Maddy Keynote: The role of technology and the collective in ecological innovation

At the major event for entrepreneurs and key players in innovation – Maddy Keynote – held on Wednesday, February 8 at the Carreau du Temple in Paris, Veolia’s Head of Innovation Catherine Ricou pointed out that while technology is essential to innovation, it is far from the only requirement for action.

On the subject of wastewater reuse, for example, it is clear that the issue is not a technology one, since the solutions exist. It is their deployment that is very limited: in France, for instance, only 1% of water is recycled, compared to 15% in Spain. In this specific case, the competition of water uses will become a major governance issue on the territories (agricultural, industrial, domestic uses, ....). This is a question that will require consultation, and the issue of collective action on a territory goes far beyond our capacity as a private company to deploy innovative solutions.

“Technology isn’t everything”

Beyond governance, social acceptability and regulatory barriers often remain obstacles to the deployment of technological solutions. Without acceptability, technology is useless, however effective it may be. Attitudes are changing in this respect. This can be seen in the Barometer of Ecological Transformation that Veolia conducted in collaboration with the survey institute Elabe, which covered 25 countries and almost 60% of the world’s population. It showed a worldwide appetite for change, as inaction appears to be far more costly than the investment involved in transformation. As for regulation, Catherine Ricou observes:

It is often necessary for different administrations to be aligned on the same policy goal in order to overcome regulatory barriers.

Acceptability and regulation

Our performance is measured by the number of m3 of water or tons of waste treated," she notes. Tomorrow, contractual models will focus on the value produced, not only economically but also environmentally and socially. In particular, innovations will have to enable our clients to meet their commitments to reduce their carbon footprint as part of their net zero trajectory.

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And what if we changed the model?