With world economic growth on the agenda for finance ministers ahead of this weekend’s G20 Summit, a prominent CSIRO scientist says science and innovation could be the key to success.
Finance ministers attending the G20 are calling for a 2% increase in GDP over the next five years, with the focus on improving input factors such as labour and investment capital.
However CSIRO Senior Executive Manager Dr Alex Wonhas said science also has a role to play.
“You won’t be surprised if I say that I believe new innovation, science and technology can be one of the drivers that can underpin growth,” Dr Wonhas said.
CSIRO has been working on a project to identify and develop the big megatrends set to shape and develop our society into the future.
One of these megatrends, called Going, Going…Gone, deals with the hotly debated issue of climate change.
Dr Wonhas says the main reason for developing the Going, Going…Gone project was concern over how the pursuit for economic development may put the environment at risk.
“Most importantly for me, we are looking at what are potential solutions to address that challenge (of climate change) and I’m really happy to say that we believe there are lots of solutions,” Dr Wonhas said.
One such solution proposed by CSIRO is a plastic solar cell that can integrated into everyday objects such as backpacks and laptops to harness solar energy cheaply and effectively.
“This solar cell is not printed on silicon that’s relatively expensive, but printed on plastic, so we can print hundreds of metres of that on a relatively cheap substitute,” Dr Wonhas said.
“Obviously if we can make this relatively cheap, it means the electricity that can come from that is relatively cheap too.”
While this technology is still in its infancy, the potential for it to encourage job growth and capital investment while promoting environmentally friendly practices encourages Dr Wonhas to continue his research.
“I think through innovations like this, we can certainly manage a lot of the challenges we are facing and that we’re seeing our environment exposed to as well,” he said.
Dr Wonhas said it was Apple founder Steve Jobs who inspired his team to search for new and innovative solutions for the future.
“I thought…why don’t we copy his recipe for innovation and that was really looking out for the new ideas, or as he called it, “for the crazy ones”,” Dr Wonhas said.