The next wave of innovation must bring together different fields of activity - a nexus of technology

Pooran Desai

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at the launch of the latest UN report on the subject last week.

Impacts are already being felt from global falls in crop yields to increasing frequency of extreme weather events. It brings back the memories of our own floods in southern England early this year.

Obviously we are not doing nearly enough to square up to the challenge. Green technologies are being developed at a fantastic rate at the moment but are these technologies supporting the deeper cultural shifts that are needed?

“Cleantech is not enough. We have to be more integrative.” So says Nicholas Parker who coined the term ‘cleantech’, co-founded the Cleantech Group (whose members own assets valued at over $3 trillion) and who has just recently left Cleantech Group as chairman after a 12-year stint.

Nicholas is an old friend of mine with an amazing ability to sniff out concepts that will unlock investment. For example, he was one of the first to steer investment into a car share pioneer sold last year to Avis for $500m.

Can we find some way to align the technologies in such as a way as to support health and wellbeing, for ourselves and our planet?

In the early 1990s, as a venture capitalist committed to the environmental cause, he smelt the need to reposition green technology away from a marginal, ‘alternative’ sector to a place where it could unlock ‘mainstream’ investment. Part of unlocking this investment meant re-branding. Green was dropped and Cleantech was the term he coined.

But like many of the environmentalists my generation, we are not happy with the way things have panned out. The language of sustainable development and cleantech has been adopted by governments and the corporate world without - bar a few notable exceptions - a deep commitment to solving the underlying issues.

Environmental problems loom larger than ever. Arguably we have hardly even started to address them. Something important is missing.

“A greener and cleaner economy is not enough. By necessity we have to compartmentalise and segment - but the real world has to be more integrative,” says Parker.

“The next wave of innovation which we are experiencing is bringing together different fields of activity - a nexus of technology. The web and green technologies for instance to produce the clean web. This is Nextech. Nextech solves more than one challenge.

“Car-sharing have been enabled by the internet and allow us more sustainable forms patterns of mobility. It can even change the shape of our cities.

“It is the same for other forms of collaborative consumption. Ultimately Nextech will then need to be integrated with life. Lifetech is where education, wellness beyond curative healthcare and natural resource management are integrated. If this doesn’t happen, technologies will end up competing for diminishing resources . “

Can we find some way to align the technologies in such as a way as to support health and wellbeing, for ourselves and our planet?

“By the way,” says Parker, “BioRegional’s One Planet Living concept is a great platform on which to launch Nextech and Lifetech solutions.”

Nick has a good a nose so I am pleased with his assessment.

Pooran Desai is co-founder of BioRegional