceleration:

After successful certification, the solutions go through an acceleration phase. The awarded companies benefit from the foundation’s network of cleantech experts. The Solar Impulse Foundation helps gain new markets and find new clients through events and exhibitions, as well as with entries on their Solutions Explorer software.

3. Access to Capital:

To further help labeled companies, the Solar Impulse Foundation develops activities to create investment opportunities in the SIF Efficient solutions portfolio. This includes the development of two investment funds, e-pitches and the presentation of ventures to other investors in the network.

4. Promotion

Lastly, the foundation advocates for the solution on its many platforms, including publications and guides, ambassador programs and experts’ articles.

The key role of cities in the ecological transition

Supporting startups is just one side of the coin. To make sure that the new solutions are adopted and replace dirty technologies of the past, the buyers of these solutions need to be educated. Research has shown that cities are key and an ideal starting point for change.

A majority of the population lives in cities; they are responsible for most of the emissions and contribute most to the global GDP. In other words, cities have the people, the problem and the money to solve it.

The Solar Impulse Foundation has created a Solutions Guide for Cities that helps decision-makers implement efficient solutions in cities:

1. Analysis:

Prioritize key projects where cities can realize real impact through the adoption of innovative cleantech solutions. While every city is unique, common sustainability challenges prevail.

2. Identification of relevant solutions to deploy:

While challenges may be the same, different local solutions may be applied with local startups that qualify for a Solar Impulse certification.

3. Inspiration:

Be inspired by concrete examples of implementation and best practices. Assisting partner cities on their journey unleashes a “Can do”-attitude that helps in solving the remaining challenges.

The Solutions Guide for Cities is offering a range of case studies that serve as an inspiration for decision makers and city planner and can be downloaded for free.

And for more inspiration, the Solar Impulse Foundation has recorded a podcast to explore how partner cities are undertaking their green transition, the obstacles they face and how authorities, private entities and the common citizen can work together to overcome them.

While cities have a big potential to drive change, we all have the responsibility to act. As a business, your specific needs and challenges are similar to cities. The solutions explorer of the Solar Impulse Foundation is a powerful resource for your business to improve your infrastructure, production processes, and supply chains.

Use it as a search engine to find relevant solutions tailored to your unique situation.

Solutions to implement in your company

Where do we go from here?

Basel Area Business & Innovation is cooperating with the Solar Impulse Foundation in order to have startups from the region to seek the certification. While not being directly responsible for the relevant application areas, we will do our part to develop an ecosystem where cleantech solutions are invented and applied. Keep an eye out for further developments.

After Robin Henri we had Martin Studer from Swiss Triple Impact present their solution. Learn more about it in the next blog. In the previous blogpost of this series, you learned about Erinch Sahan and doughnut economics.

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