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Net zero innovation: Exploring technology pathways towards net zero

Posted 19 Jun 2024

London Tech Week 2024 kicked off with an insightful event, ‘Deep Tech: Powering UK Growth,’ hosted at Digital Catapult London HQ in partnership with Odgers Berndtson. Industry experts, thought leaders, and peers gathered to share and gain actionable insights and strategies for driving change in UK business, with a particular focus on net zero innovation.

Deep Tech: Powering UK Growth: 10 June 2024 (Image by Kirsten Holst)

Top three takeaways from the net zero innovation panel discussion


1. Progress towards net zero is increasingly reliant on technology as a key enabler 

With 60% of the event attendees viewing advanced technology as critical to achieve a sustainable position for their organisation, the stage was set for an in depth exploration of the crossovers between artificial intelligence (AI), innovation and sustainability.

One of the topics explored how AI can significantly contribute to environmental efforts. Ai Dash, for example, is a software that monitors and reports on vegetation growth and helps organisations like National Grid identify where vegetation cutting needs to occur, which is one of the largest time and cost consuming elements to maintenance.

Advanced technology has also enabled the wind farm industry to optimise resource allocation and operate efficiently. AI systems can analyse data to predict turbine failures, summarise maintenance manuals and schedule repairs.

Challenges identified during the discussion were the scale and speed required to achieve net zero: this is where advanced technology becomes indispensable. 

Deep Tech: Powering UK Growth: 10 June 2024 (Image by Kirsten Holst)

2. Breaking down silos through increased interoperability 

There is still room for improvement when it comes to cross industry collaboration and the need to open the ecosystem to allow for innovation.

Jacqui Ferguson stressed the need to share learnings, developments and data so businesses within similar industries can move towards net zero and innovate alongside each other. Gatekeeping of data is preventing the speed of progress that is required to reach net zero, but fair principles should be used across industry to allow for data to be interoperable and usable.

Deepak Ravindran, CEO at Kraken Utilities, Octopus Energy Group, discussed the collaborative business model at Octopus Energy. It began as an electricity retailer, and has now expanded to include Octopus EV, the fastest-growing electric vehicle (EV) leasing business in the UK. It has also collaborated with developers on the Zero Bills initiative ​to create homes that optimise solar panels and batteries, making them almost self-sufficient for the next 5 to 10 years. This innovation helps improve supply chains and supports Octopus Energy’s sustainability goals.

3. Tinder for wind plays matchmaker for local communities  

Panellists emphasised viewing sustainability as an opportunity rather than simply a compliance requirement. By matching business opportunities with sustainability goals, companies can not only benefit the planet but also drive innovation and create value for stakeholders.

Deepak Ravindran highlighted the use of software to engage audiences in making positive, sustainable changes, sharing an example of Octopus Energy’s Winder platform. This tech platform matches available land with community support, grid capacity, and wind data, and has been dubbed ‘Tinder for Wind.’ The app identified 2.3 GW of potential new British onshore wind energy, enough to provide homegrown, cheap, green energy for 1.85 million homes. By innovating and gamifying this software, Octopus Energy engages its audience in the mission and facilitates significant advances in net zero transitions. Additionally, Octopus has a programme that awards points to customers who use less energy, therefore increasing brand affinity while promoting sustainability. The company is not investing billions in these initiatives but is instead prioritising innovation with the resources it has.

Deep Tech: Powering UK Growth: 10 June 2024 (Image by Kirsten Holst)

Find out more about Digital Catapult’s work helping businesses transition to net zero

The UK is committed to reaching net zero by 2050, meaning the total greenhouse gas emissions will be equal to the emissions removed from the atmosphere. Digital Catapult is supporting businesses transition to net zero by fostering ecosystems of innovators and industry experts and supporting the drive to adopt advanced technologies.

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Digital Catapult assists UK businesses in the development of solutions that help to reduce emissions across the food supply chain, use innovative AI technologies for decarbonisation applications and support the regulation of carbon accounting.


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