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EIC managing director Denise Massey asks how we can shape the innovation required to decarbonise transport and logistics in utilities.

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a year of unparalleled challenges. The global pandemic has impacted the social, political and economic fabric of societies right across the globe. However, amidst uncertain times, we’ve seen the true power of collaboration and its ability to bring people together to find solutions to, what seems at the outset, insurmountable challenges.

It’s by channelling this spirit of collaboration that the UK utility sector is seeking to find solutions to the next existential crisis that we face in the form of climate change. Unfortunately, climate change is a multi-faceted beast which demands a multi-faceted response – there’s no panacea in the form of a single vaccine where this crisis is concerned.

UK utilities are working hard on multiple fronts towards meeting the requirements of the government’s 2050 net-zero targets. However, one area in particular that demands a firm and collaborative response is the decarbonisation of transport and logistics within the utility sector itself.

The question remains as to how the UK’s major utilities providers – replete with large fleets of vehicles, regional networks, and depots – actually reduce their own carbon footprint in the midst of upgrading and repurposing their networks?

Creating the space to think and learn

This week, as part of Utility Week Live Online’s programme of virtual events, the EIC will be facilitating a webinar which seeks to shape a cross-sectoral ‘innovation challenge’ aimed at providing solutions for the decarbonisation of logistics and transport in utilities.

Hosted by Professor Clive Deadman, chairman of the Innovation Forum at the EIC, the content from the session will feed into a future collective ‘industry challenge’ that will be open to submissions from the EIC`s innovation community in the coming months.

But, what exactly is an ‘industry challenge’?

Industry challenges provide an opportunity for UK based and international innovators to submit proposals that address wider, large-scale challenges faced by industry partners or across the sector as a whole. Typically, one challenge will require multiple themes and touchpoints to be covered due to the sheer scale of the problem in hand.

Challenges, which are initially defined as part of a workshop, are as much about asking the right questions which will spark innovative thinking as they are about answering the questions on the given problem to provide viable solutions.

To shape its latest industry challenge, the EIC is looking for a number of individuals from a wide cross-section of industries to get involved in the webinar, these include:

  • Innovators looking to collaborate with the UK utilities to help them to decarbonise their transport operations
  • Transport operators and local authorities who are keen to partner with the utility sector.
  • Regulators and policymakers who are devising carbon zero incentives and penalties.
  • Network teams looking to build knowledge about the topic
  • Advisors and investors looking to advise their client base on engaging with the energy networks on the decarbonisation of transport

A contribution from each of the stakeholder groups mentioned will help the EIC to shape a formal industry challenge by ‘bottoming out’ the real issues and identifying which elements need the most focus when it comes to the development of solutions in the coming year.

Once a challenge is launched there is no set time limit for innovators to respond in, however, all responses to industry challenges are reviewed and shortlisted by the EIC, taking into consideration partner needs.

The EIC has launched a huge number of formal industry challenges over the years. Recent examples of challenges have included a move to reduce electricity costs and improve supply resilience in the pumping of water; a search for ways to prevent gas theft, and new ways of detecting underground energy network supply lines.

Creating a roadmap for change

Industry challenges are vital when it comes to shaping the utility sector of the future – one that can steer the sector towards providing cleaner energy whilst also consuming it responsibly too.

The Utility Week Live Online webinar will offer delegates an opportunity to meet the people tasked with creating the strategies, finding the solutions and making the investments needed to shape the future of logistics and transport within the sector. The EIC and its panel of speakers will welcome questions from delegates all of which will help to shape the resulting industry challenge in the coming months.

You can sign up to the EIC virtual session taking place on Wednesday 25 November at 2pm here.

To be one of the first to hear about the new industry challenge when it is published via EIC’s innovation community please register your details here.