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Barclays’ fifth New Frontiers conference lived up to its theme of bringing tech together. From debates around big data and quantum computing to how AI is reshaping the world, the event provided a forum for experts to discuss topics that will have a profound impact on the future of society.

Sustainable innovation: Clean tech

Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, Global Head of Green Banking, Founder and Chair Barclays Green Banking Council, talks to Peter Horsburgh, Chairman of Environmental Technologies Fund, about the role of technology in powering innovation and protecting against climate breakdown across three key areas – smart cities, smart industry and smart energy.

  • Sustainable innovation: clean tech

    Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas
    “Peter, welcome to New Frontiers.”

    Peter Horsburgh
    “Thank you”

    Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas
    “Environmental Technologies Fund, founded 2006, with an investment thesis of sustainability through innovation, where do you see some of the exciting innovation in say, smart energy or smart cities?”

    Peter Horsburgh
    “Well smart energy, the biggest opportunities we see really are in areas like smart meters and the applications that go around that, for example the ability to network meters using the internet of things technologies. But beyond that we also have technologies that are playing towards a distributor energy generation, and one of the thesis that we pursue is that the whole of the utility model is in effect broken.

    And that’s now being reformed if you like, through distributed energy and the ability to measure output and input of the grid locally. And these technologies rely, to a great extent, on the internet of things and other developments that are at the forefront of global technology.”

    Innovation in smart cities

    Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas
    “What strikes me as so exciting about the transition to a lower carbon economy, is it isn’t just confined to smart energy, it also encompasses industrial processes and the way we live in cities.”

    Peter Horsburgh
    “Yes smart cities offers a range of opportunities for us, I mean, to give you a good example again, Telensa, which is a world beating technology for effectively networking streetlights is driven by the move to LEDs and they use an ultra-narrow width web communication system to enable effectively each lamppost to be a computer, and that enables them to monitor pollution, it enables you to alert cars to parking spaces as they become free. 11 percent of all traffic in Paris at any given time is looking for a parking space.

    Our lampposts in Paris can alert a driver, using an app, as to where the space is.”

    The role of technology in avoiding climate breakdown

    Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas
    “As the IPCC report sets out so graphically, we have 12 years to really try and avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown so scaling up some of these early stage technologies will be absolutely key. How optimistic are you that we will manage to do that?”

    Peter Horsburgh
    “We have a company that reduces the power used by mobile telephones, now in the UK that’s 1.9 percent of all power generated, in Europe it’s about 1 percent, but globally it’s 0.6 and if you think that China and India, for example, have completely bypassed land telephony and have gone for mobile, you’ll see the rate at which that’s growing.

    We can reduce that power consumption by 40 percent. If you do the environmental audit correctly, we have a bigger environmental impact than all onshore windfarms in the UK. And I think that’s a very important example of what we can do, so yes, we are optimistic.”

FinTech: Unleashing the power of collaboration

John Stecher, Barclays Chief Innovation Officer, talks to Matty Cusden-Ross, CEO & Founder of Flux, about the importance of collaboration between FinTechs and established financial services providers in overcoming large-scale challenges and enabling change to deliver seamless innovation for consumers.

  • Fintech: Unleashing the power of collaboration

    John Stecher
    “Innovation in financial services today is really impacting the way we think, live and work, as well as spend money. Digital is at the forefront of that. You were the founder of Flux, and part of the digital receipt space, how do you see that impacting our lives?”

    Matty Cusden-Ross
    “I think it’s going to be really at the forefront of everything. I think making sure that digital innovation becomes seamless is critical. For consumers, they look for something that makes their lives easier, and simpler, and being seamless is a key part of that.”

    Innovation with scale and momentum

    John Stecher
    “I would say a collaboration between the traditional banking sector and FinTech start-ups like yourselves is going to drive a lot of the change in the digital space in the future. What do you see some of the triumphs and some of the challenges?”

    Matty Cusden-Ross
    “I think some of the biggest challenges with working with large financial institutions is just getting momentum. When you’re working with a very very big organisation, it just takes time to get things going, right.

    But when you get to that point, the momentum you have is enormous, and this is really where the beauty of FinTechs and kind of big organisations come together is that you’re able to take like the best of innovation, and then scale it out massively to people everywhere, what you’re able to create is huge change at massive scale and so that’s really where I see the biggest triumphs coming from.”

    Partnering to enable exponential change

    John Stecher
    “The rate of change in the financial industry today is exponential. If you look at the way people are consuming cash etc., it’s changing at a rate that it hasn’t in years. How do you see the future unfolding from the partnership perspective as well as from the FinTech perspective, creating new opportunities to service customers and clients better?”

    Matty Cusden-Ross
    “So I think really at the heart of enabling this exponential change is making sure there’s a solid framework between financial institutions and FinTechs. The key is really making sure that that engagement can happen really quickly.

    Traditionally big banks are used to working with other big companies and that can have a large governance process, and I think kind of really whittling that down to the essentials, so everything obviously is secure and safe, but can happen very rapidly is going to be at the heart of that. And I think getting that right will enable exactly that exponential change.”

    Large institutions’ influence on FinTechs

    John Stecher
    “What do you think the FinTechs out there can actually learn from large institutions?”

    Matty Cusden-Ross
    “As a young start-up, we can often be scared of process. I think there can be an aversion to that, but I actually think that as a company grows, and certainly this is true for us right now, is making sure that you have that correct process in there to make sure things actually happen efficiently is key.And then really making sure that things like security are absolutely top of mind.

    It’s something that we’ve had to focus on very early, being a regulated company, but that’s definitely something that I think, you know, something that big companies and big banks get clearly very very right. And it’s something that FinTechs can certainly learn from a lot.”

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