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5 December 2019

Exploring how startups support sustainability at Slush

Helsinki is home to an annual start-up and entrepreneur’s event that is part tech and innovation conference, part exhibition, and part networking event founded by students at Aalto University. This event, Slush, is now in its eleventh year and gathers many of the leading players in the business and technology worlds together in late November every year. Sustainability has been a central theme at Slush for several years running, with speakers such as former US Vice-President and climate activist Al Gore opening the event a few years ago. The Alliance sees the event as a rich base for exploring the evolving approaches to sustainable development and the evolving responses to climate change. This year’s Slush offered not only two days of worthwhile talks, seminars, and networking opportunities during the event itself, but an opportunity to engage with the building and property sector at a dedicated side-event highlighting the leading edge of the industry, Recotech.

A presentation from the WWF set the stage for the day at Recotech with a clear sign of how crucial buildings are in cutting emissions, not only in respect of the 40% share of emissions they account for but in the vast room for improvement in terms of energy efficiency, which is currently a mere 25%. Recotech brought a wealth of perspectives on the technological and digital solutions available to the construction and property management industries to both reduce their existing climate impact as well as integrate sustainable planning tools into the planning of new buildings. These included insights on the digital planning tools used to improve the sustainability of new construction, the utilization of advanced, natural materials, and the integration of advanced, smart management features designed to cut down on the amount of energy buildings use.

These insights from Recotech will feed the Alliance’s strategy process as we plan the coming year’s activity in the Green Building focus area. The Alliance also explored the opportunities available in the transport industry, surveying the potential in technologies and services for road transport as well as technologies which move the discussion into the air, including short distance, electric passenger transport as well as logistics solutions which reduce the need for trucks. Read more about the transport field over at the Nordic Urban Mobility Ecosystem’s website where the WALCC-orchestrated ecosystem has explored this industry in detail. The Alliance is engaging with members of NUME in planning its activity for 2020 related to transport and mobility.

The Renewable Resources focus area was also strongly represented at Slush, with industry leaders such as Alliance member Fortum featured on the exhibition floor. In addition to established players, the startup community offers a variety of approaches in areas of growing significance such as carbon capture technology as well as spurring the growth of existing fields like renewable energy.

A cross-cutting point of consensus, nevertheless, was the growing role of cities in the advancing of sustainable development. This point was underscored in both Recotech and Slush, covering industries as disparate as the property and transport fields where regulatory authorities are necessary in setting the frameworks and legislative strictures, but cities must realize the development. The Alliance will continue to work at the intersection between cities and companies and the support of the research sector in advancing its vision for a sustainable world.