Our journey together: from Solar Impulse to 1000 labeled solutions
1000 solutions ready to tackle environmental challenges
Solvay, a proud partner of the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions created by the Solar Impulse Foundation, celebrates the Foundation’s milestone achieved today: 1000 solutions ready to tackle environmental challenges. Richard Thommeret, Solvay’s Science & Innovation Communication Director, in charge of the partnership and member of the Alliance’s strategic committee, played a pivotal role in the solutions being labelled, not just identified, in order to increase the positive impact of the Alliance. Today, he tells us more about Solvay’s work with the Alliance over the last years, how we were able to overcome challenges, and what this experience has been like for Solvay’s teams.
First of all, what are “Efficient Solutions”?
The Solar Impulse Alliance wants to identify solutions everywhere around the world and in every field of activity that help to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities or Responsible Consumption and Production, while being profitable business-wise. Solutions that meet the required criteria and are labelled as an Efficient Solution become part of the Alliance’s portfolio. The ultimate objective is to bridge the gap between ecology and economy.
What is the biggest challenge we had to face in creating one of our 12 solutions?
The challenges we faced were in lightweighting and polymers. It took a 12-year partnership with Solar Impulse
but we did it. The Solar Impulse team first went to plane manufacturers and they said, “what you are trying to accomplish is “impossible!””. When they came to Solvay, the first and the second fluorine polymer solutions we provided were turned down by the foundation because they weren’t light enough. So we changed our mindset and thought about how we can do things differently. We went out of our comfort zone, built a new team of talents with diverse thoughts over a few months, and designed a polymer film so light - four times thinner than a hair strand! We developed something new that didn’t exist before. Our lesson: let’s keep raising the bar, because we’re never really done, and let’s keep asking the right questions. The combination of talent, our science and expertise, and approach is what allowed us to take a step forward in creating the solutions that tackle environmental challenges today for a better tomorrow.
What role do you think collaboration - bonding, played in our partnership to create the innovations that can solve world challenges?
Alone, we can go faster but together, we go further. Solving the world’s challenges isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation; we’re going to need a multitude of innovative solutions of all sorts, local and global, large and small. Everyone must be able to participate. Also, being a part of the Alliance, we reinforce our commitment aligned with our core values - creating shared sustainable value for all. Furthermore, it’s integral to our Purpose. And of course, getting labelled, and knowing that we can contribute to solving challenges our planet faces, is a great booster for teams: they feel recognized and rewarded for their work; it’s a source of motivation and pride for us all.
What was the main reason Solvay signed a partnership with the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions?
First and foremost, such a partnership is aligned with our Solvay One Planet sustainability ambition, and more importantly, our Purpose - bonding people, ideas and elements to reinvent progress. We were Solar Impulse’s first technological partner from the very beginning, back in 2004, so it made perfect sense for us to continue working with the Solar Impulse Alliance on the Efficient Solutions project. Providing lightweighting solutions for the SI plane to fly, to keep its energy - this gave the motivation and the sense of purpose for our people to challenge themselves and develop solutions. We made the impossible possible and we wanted to work together and go further, impacting the world of tomorrow.
In three words, can you describe what the experience has been like for our people
There are three words that come to mind: Energizing, family, sharing.
12 profitable solutions
Together we develop efficient solutions to fight climate change
1000+ Solution Milestone
Making the impossible possible together with Solar Impulse Foundation