A sustainable energy future requires building and transportation innovation, but new technologies aren’t worth much without attention to social acceptance, economic integration and entrepreneurship. That was the angle taken throughout the second annual Swiss-US Energy Innovation Days this week in Zurich.
Around 300 experts from both nations attended the event, which was focused on the theme of Integrated Building Systems.
“After two days of intensive discussions, I am surprised by how close our views are on the challenges we are facing, and also on the opportunities,” said Peter Richner, deputy director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) and chair of the conference workshop on Energy Technologies.
During the three-day event, workshops were complemented by excursions to research facilities, including the EMPA campus at Dübendorf, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, IBM Rüschlikon and the traffic-free municipality of Suurstoffi in Rotkreuz.
Risk and reward
Nick Nigro from the Atlas Public Policy in Washington, DC chaired the workshop on Mobility. He said in a statement that Switzerland and the US had complementary strengths when it came to innovations in transportation.
“Here in Switzerland there is fantastic infrastructure that is strong in terms of rail and other forms of mobility outside of cars. But unfortunately there isn’t really a culture of innovation that encourages trying new modes of transportation. On the other hand in the US we do have that culture of innovation…but we don’t have that really strong infrastructure.”
Linda Looft from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, led the workshop on Society and Economics. She said in a statement that in addition to innovation, a change of language was key to changing behaviour.
“Public policies are often perceived as punishment; it is really important for us to think about how we can present rewards for people as opposed to punishment, and about how people are more likely to change their behaviour – and to want to be entrepreneurial – when it comes to technologies that impact energy if they know there will be a reward as opposed to a taxation.”
On Friday morning, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences hosted a closing session featuring talks from Federal Office of Energy director Walter Steinmann, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) director Alicia Barton, Google Switzerland director Patrick Warnking, ETH Zurich president Lino Guzzella and Swissnex Boston consul Felix Moesner.
Energy Innovation Days
The Swiss-US Energy Innovation Days, which were first held last year in Boston, are co-organised by Swissnex Boston, the Federal Office of Energy, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.end of infobox