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Acceptance speech: POWERING THE FUTURE WE WANT by Alexandra Bech Gjørv, CEO SINTEF

Acceptance speech: POWERING THE FUTURE WE WANT by Alexandra Bech Gjørv, CEO SINTEF

Your excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

We are deeply honoured that the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has selected SINTEF as the recipient of this year's "Powering the Future we want" – energy for sustainable mobility - grant.
Thank you very much!

And congratulations to all the other nominees – it is truly an impressive panel.

As the CEO of SINTEF, I have the privilege to work – every day - with incredibly talented researchers from more than 70 nationalities. Almost a small United Nations...

Our researchers come from all over the world, to work in a small country – sometimes dark and cold - at the outskirts of Europe. I believe what motivates them is what motivates me: SINTEF vision. "Technology for a better society".

And what is at the core of that vision?
I believe you have best described it yourself, Mr. Secretary-General:
"Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability" – the key ingredients of a "better society"

This Award really is for my SINTEF colleagues. For their daily dedication, perseverance and commitment to science and research for our vision.

Moez Jomâa, who is with me here today, is a great example. A scientist who works as a solar silicone expert in our Materials and Chemistry institute. He has inspired his Norwegian colleagues in SINTEF Ocean and SINTEF Energy to cooperate in developing a cross disciplinary project for a solar powered ferry in his homeland, Tunisia.

Hopefully, our project will be setting an example, inspiring a development that will make a meaningful contribution to combatting climate change, and using ships to make transportation efficient, safe and affordable to the billions of people living in coastal areas around the globe.

The project is drawing on SINTEF's long term, and extensive research projects to make renewable energy, batteries, grid operations and sea borne mobility more cost effective – and competitive - compared to well established technologies based on fossil fuel.

SINTEF is an independent, not-for-profit, applied research foundation, based in Norway. We were spun out from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology – NTNU – more than 65 years ago. Since then, we have grown to an organisation of 2000 employees, working across a wide array of technologies and sectors of society. NTNU is still our most important research partner.

SINTEFs hallmark (probably because of our very low base funding) has always been to direct our research ambitions into the "triple helix" space – a close involvement with industry partners and with governments, for high impact research, focusing on industrial development to tackle societal challenges.

While most of SINTEFs research work is with Norwegian partners or part of the research programmes of the European Union, we also have significant involvement in technology transfer and the promotion of sustainable technologies in the developing world. This includes health and welfare projects in Africa, clean water projects in Africa and Asia, and climate gas reduction projects in the cement industry in India, China and Myanmar. In all these projects, national and local governments and institutions play a critical role. And a key challenge is always to draw on research developed in one part of the world, and adapt the solutions both to the physical, but not least to the economic conditions of the host country.

Hence, this Award is also for our project partners; Ecole Nationale d'Ingenieur de Tunis, Regional Environmental Center in Hungary, European Centre for Women and Technology and, in particular, the Tunisian Agency for Energy Conservation (ANME). ANME has the mission to promote the Tunisian Solar Plan aiming to achieve the target of 30 % solar in the electricity mix by 2030. SINTEF is standing together with ANME in order to build competences and capacities required to tackle not only the technological, but also the legal and financial bottlenecks hindering the development of this plan.

And finally:
This is the first "Powering the future we want"- award given out after the COP 21. This historic conference where, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the UN and the Secretary General, the countries of the world managed to unite around the Paris Agreement to save our climate.
In that sense, this Award is – fundamentally - for humanity. We really need to get our act together – and I am somewhat of an optimist.

While there are some political clouds on the horizon, our day-to-day experience in SINTEF is that the Paris Agreement, curiously combined with the strong wave of interest in digital technology, has given a new push for disruptive, new thinking around resource use, energy efficiency and climate change.

Electricity and transportation stands for more than half of the world's climate gas emissions, and deserve the world's strong attention. Sustainable transport requires new technologies for cars, buses, ferries, trains, planes, fuel infrastructure and energy storage. Unless transport in the future is fuelled by renewable energy, such as solar power, it will be difficult to achieve a sufficient reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, especially in urban areas, which are already built around cars.

SINTEF's home country, Norway, is an energy nation and a maritime nation. We see this recognition by the United Nations of SINTEF's role in sustainable development as a reflection of our starting point.

Thanks to Norway's multiple mountains, with waterfalls and winds, we are used to getting 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy. We are pushing hard on our mathematic models and our laboratories to ensure the safe and efficient integration of more and more variable, renewable energy into the power grid across Europe. And Norway is taking steps to electrify society. By today, Norway has the highest electric vehicle concentration in the world! 5% of all cars are electric or plug-in hybrids and 28% of all new car sales are electric or plug-in hybrids.

From the hydropower, we have also developed a strong Norwegian science and industry base, turning that clean natural resource into valuable industrial products, such as solar cell silicone, in a sustainable way. Hence our northern country is playing some part in the phenomenal opportunity that clean solar energy represents for the world.

The Tunisian ferry project combines SINTEF's energy capabilities with the other area where we see Norway and SINTEF really making a contribution that matters on a global scale; harnessing the opportunities of the oceans in a sustainable way.

A climate friendly future will have to involve a much higher proportion of food, energy and materials coming from the sea than today. It will also, most likely, involve a higher portion of goods and passenger transportation moving on ships; reducing congestion and costs of infrastructure in coastal areas.

We think the ships will gradually be powered by electricity, and be designed for autonomous operations - not needing crew - thereby reducing operational costs and enabling much more energy efficient ship design and the use of ships in sustainable, small and large scale transportation.

Jaques Cousteau once said: "The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat."

And, in climate change terms, we sure are – in New York, in Norway and in Tunisia.

Jaques Cousteau was of course a great explorer. Working with research is also by its nature explorative. It is most exciting when you discover something unexpected!

Recently, SINTEF put an electric engine into a small local fishing boat. What was the biggest change for the fisherman? The peace and quiet out at sea! The much stronger ability to sense the ocean and the life within it. A surprisingly big change of experience, he said – the full consequences yet to be understood.

Well, I am really eager to get that solar ship demonstration under way in Tunisia, and study it in operation to see what we can learn for a sustainable future.

On behalf of SINTEF, thank you to the United Nations for your eternal commitment to sustainability. And thank you again to UN-DESA for this magnificent award, and for recognizing the role of a research institution in delivering the ingredients of sustainable mobility!