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Innovation shows the way to the 1.5-degree target

The business community has drawn up roadmaps for a fossil fuel-free future, but what should actually be done in practical terms to achieve the 1.5 degree target? To help the industry move from theory to practice, RISE has conducted an analysis of the roadmaps, through which one area in particular was identified where much remains to be done.

In order to achieve both the 1.5 degree target in the Paris Agreement and maintain Swedish welfare, twenty-two Swedish industries have developed roadmaps for fossil fuel-free competitiveness. The plans describe opportunities, identify obstacles and contain proposals for solutions, but can they really take us all the way to the target? To answer this question, RISE decided to assess the roadmaps by means of a GAP analysis.

– “It is definitely not about pointing out flaws in the plans, rather, it’s about emphasising the opportunities,” says Ann-Charlotte Mellquist, Senior Researcher in the Sustainable Business unit at RISE.

– “If we are to reach the 1.5 degree target and create a climate-neutral industry, we must work with innovation. This will be a way of demonstrating areas where we see further ways to move forwards, so that we can maintain the energy and forward momentum in work.”

Two-part analysis

For this work, RISE has employed so-called climate innovation analysis and, on the basis of it, divided the measures in the roadmaps into two different areas: measures classified as production-oriented strategies, and measures classified as consumption-oriented strategies.

– “The production part, for example, is about what types of energy you use, what raw materials are included in the products, and how production processes are structured,” says Kersti Karltorp, Researcher at RISE. “In general, our analysis shows that this constitutes a very large part of the focus in the roadmaps.”

Making production more sustainable is certainly necessary, but, in order to achieve a fossil fuel-free society, these types of measures are not enough. Consumption must also be addressed.

– “Consumption-oriented strategies focus on the business model itself, i.e. what is being sold and how consumers use those products and services,” explains Mellquist. “Although the roadmaps are generally very ambitious, we see in our analyses that there are fewer proposals for specific measures in terms of consumption than there are for production.”

If you don’t want to fall behind – it’s imperative to have the courage to start looking at both production and business models right now

Increased use of space provides opportunities

One such example is the roadmap for the construction sector, which was the first roadmap that RISE analysed. The roadmap focuses heavily on technological innovation, which is evidently important, but it could be complemented by a much greater focus on innovation relating to consumption.

– “For instance, we could look more at the utilisation rate of existing floor space,” says Karltorp. “There is a great need for housing in Sweden, but instead of building new and consuming resources, we can investigate how we can make better use of floor space that already exists and what business opportunities can be identified in relation to this.”

Technology progression has come further

This kind of transition can be somewhat simpler than technological transition because it is not as reliant on policy decisions or lengthy technology development processes. Nevertheless, RISE’s analysis shows that the current transition in terms of technology has progressed much further than when it comes to transition in organisations and business models.

– “These can be sensitive processes since not everyone feels that they can gain from it,” says Mellquist. “But what you have to understand is that change is coming and – if you don’t want to fall behind – it’s imperative to have the courage to start looking at both production and business models right now.” 

Great interest from industry

So far, there has been great interest from industry in RISE’s analyses and the innovation opportunities they show.

– “But our mission doesn’t end with the analysis,” says Mellquist. “We have generalists and industry specialists working with us that can join forces and help industries as well as individual companies to identify their opportunities for innovation, whether it is through long research projects or shorter contract projects.”

Moreover, Mellquist also believes that there is much to be gained from enlisting the help of an external partner in work on climate innovation:

– “What we see in the analysis is, above all, a need to turn away from ‘business as usual’. It is difficult when you are in day-to-day operations where you have to deliver on a daily basis, but we can come in as a neutral party, employ a system perspective, and serve as a sounding board in order to recognise the opportunities that the change actually offers.”

Published: 2021-08-31
Ann-Charlotte Mellquist

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Ann-Charlotte Mellquist

Senior Researcher

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