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Rolls-Royce champions energy transition at Farnborough

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Warren East is stepping down after more than seven years as chief executive of British engine maker Rolls-Royce
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British aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce is “championing” the energy transition and the decarbonisation of aviation, its outgoing chief executive Warren East told AFP on Tuesday at the Farnborough airshow.

This year’s Farnborough spectacle, returning from a four-year absence, is set against the backdrop of air travel’s nascent post-pandemic recovery but as economic turmoil hampers manufacturing.

Yet the airshow’s focus is on decarbonisation and sustainability in a sector often criticised for its impact on the climate, amid Europe’s blistering heatwave with record temperatures in England.

– Energy transition –

“The big theme is energy transition,” East told AFP in an interview at the company’s airshow chalet.

“This is the number one issue for the sector. We’ve been championing that for some time — and saying it’s absolutely necessary and we embrace that as an opportunity.”

East, 60, is retiring after more than seven years at the helm of the aerospace behemoth, with his tenure marked by historic corruption fines for the group, Trent engine troubles and Brexit.

Rolls, whose products power Airbus and Boeing aircraft, then axed 9,000 jobs and offloaded assets in a drastic restructuring after the Covid pandemic grounded jets and sparked a collapse air traffic.

East then guided it back to profit in 2021 from Covid-driven losses after slashing costs.

The titan, based in the city of Derby in central England, is now reaping the benefits of aviation’s post-Covid recovery, defence growth, a record power systems order book — and a long-standing focus on sustainability.

“I’m quite pleased with my time at Rolls-Royce,” added East, who took the reins in July 2015.

“We’ve really sort of modernised Rolls Royce in terms of culture.

“We’ve put in place a lot of efficiency and productivity improvements, which then crystallised during the Covid pandemic.

“And that’s created a very firm platform for the future (with) great operational and financial gearing now.”

– Cleaner fuel –

Aviation accounts for between 2-3 percent of the world’s total damaging carbon dioxide emissions, according to industry estimates.

Airlines and manufacturers alike have meanwhile committed to achieving net zero emissions — or carbon neutrality — by 2050.

Yet global air traffic is forecast to more than double by that point.

Rolls-Royce, which specialises in engines for long-haul aircraft, military jets and helicopters, is as a result ramping up its research into a wide range of technologies including electric and hydrogen power.

At the first Farnborough airshow since Covid, Rolls-Royce has announced a partnership, named H2ZERO, with British low-cost carrier Easyjet to test cleaner hydrogen engine combustion technology. 

Rolls also signed a deal with South Korea’s Hyundai to explore all-electric propulsion and hydrogen fuel cell technology for flying taxis of the future.

The company in addition unveiled a new research programme on hydrogen propulsion technology that emits no carbon dioxide.

Rolls is meanwhile working to develop a fuel-efficient future engine named UltraFan, which emits less damaging pollutants.

UltraFan aims for 25 percent fuel savings  compared with traditional long-haul engine.

“We are a group that is very focused on power and we do power across multiple sectors and one of the sectors in which we obviously have decades of experience in is aviation and aerospace,” said East.

– Cost –

The CEO cautioned however that it would take “decades” before hydrogen was deployed in aircraft engines.

The global aerospace industry would meanwhile need to harness technology such as sustainable aviation fuels derived from biomass, in order to curb its reliance on high-polluting kerosene.

SAF is however between three and four times more expensive than normal jet fuel. 

“I think as we go forward — maybe we’ll get to hydrogen in a gas turbine — but we’re not going to get there for at least a couple of decades,” East told AFP.

“There is a huge amount of work to do to make that practical, safe and economic and we need to have some transition technologies in the meantime and that’s why we talk about sustainable aviation fuel.”

He added: “Essentially, we’re just saying instead of kerosene we’ve got batteries, hydrogen, and synthetic kerosene.”

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Using innovation and technology for climate change-related challenges

How will tech consumers respond to challenges created by climate change? Ericsson’s report reveals ten trends that show increased reliance on digital innovation.

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Responding to the challenges caused by changes to our climate, people are increasingly turning to technology and innovation for solutions.  

Ericsson’s recent report, 10 Hot Consumer Trends: Life in a Climate-Impacted Future, released on January 16, 2023, shows how consumers are impacted and how they’re responding. 

The report covers ten emerging trends along with statistics, revealing how technology use is shifting because of climate change. 

The Overall Picture

Despite societal changes expected to take place in the next decade, people will continue to go to school, earn incomes, take care of loved ones, and find time to fit in some fun. Increasingly, they will rely on connected digital devices to adapt to coming changes while trying to maintain normalcy in their daily lives.   

Key Statistics

Consulting with 15,145 early adopters of digital assistants, VR (virtual reality), and AR (augmented reality) technology across 30 cities worldwide, Ericsson uncovered these statistics. 

  • 59% believe technological innovation is necessary to solve coming challenges
  • 63% worry about higher costs of living
  • 54% feel global warming will directly impact their day-to-day lives
  • 68% would plan their days based on reducing energy costs
  • 45% would use personalized weather warning systems
  • 72% believe AI will help plan commutes and work tasks to reduce carbon footprints
  • 46% plan to capture clean rainwater with smart water catchers 
  • 65% see energy becoming a form of currency
  • 73% envision using AR glasses to go on virtual trips 

Ten Trends

One: Cutting Costs

As prices for daily necessities rise, consumers will use digital services to cut costs. Personal electricity consumption monitors will help reduce household energy consumption. Digital recipe assistants will monitor food prices and suggest balanced, economical meals. 

Two: Relying on the Internet

Demand for Internet reliance will grow to stay connected with family, friends, school, and work. Consumers will expect secure communications services. The Internet will become vital for accessing information during weather events. 

Three: Optimizing Schedules

Energy availability – not time – will be considered to optimize activity schedules. Energy costs will be prioritized over time efficiency. 

Four: Depending on AI

Using AI for increased safety will become commonplace, with people turning to AI for real-time advice in extreme weather. AI services will be used for green technology investing for financial security. 

Five: Changing Work Routines

Working from home at least part-time will continue, with digital services used to schedule workdays. Flex schedules can distribute energy use across regions to avoid sharp peaks of electricity consumption. 

Six: Using Smart Water Services

To prevent water scarcity and reduce costs, intelligent water catchers on roofs and balconies will capture clean rainwater. Built-in sensors at home will monitor water consumption. 

Seven: Turning Energy into Currency

Consumers will switch to renewable energy sources, and power-saving technologies will grow in demand. Early adopters see opportunities to make money by generating their own electricity. 

Eight: Shopping Digitally

Buying digital products will increase while buying physical goods will decrease. Hobbies, toys, games, and pastimes will go online. AI that questions unnecessary purchases will be used. 

Nine: Travelling Virtually

VR will be used to travel without leaving home. Realistic nature experiences of hiking in a forest or rowing on a lake can be recreated in living rooms.

Ten: Protecting Against Cheaters

Some consumers will try to bypass environmental restrictions by hacking the system and tapping into neighbors’ reserves. People will need to secure their water and electricity supplies to protect themselves from being hacked. 

Read Ericsson’s full report

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OpenAI, creator of ChatGPT, casts spell on Microsoft

OpenAI is the topic of conversation across multiple industries, and Microsoft is betting big on it.

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Greg Brockman, co-founder and chairman of OpenAI, says that a paid version of ChatGPT is in the works
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The hottest startup in Silicon Valley right now is OpenAI, the Microsoft-backed developer of ChatGPT, a much-hyped chatbot that can write a poem, college essay or even a line of software code.

Tesla tycoon Elon Musk was an early investor in OpenAI and Microsoft is reported to be in talks to up an initial investment of $1 billion to $10 billion in a goal to challenge Google’s world-dominating search engine.

If agreed, the cash injection by the Windows-maker would value OpenAI at a whopping $29 billion, making it a rare tech-world success when major players such as Amazon, Meta and Twitter are cutting costs and laying off staff.

“Microsoft is clearly being aggressive on this front and not going to be left behind on what could be a potential game-changing AI investment,” said analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities.

Before the release of ChatGPT, OpenAI had wowed tech geeks with Dall-E 2, a software that creates digital images with a simple instruction.

Microsoft, which makes no secret of its AI ambitions, has integrated Dall-E 2 into several of its applications and now, according to a report in Bloomberg, the tech giant wants to graft ChatGPT to its Bing search engine to take on Google.

Since ChatGPT was introduced in November, the prowess of this chatbot has aroused the curiosity and fascination of internet users.

It is capable of formulating detailed and human-like answers on a wide range of subjects in a few seconds, raising fears that it is vulnerable to misuse by school cheats or for disinformation.

‘Not cheap’

The dizzying success is due in part to OpenAI’s clever marketing strategy in which it made its research accessible to non-experts, said AI specialist Robb Wilson, founder of OneReach.ai, a software company.

“Having this technology available to technologists was one thing. Offering it in a chat user interface and allowing non-developers to start playing with it ignited a conversation,” he said.

Founded in late 2015, OpenAI is led by Sam Altman, a 37-year-old entrepreneur and former president of startup incubator Y Combinator.

The company has counted on the financial support of prestigious contributors from the start, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, investor Peter Thiel and Musk.

The multi-billionaire served on OpenAI’s board until 2018, but left to focus on Tesla, the electric vehicle company.

The startup also relies on a team of computer scientists and researchers led by Ilya Sutskever, a former Google executive who specializes in machine learning.

OpenAI, which did not respond to AFP’s inquiries, had about 200 employees by 2021, according to a query made directly on ChatGPT.

For now, despite the excitement generated by ChatGPT, the company has yet to find a path to financial independence.

Founded as a nonprofit, the startup became a “capped for-profit” company in 2019 to attract more investors and this week co-founder Greg Brockman said that a paid version of ChatGPT was in the works.

The search for funding seems necessary for a company with exorbitant expenses.

In a Twitter exchange with Musk in early December, Altman acknowledged that each conversation on ChatGPT costs OpenAI several US cents.

According to estimates by Tom Goldstein, an associate professor in the University of Maryland’s computer science department, the company is shelling out $100,000 a day for its bot, or about $3 million a month.

Partnering with Microsoft, which provides the startup with its remote computing services, could cut costs, but “either way, it’s not cheap,” Goldstein said.

“Some say it’s wasteful to pour these kinds of resources… into a demo,” he added.

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Three stories from Canada’s tech landscape

An event series for Black entrepreneurs, Indigenous innovation, and a Canadian-made, one-of-a-kind EV.

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Calgary
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Ongoing reports of an overall slowdown — including layoffs — in Canada’s tech ecosystem have been happening for much of the latter half of 2022. Funding took a bit of a tumble, amid stock market slumps, inflation, and a looming recession.

That said, there are still plenty of entrepreneurs, tech leaders, and innovators across Canada making serious moves. Here are three such stories.

Celebrating Black founders and tech leaders

Black tech entrepreneurs in Alberta are getting the change to pitch their businesses to investors and connect with fellow founders, thanks to a new events series from Innovate Calgary.

The series, called Black Founders in Tech, started in November out of the University of Calgary’s business incubator, with seven founders making their pitches. Prior to their pitch, participants were matched with a mentor and coach to help with preparation.

As Innovate Calgary’s Jerome Morgan explained to CBC, “We listened to BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of colour] founders, and they said, ‘We want to be celebrated and not just be a corner of the innovation ecosystem.’”

“In [the] industry there aren’t that many colourful faces all in one room and it was pretty cool,” added pitch finalist Sean Hervo. “You could feel the love and energy in there. We were high-fiving and cheering each other on.”

Learn more about the event series from CBC

Canada’s first Indigenous-owned bioenergy facility

NorSask Forest Products, a bioenergy plant owned by The Meadow Lake Tribal Council (comprising nine First Nations in northwestern Saskatchewan), is turning wood waste into heat and power.

After 50 years of the sawmill burning its wood waste — a practice that has largely been abandoned or banned in most of the country — the bioenergy centre works in a closed-loop system. As Tina Rasmussen, chief business officer for MLTC and a member of the Flying Dust First Nation explained to CBC, such a system allows for the use of 100% of the tree. Air pollution control devices help remove particulates and break down pollutants into ash. 

The facility generates 8.3 megawatts of power, able to power approximately 5,000 homes. 

Dig deeper into the story from CBC

Showcasing Canada’s EV and manufacturing potential at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the biggest tech events in the world, and a unique piece of Canadian tech was on showcase.
Project Arrow is a concept vehicle by The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association of Canada. It’s made of materials from 50 Canadian parts suppliers, built to show the auto sector’s ability to manufacture EVs and to answer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call for zero-emissions by 2050. The Arrow is the first original, full-build, zero-emission concept vehicle.

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