Bertrand Piccard: how EU innovation can improve our quality of life

Bertrand Piccard: how EU innovation can improve our quality of life
© iStock/scarletsails

Bertrand Piccard spoke to the European Parliament about his pride in EU innovation and the necessary regulation to protect the environment and improve our quality of life.

SciTech Europa attended the joint conference of the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels on EU research and innovation in our daily life. Bertrand Piccard, a solar aviation pioneer who co-founded the Solar Impulse Foundation and the UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, addressed the conference in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament.

In 2016, Piccard and André Borschberg completed the first circumnavigation of the globe with no fuel on a solar aircraft. Piccard discussed this experience, as well as his philosophy on EU innovation, protecting the environment, and the need for regulation to enforce sustainable values for businesses.

The European solar aircraft

“I was over the so-called capital of innovation in the Silicon Valley, but the aeroplane I was flying on, which was flying around the world on solar power, was European. We should not be shy here in Europe. We have so many assets, but we don’t dare to be proud – and we should.”

©Solar Impulse, Revillard,

Piccard continued by saying that we will only be able to benefit from European innovation in every field if we survive on this planet. “I was thinking about that when I was flying over oceans at night with no fuel, with no noise, with no pollution.”

It felt to Piccard almost like science fiction because the technology was so futuristic, however he asserted that this has been made a reality because of European innovation, technology, and research.

Why is unsustainable technology still used?

He recognises that despite the existence of European green research, technology, and innovation, the world is still using technologies which are unsustainable. Piccard said: “The rest of the world is polluting the water, destroying the environment.”

He gave examples of the outdated technologies still being used today:

  • The combustion engine;
  • Badly insulated houses;
  • Incandescent light bulbs;
  • Inefficient heating and cooling systems; and
  • Electrical grids which have not been updated to smart grids.

The need for greater regulation

He believes that this is caused by a lack of regulation, saying that the source of the problem is that polluting the environment, importing products grown in deforested regions, and consuming fish from illegal fisheries is still allowed.

1000 solutions

He said: “After the success of Solar Impulse, we have decided to look for 1000 solutions that can protect the environment but in a profitable way.”

Solar Impulse are working closely with the European Commission and the European Research Council across five sustainable development goals:

  1. Water
  2. Energy
  3. Industry
  4. Agriculture
  5. Cities and mobilities

1400 companies have already signed up to the process in order to prioritise making innovation profitable.

Improving quality of life with EU innovation

He recognises that “innovation is much more than finding and identifying a new technology”, but is also about pulling the innovation to the market by creating a need.

Piccard concluded by adding that decarbonising industry by 2030 to maintain our quality of life is not impossible, it is about changing our mindset. He said: “We are facing people who don’t care about the environment. We are facing people who don’t care about the quality of life of others, they want their business as usual, quarterly reports, and short-term profits. These people are dangerous for the world.”

He implored the conference to push for greater regulation which would make those people obliged to use the innovations which are better for the environment and will improve the quality of life for people in the future.

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