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Tech vs Global Problems: what are the trends and challenges?



Technologies can be used to tackle the most pressing issues of today. More about that was elaborated at “Innovation Day: World-saving Technologies” held on April 13 by the Global Business for Ukraine, the European Business Association, ETH Zürich, and the Embassy of Switzerland to Ukraine. The event brought together great minds in tech, science, and business who presented us with the latest trends and inspiring visions.


Cybersecurity


“All cyber professionals are studying now the fieldwork performed by Ukrainians,” – believes Amitabh Singh, CTO EMEA, Palo Alto Networks. He also predicts that in 2023 the nation states will use coordinated cyber and physical attacks against their enemy’s critical infrastructure. Therefore, it is important to create a system that allows the detection and notification of cyber threats in advance. One of the concepts is called Cyber Dome but it is too expensive to carry out. Currently, Europe has other security models but if Cyber Dome is ever to be built by the EU, there is no reason not to take Ukraine under its umbrella. Overall, Mr Singh thinks that more collaboration between countries is needed to ensure cybersecurity.


Renewable energy


There are thousands of Swiss startups that are developing solutions in the energy & environment sector. The team of Dr Christina Marchand, Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, ZHAW School of Management and Law, gathered them all in the database at the link. Three key issues that these startups need to address are energy supply, energy independence, and energy efficiency. Ukraine and Switzerland are countries dependent on energy imports, so to be more sustainable, we need to have more decentralized and localised energy generation. Unfortunately, the use of fossils still costs cheaper than the implementation of green innovations. Therefore, such startups are scaling up very slowly and it may take more than 10 years to bring hardware to the market. At the same time, collaboration with big businesses can help startups to succeed.


Corporate social responsibility


“Access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal human right,” – claims Tonny Dunnage, Global ESG Director, Imperial Brands. The company conducts various sustainability projects in all 36 countries of its operations, including Ukraine, and uses AI to align its ESG Strategy. The key focuses lay in climate change mitigation, a sustainable supply chain, safe & inclusive workplace. Thus, Imperial Brands is committed to bringing all its factories to net zero by 2040, reducing energy consumption by 25%, and using 100% renewable energy. For these, the company uses IoT and develops thousands of metrics to track conservation progress.


Artificial Intelligence


“AI and cloud-based secure environment allow democratising innovation. Anyone from anywhere can have access to the data. So, when it comes to AI, we are optimistic but mindful about this technology,” – tells Marc Holitscher, National Technology Officer, Microsoft. When the work on OpenAI started in 2017, its creators first developed six AI responsibility principles. The company is convinced that people will not use technology that cannot be trusted. For the last couple of years, we can see growth in data-driven innovations in such areas as healthcare, cybersecurity, etc. The information is being used increasingly in a sophisticated way, but AI can make it more human-friendly and change the way how we can interact with technology.


The Future of Microchips


“We need faster computers to catch up with an exponential explosion of the datasphere, and it means billions of microchips per year,” – explains Maksym Yarema, Assistant Professor, Institute for Electronics, Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, ETH Zurich. So, there are two ways for the future of hardware – either we produce and use more silicon or apply new emerging materials. And as computer design is about balancing the cost, speed, and capacity, it makes sense to go for both. It is also good to diversify the production of microchips due to the turbulent situation in the world. And Ukraine, with its rich natural resources and talented engineers, has the potential to develop the sphere of emerging memory technologies.


Mine Clearance


“In 2022, mines killed 7073 victims, 80% of them were civilians, mostly children. This is not to say about 10 000 people who are impacted by other consequences of mine contamination, for example in terms of food security,”Frederic Guerne, Founder and General Manager, Digger Foundation, started his speech with such devastating statistics. However, his mine clearance non-profit organisation can propose certain solutions. It has been operating for 25 years in 16 countries with no accidents. The Foundation uses two kinds of machines – one for rural fields and mountains, and another for cities where most modern conflicts are taking place. Manual mine clearance is a dangerous and lengthy process which may take from 1 to 3 years, whereas the machines can finish the same volume of work in 3-8 hours. One such machine has been already delivered to Kyiv but the Digger Foundation is working on a way not to build mine clearance equipment from scratch but modify existing construction machines for that. The main challenge, in this case, is to protect the driver.


Military technologies


“Over the past 20 years, technologies have significantly changed the military sphere, there is now horizontal proliferation when more countries have access to offensive tech as well as vertical proliferation when the weapons are being technologically modernised,” – says Mauro Gilli, Senior Researcher Center for security studies, ETH Zurich. Thus, air and missile defence has improved and the capabilities we have today are fundamentally important. There is no possibility to create an air defence system that can intercept all the missiles, but at least, we can warn the population. It is made possible due to the development of data collection and transmission tech that allows receiving more accurate information about early threats.


Thus, technologies have immense potential to address global problems, but their effectiveness depends on responsible deployment, as well as collaboration between stakeholders. Therefore, the Global Business for Ukraine would like to thank the speakers for an interesting discussion and hope that it inspires governments, companies, and public organisations to work together in the realm of tech!

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