decarbonize shipping

Decarbonizing the EU’s inland shipping sector

European policymakers are working to shift the transport of cargo and goods from roads to inland waterways by stimulating investment in battery- and fuel-cell-powered ships. A number of EU-funded projects in this sector aim to decarbonize the logistics and shipping sector while also strengthening technological innovation in advanced energy solutions.

Barges are one of the oldest modes of mobility and transport. In Europe, they have been used for thousands of years to deliver goods via the continent’s many interconnected rivers and inland waterways. They are also the most climate-friendly means of cargo handling: One ship carrying 3’000 tonnes of goods is equivalent to 50 railway cars or 100 trucks, but causes significantly less carbon emissions. Investment in inland waterway transport (IWT) is a priority for the EU as well as many member states. Germany alone – a central hub for the continent’s network of rivers and channels – has earmarked €24.5 billion for investment in waterways and associated infrastructures.

Nevertheless, there is still scope for improving the climate footprint of cargo shipping, both inland and oceangoing. According to a study by the International Maritime Organization, the global maritime transport sector accounts for 940 million tonnes of CO2 or about 2.5 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. Notably, the shipping and transportation business is the only sector that has higher GHG emissions now than in 1990.

Investment in cargo vessels and infrastructure

decarbonize shipping

Both the Green New Deal and the European Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy reflect the EU’s desire not only to promote the use of inland waterways and short-range ocean shipping, but also to digitalize this mode of transport and make it both greener and more resilient. In June 2021, the Commission proposed the NAIADES III action plan. Its main purpose is to shift more cargo from highways to Europe’s 41’000-kilometer network of canals and rivers, which today only convey 6 percent of freight in the EU’s 25 member states.

European governments aim to increase inland waterway transport and short-sea shipping by 25 percent by 2030, and by 50 percent by 2050.

One pillar of this strategy will be a complete switch to zero-emission barges by 2050. Research and development efforts are therefore underway to decarbonize ships and barges by replacing their diesel engines with electric or hydrogen-powered (hybrid) propulsion systems. This would not only contribute to achieving climate goals, but also help to future-proof a sector that consists mainly of small and medium enterprises. The IWT sector suffered a 70 percent reduction in passenger transport and lost 8 percent of its freight transport business during the COVID-19 crisis, resulting in a loss of about €2.7 billion in turnover in 2020 alone.

Seas of green

However, there are several challenges to overcome in using batteries for container ships and barges. Among these are cost, size, and the need to tailor the power supply to the specific requirements of each vessel individually. This means that some kinds of ships, especially those that serve predictable routes and deliver predictable services, are especially well suited for switching to battery power. Among these are ferries and barges, for which electricity costs and consumption, and thus the economic viability of battery-powered operations, are particularly easy to calculate.

decarbonize shipping

The main problem, though, is that battery technology for maritime applications is simply not yet sufficiently mature to be deployed at scale in the service of the EU’s climate neutrality goal for the shipping sector. This is why the EU, as part of its Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, funded the SEABAT project to develop a fully electric maritime hybrid concept that combines modular high-energy batteries and high-power batteries with novel converter concepts and manufacturing solutions derived from the automotive sector.

The ultimate aim of this project is to arrive at a solution that uses affordable, standardized modular components that can be combined as required for each individual ship. Funded by the EU with €9.5 million, the SEABAT consortium – which includes 20 shipbuilders and integrators – hopes to develop a full-electric maritime hybrid battery concept combining two battery types in a standardized and modular package that can be produced at scale.

Can IWT ride the hydrogen wave?

The second approach to decarbonizing inland cargo shipping is to develop transport vessels running on hydrogen fuel cells that will operate with zero emissions, powered by green hydrogen synthesized from renewable electricity using electrolyzers. To this end, the EU has launched the FLAGSHIPS project, the purpose of which is to design four commercially operated hydrogen fuel cell ships and build two of these as demonstration vessels.

With about €6.7 million in funding, including €5 million contributed by the EU, the project aims to deliver one hydrogen barge that will operate on the River Seine in the center of Paris, and a H2-powered container ship that will carry cargo on the Rhine between the Dutch North Sea of Rotterdam and the inland port of Duisburg, situated in Germany’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr region. Both of these demonstration vessels will include on-board hydrogen storage facilities, which will undergo a safety review before approval. The container ship operating out of Rotterdam will have 1.6 MW of fuel cell power installed.

According to the EU, the vessels developed under the FLAGSHIPS project will be maintained by their owners beyond the 18-month demonstration period, with support already being secured from local end-users and communities. It is hoped that the project will significantly reduce the capital cost of marine fuel cell power systems by leveraging knowhow from existing on-shore and marine system integration activities, while also strengthening European supply chains for hydrogen fuel as well as fuel cell technologies.

Setting course for the energy transition

European efforts to decarbonize inland cargo shipping through projects like NAIADES III, SEABAT, and FLAGSHIPS underscore the community’s determination to leverage the full spectrum of green technologies to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050. By fostering electrification as well as the development of green hydrogen, fuel cells, and related infrastructures, policymakers are further boosting demand for these innovative and sustainable solutions to the challenge of climate change.

With buy-in from the European shipping and shipbuilding industry, the EU can help this key sector of the global economy reduce its carbon footprint while simultaneously encouraging the development of advanced propulsion systems for riverine and oceangoing cargo vessels. Investments in the continent-wide system of canals and waterways will also help to raise the modal share of inland navigation in the overall EU transport sector above the current threshold of 6 percent. At the same time, these measures will further stimulate the growth of a local hydrogen economy and help to wean the continent off its current dependence on fossil fuels.

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Flying car, Dubai, XPeng

Flying Car Successfully Completes First Public Test Flight in Dubai

Flying cars could dramatically change urban transport, freeing up roads and thus making them safer for pedestrians and cyclists and reducing traffic. For those who are still dreaming about replacing the long daily commute with a few minutes of flying, the wait might soon be over. The two-seater flying vehicle made by Chinese company XPeng showed its capabilities by completing its first public test flight at GITEX technology expo in Dubai in mid-October 2022.

With its eight propellers, the XPeng X2 can take off vertically without requiring a runway, which makes it suitable for crowded urban areas. The fully electric car can carry two passengers, and the manufacturer claims it can ascend at a rate of around two meters per second and reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (nearly 130 km/h).

Thanks to AI-powered automation, the car can be steered by a person or fly in auto-pilot mode, as well as learn how to avoid traffic and buildings. Although the maiden flight only lasted 90 seconds, XPeng claims that the only obstacle to making the X2 available to the general public is the lack of a regulatory framework for flying cars.

The company intends to collaborate with governments in designing a physical regulatory infrastructure for flying cars in cities, and predicts that flying cars will be used in just five years, at least in limited, regulated spaces. Along the same line, the Chinese government has announced plans to launch flying taxis by 2025.

Worldwide, a number of other companies are currently working on developing flying cars. These include “BlackFly”, developed by the Canadian firm Opener; “SD-03”, developed by SkyDrive Inc; and “AirCar” from Klein Vision, some of which have already completed their first flights.

The main challenges in launching such vehicles on the market are related to governmental regulations on self-driving cars (or the lack of such legal frameworks), as well as public safety concerns and reluctance on the part of consumers to use them.

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Mining, Electrification of heavy-duty vehicles

RWTH Project to Foster Electrification of Heavy-Duty Mining Vehicles

The mining and resource extraction industry plays a vital role in the modern world as a source of raw materials for various sectors of the global economy. However, its ecological footprint often leaves something to be desired – not just in terms of local ecosystems affected by strip mining and pollution, but also based on the greenhouse gas emissions of its heavy-duty vehicles and machinery. A new initiative at RWTH Aachen, one of Germany’s leading technical universities, aims to promote the electrification of this industry and help it become more sustainable while also remaining competitive.

The ELMAR project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economics, is conducted by two RWTH departments, the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies (AMT) and the Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives (ISEA), with the aim of replacing diesel-powered heavy-duty vehicles in Germany’s domestic extractive industry with battery-operated alternatives. The project began in August 2022 and is scheduled to run until the summer of 2025. The government grant will cover about €6 million out of ELMAR’s overall budget of €11 million.

The project is also backed by a consortium of corporate partners including Volvo Group Trucks Central Europe GmbH, Volvo Construction Equipment Germany GmbH, and Volvo Autonomous Solutions AB (commissioned by VCE Germany GmbH), which will provide electric machinery and vehicles as well as automation solutions. Other consortium members include mining companies operating gypsum, sandstone, and sand quarries and other mineral extraction operations, as well as providers of software, cloud services, and autonomous monitoring systems.

Decarbonizing the extractive industries will require more than just replacing diesel-powered equipment with electric substitutes. The project will consider the challenge holistically, also taking into account how the support infrastructure needs to be adapted, as well as changes to operational processes in an industry that, in Germany, includes around 1,600 companies with 2,700 plants and 23,500 employees in gravel, sand, and natural stone production alone.

Dr. Tobias Hartmann of the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies at RWTH Aachen explained: “Maintaining process reliability in extraction while ensuring security of electrical supply, as well as coupling it to renewable energy sources, we want to demonstrate in representative application scenarios that electrical transport is possible in domestic resource extraction. The holistic approach taking production, energy demand and energy supply aspects into account makes it possible to optimize existing and upcoming operating concepts.”

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Electric Vehicles: A Roadmap for Sustainable Mobility

What will it take to facilitate a global transition to sustainable transport of goods and people? New studies by the International Energy Agency and by Bloomberg New Energy Finance show how this goal can be achieved in a way that is both ecologically and economically viable.

A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds that the global market for electric vehicles (EVs) is growing steeply, driven by strong uptake of battery-powered cars in China and elsewhere, but the 2050 milestone of net-zero carbon emissions is still elusive. Sales of EVs must be complemented by other efforts including more investment in public transportation and policy measures to foster adoption of clean mobility solutions, according to the IEA’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook, published in May 2022.

The EV market has seen a great deal of movement recently, especially in China, where sales of electric cars account for half of global growth in the sector, thanks to low-cost manufacturing and government efforts to reduce fuel consumption. Global indicators confirm this trend: In 2021 alone, sales of EVs doubled to 6.6 million cars. That is four times higher than in 2019 and more than 50 times the number for 2012, when just 120,000 electric cars were purchased worldwide – a decade later, more EVs are sold every week.

electric vehicles sustainable

In 2021, there were 16.5 million EVs in the world, three times as many as in 2018. In the first quarter of 2022, another two million battery-driven cars were sold, for a 75 percent increase over the same period in the previous year.

Many industrialized countries have programs to wean themselves off fossil fuels and expand EV infrastructure, including with US$30 billion in public spending, while car companies are not only offering new EV models (about 450 different ones in 2021, or five times as many as in 2015), but plan to exceed legal electrification targets.

Elusive net-zero target

Despite these promising indicators, stumbling blocks remain. Uneven uptake of electromobility means the net-zero emissions target for 2050 could be missed. In Brazil, India, and Indonesia, according to the IEA’s study, EVs account for less than one half of a percent of all car sales. Much of the recent EV growth has been driven by China, the top manufacturer and seller of electric cars, whose 3.3 million sales in 2021 topped the total number of global EV sales in 2020.

In China, a preference for smaller vehicles as well as lower R&D and manufacturing costs means EVs are just 10 percent more expensive than conventional cars, compared to 50 percent more in other major markets. Nevertheless, in the US and Europe, sales continued to grow by 60 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

More robust policies are needed to foster uptake in countries currently lagging behind. This finding is supported by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF) in its recent Long-Term Electric Vehicle Outlook (EVO): “There is also a widening gap between wealthy and emerging economies on EV adoption. There is a growing risk that the transition is not an equitable one, and that many economies miss out on the benefits of better air quality and new investment.”

Sourcing raw materials

Making car batteries requires a reliable and affordable supply of raw materials. Global supply chains have been disrupted by COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions on one of the world’s main suppliers of many natural resources. These sourcing problems have raised prices for raw materials like cobalt, lithium, and nickel (although research on alternative battery designs is underway).

Between 2021 and May 2022, lithium prices increased sevenfold. Prices of nickel already increased steeply before the pandemic due to supply shortfalls in China, and sanctions against Russia, which supplies 20 percent of the world’s high-purity nickel, have brought more disruptions and higher costs. BloombergNEF anticipates that this trend will continue: “Raw materials supply constraints for batteries also look very tight for the years ahead. This is set to push back the point of EV price parity in some segments but will not derail the global EV market.”

Efficiency standards

EVs can not only mitigate climate change and increase air quality, but also make the global energy system more efficient. An electric motor is about three or four times more efficient than comparable combustion engines. Battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are thus not only cleaner, but also much more economical than conventional designs. Reducing mobility costs could boost global economic recovery and bring down the cost of living.

To ensure that adoption of electric cars, trucks, and buses is accompanied by increasing efficiency standards, China’s government requires recipients of funds under its subsidy scheme for new energy vehicles to meet benchmarks for efficiency and performance. This should support domestic technology innovation and lead to the development of ever more efficient EVs for export. China’s prioritization of longer-range EVs has extended their range by 50 percent in the past six years.

Five ways to boost electric vehicle sales

The IEA’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook proposes five measures for fast-tracking the replacement of combustion engines with electric motors. First, it recommends replacing direct subsidies with budget-neutral “feebate” programs, where inefficient fossil-powered engines are taxed to generate revenue for subsidizing low-emissions vehicles or EVs. Stringent efficiency and emissions standards can accelerate the mobility transition.

electric vehicles sustainable

Zero emission vehicle sales mandates, purchase incentives and CO2 standards can all help speed up the transition

Secondly, heavy-duty electric vehicles such as electric buses and trucks should become more competitive. “Zero emission vehicle sales mandates, purchase incentives and CO2 standards can all help speed up the transition,” the report notes. In some economies, moreover, electric two- and three-wheeled vehicles and urban buses should be prioritized and supported with more charging infrastructure.

Next, political and fiscal measures to expand charging points, smart grids, and other infrastructure must be continued. Policymakers should require home chargers in parking spaces and ensure EV charging readiness in both new and existing buildings. The IEA also recommends coordination between governments to enable power grids to handle additional loads, and to facilitate two-way communication between EVs and grids for optimized charging and pricing, which would stabilize networks rather than creating additional strains.

Future-ready supply chains

Finally, the Global Electric Vehicle Outlook recommends making supply chains more secure, resilient, and sustainable. Extraction and processing of raw materials requires long lead times and timely investments, which have been neglected in the past. “Governments must leverage private investment in sustainable mining of key battery metals and ensure clear and rapid permitting procedures to avoid potential supply bottlenecks,” the authors write.

Recycling and research into alternative solutions requiring less or different critical minerals could reduce demand, and batteries must be appropriately sized to the size of the car. Coordination between producer and consumer countries, sustainable business practices, and knowledge-sharing will strengthen supply chains to achieve environmental and social development goals, paving the way for e-mobility systems that will make net-zero emissions a reality by 2050.

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Five Cities Say Yes to Autonomous Vehicles

Enthusiastically welcomed or subject of huge public controversy, it is by now clear that autonomous vehicles are here to stay. More and more cities are seeing driverless vehicles as a good solution for ensuring better and safer services for their citizens. Here are five cities in the world that have made real progress in adopting autonomous vehicles as part of their transportation network.

PARIS

A driverless passenger shuttle was launched in Paris Ile-de-France in a pilot project running from 31 March 2021 to June 2022. The autonomous public transport line serves passengers traveling from the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines-Montigny-le-Bretonneux train station to several local business parks. The free-of-charge service will operate Monday to Friday from 7.30 am to 8 pm, and the buses will arrive and depart every eight minutes in rush hour and every 17 minutes at off-peak times. In order to comply with current legislation, a human supervisor is present in every bus during the whole operating time.

The multi-modal transportation company Keolis was selected to run the new line with Navya autonomous electric shuttles that can carry 11 seated passengers. The minibuses use vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology to communicate with traffic lights and navigate across busy roads.

MOSCOW

As part of a larger project of modernizing transportation infrastructure in Moscow, the local government has announced plans for a driverless tram network that would link several nodes of the capital. As the legislators are already at work to ensure that the laws and regulations are updated to allow such a system to exist, the driverless trams could be tested in Moscow starting as soon as the end of 2022. Tests will be done at first in depots, during the night, and later on with passengers.

The transportation optimization plans are focused on moving towards autonomous transport, including the use of “robotaxis”. Other forms of Russian transportation could benefit from driverless technologies in the near future. Russian Railways has announced plans to adopt automated control technologies in order to reduce headway, at least on some of their routes.

TORONTO

Toronto’s Municipality approved its Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan as early as 2019, with the main goal of making Toronto “AV Ready” by 2022. The plan consists of several stages, which will include population studies to find out how health might be impacted by the introduction of automated vehicles, as well as research on best practices for AV trials, culminating with a real-life trial on the streets.

The trial is currently taking place in the West Rouge neighborhood. It provides an automated shuttle service with an attendant on board at all times. The quiet and emissions-free AV used in the trial is Olli 2.0, a 3D-printed, electric, self-driving shuttle produced by Local Motors that seats up to eight passengers. Olli drives at a speed of 20km/h when in autonomous mode and 40km/h in manual mode.

autonomous vehicle

To navigate autonomously in normal traffic, Olli uses tools such as digital mapping of the route, a pre-programmed track, and redundant LiDar and radar sensors to analyze and respond to road and traffic conditions around it.
The trial is scheduled to end in February 2022. It will be followed by a period of assessing how the automated vehicle performed in various weather and road conditions.

SEOUL

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has allocated KRW148.7 billion, or US$125 million, to be spent between 2022 and 2026 to build up the necessary infrastructure for autonomous vehicles throughout the city. In November 2021, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon presented the municipality’s “Seoul Self-Driving Vision 2030,” painting a picture of a future where the daily lives of the citizens and urban spaces are filled with autonomous vehicles.

The municipality has published a detailed plan that stated bold goals for the city, such as expanding the autonomous vehicle hubs, establishing self-driving buses as public transportation means, and introducing autonomous vehicle-based urban management systems in public services while building and improving the autonomous vehicle infrastructure throughout the city.

Designed to be adopted in increments, the plan will introduce more than 300 autonomous vehicles by 2026, more than ten robot taxis that the users can call using an app, and the city plans to operate more than 100 autonomous buses and self-driving taxis.

SINGAPORE

In its autonomous vehicle (AV) test center, which opened in 2017, Singapore is conducting various trials, as the government considers this technology to be crucial for the improvement of the transportation network and an important step in the city-state’s journey to becoming a smart nation. In the last five years, the center has tested around 50 autonomous taxis, shuttles, buses, and road sweepers in order to gather the data necessary for wider adoption.

On a slightly larger scale, a few on-demand bus services were made available to the public in 2021 specifically for commuters at Science Park II and Jurong Island. In January 2022, at the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA’s) AV-themed exhibition, URA and companies showed how Singapore was preparing for an AV transport future that may be within reach in the next few decades.

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Innovations To Expect in 2022

Which innovations will emerge in your industry in 2022? A look at the Supertrends timeline reveals predictions such as “NASA’s space probe collides with an asteroid” in a manner similar to the popular Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up”, “Hyperimaging and AI provide humans with X-ray vision”, and “First commercial flight of a passenger air taxi”. In fact, the advances in technology may exceed your expectations in many areas. Let’s take a look at the most striking innovations that we can expect in 2022.

Healthcare industry: COVID-19, next-generation vaccines, and digitalization 

innovation - mRNA vaccine
Innovations in mRNA vaccines will continue to fight against COVID-19

January 2022 marks the start of the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we may still not see the pandemic ending this year, we can expect new testing methods, such as a COVID-19 breathalyzer, that can test the virus rapidly and non-invasively. mRNA vaccines have been and probably will continue to be a major tool in our battle against COVID-19. Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on new mRNA vaccines targeting Omicron and other existing variants, which are likely to be available in a few months. We may also see the development of mRNA vaccines beyond COVID-19. Several mRNA influenza vaccines are already in the human trial stage. At the same time, DNA vaccines may become a good alternative for some countries, as they are easier to manufacture and store. The first DNA vaccine has received emergency use authorization in India. 

COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the digitalization of the healthcare industry. By digitalization, we are not just talking about telemedicine, which has been a critical tool during COVID times. From early diagnosis to drug discovery, artificial intelligence (AI) is being adopted by more and more sectors in healthcare. AI and virtual clinical trial (VCT) could be a valuable tool in improving the time-consuming and expensive clinical drug development process. 

As age-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and dementia, become more common, researchers are increasingly starting to view aging as a disease. Anti-aging technology innovation aimed at increasing our lifespan and health span has also become one of the fastest-growing fields in life science. This trend will continue in 2022. Although we won’t see aging itself being reversed (yet), some of the first milestones to be reached in this field could be in age-related diseases, such as early detection of dementia through AI tools.  

Below are some of the interesting milestones that have been predicted to come to pass in the healthcare industry in 2022. Interestingly, the first of these was reached sooner than expected:

  • The first AI-discovered drug target and molecule enters clinical trial (in December 2021)
  • The first DNA vaccine for humans is approved by the FDA
  • An artificial pancreas is routinely available in the UK via the NHS
  • Longevity investment company Juvenescence goes public

Energy, natural resources, and environmental industry: “Green” is the desired color 

innovation sustainability

The energy sector will continue to adapt to a more sustainable approach. The integration of green hydrogen into energy systems could also be boosted by renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind farms. 

Climate change continues to be high on the agenda in countries around the world. Another round of United Nations climate talks will take place in 2022. Green/sustainable technology will be adopted across industries. In December 2021, the green/sustainable tech sector got a boost in China when the country’s industry ministry unveiled a five-year plan to make industrial sectors “greener”. In Europe, as part of its general climate action plan, the European Commission (EC) has allotted significant funds to finance large-scale projects that would foster the commercialization of clean technologies. A financial aid package of around €1.3 to 1.5 billion is expected to be approved in the last quarter of 2022. We will monitor these developments closely to see which green innovations will win the EC’s support.

Efforts to preserve biodiversity will also be stepped up in 2022. Scientists have been warning for years that we are entering a mass extinction phase that could wipe out more than one million species. Increased extinction rates will threaten ecosystems and have severe consequences for the survival of humanity. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity is scheduled to take place in April 2022 in China. 

Some 28 percent of the 138,374 species assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for its survival watchlist are now at high risk of vanishing forever

The “green” trend and efforts to achieve global climate goals will impact other industries as well. In the fashion industry for example, we will see a shift towards more digital services, such as the opening of the world’s largest virtual fitting room, and environmentally-friendly products. Pandora, the world’s largest jeweler, has announced that they are shifting from mined diamonds to more sustainable lab-made diamonds this year.

Below are some of the milestones that this sector could achieve this year:

  • The world’s first offshore green hydrogen plant begins operating
  • IUCN’s Red List extended to include 160,000 species
  • Geothermal energy is generated and sold in the UK

Food and agriculture industry: Alternative protein – it’s what’s for dinner 

Cultured meat – the animal protein produced from cell cultures in bioreactors – has come a long way since the debut of the world’s first cell-cultured burger in 2013. In 2020, cultured chicken meat became the first commercialized cultured meat product. Quite a few start-ups have announced plans to bring cultured shrimp, cultured lobster, cultured foie gras, cultured fat, and cultured human milk to the market in 2022. 

Another active player in the sector of alternative protein is insect protein, which has great potential as a future food because of its high efficiency and sustainability. Demand for insect protein is currently mainly for use as animal feed and pet food ingredients. In 2021, the yellow mealworm became the first insect food approved for human consumption in the EU. 

We picked a few interesting milestones that could be realized in 2022 in the food and agriculture sector:

  • The world’s biggest insect farm is opened with a capacity of 100,000 tonnes of insect products per year
  • A cultured milk company is listed in the US stock market
  • A cultured meat product that costs less than US$10 per pound is launched

Transportation, logistics and mobility industry: self-driving cars on the roads?

The COVID pandemic has been a driving force for digitalization and automation in several industries, especially the healthcare industry. However, this is not the case in the transportation, logistics and mobility industry. Disruptions to the supply chain and quarantines have caused delays in many projects, including the development of autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars. Will the development of self-driving cars catch up in 2022? According to the Supertrends radar, the UK and Germany may allow self-driving cars on their roads this year. 

Another trend to watch in this industry is the shift toward renewable energy-powered ships. Today, cargo ships contribute only two to three percent of global CO2 emissions, but that share will increase when other sectors use less fossil energy. Shipping is expected to contribute up to 17 percent of total CO2 emissions by 2050. We may witness the shipping industry turning to clean energy to replace heavy fuel oil, starting with the world’s first ammonia-powered ship in 2022. 

Below are a few 2022 milestones in this industry, and again the first predicted breakthrough occurred even sooner than anticipated: 

  • Germany allows autonomous vehicles on public roads (in December 2021)
  • The world’s first ammonia-powered ship is launched
  • First commercial flight of a passenger air taxi
  • The first commercial solar car is on the market

Other industries and sectors: Keep your imagination alive

Image Credit: NASA

Another highly active industry is space exploration. In 2022, Europe may land its first rover on Mars through a joint Russian-European mission (ExoMars), a NASA space probe is scheduled to collide with an asteroid in a testing mission, and China’s first space station Tiangong will be completed. It’s going to get crowded even on the moon this year. Other than NASA’s moon mission, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea have all announced their own moon missions in 2022.

We are in an era of exponential innovation. Almost every sector is benefiting from new technology and creating new products, new markets, and new business models. Don’t be surprised if the innovation milestones below are achieved in 2022:

  • Elevators travel to a height of 1km
  • First flexible smartphone invented using ultra-thin chips
  • Hyperimaging and AI provide humans with X-ray vision
  • The first “augmented paper” enters circulation
  • China rolls out a state-controlled digital currency using blockchain technology
  • All products of a major fashion retailer can be viewed in augmented reality

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