The New Now

Claire Falzone: Veolia's Startup ''Play'' For Smart Energy Solutions

Five Questions for the Head of Business Innovation at Veolia on the launch of its new 'Open Playground' program.

In partnership with: ChangeNOW

One of the world leaders in bringing innovation to the energy transition, French company Veolia chose changeNOW to announce the launch of its new Open Playground program. This initiative aims to confront the climate emergency by helping to build innovative, sustainable solutions by working together with startups committed to the environment. Veolia's Head of Business Innovation Claire Falzone recently told us more about it, and about the importance of co-creation in the urgent quest for new solutions.

WORLDCRUNCH: What has the pandemic shown us about the need to act now and bring about a more sustainable future?

CLAIRE FALZONE: There's a parallel between the health crisis we are going through right now and the current environmental crisis: both have highlighted the gap that exists between our actions and their impact on the planet — they've helped reveal, almost on a philosophical level, how interconnected everything is. A positive aspect that emerged was the solidarity we saw. It was a remarkable example of people going the extra mile and working together to find solutions — and realizing that, indeed, solutions could be found.

Can you outline Veolia's new Open Playground program that was just unveiled at the 2021 changeNOW summit — and tell us how it fits within energy transition objectives?

At Veolia, we are used to saying that to make the ecological transformation happen, we already have half the solutions at our disposal — and the other half, we have to invent. The goal of this Open Playground is precisely for that "invention" phase, to find the right partners who will come up with the right answers. So the idea is to first identify our different business units' needs, and then turn to the community of startups, small and mid-sized companies to select who we could team up with. And after a six-month trial period where we test the solution in real-life situations, we work towards scaling it up on an international level, notably through contracts across the whole Group. We know there's plenty to invent, but we also know we won't be able to invent it on our own.

ChangeNOW is a summit that brings big industries together — but also researchers and startups … What's the challenge in building a strong ecosystem from such a variety of actors?

We were one of changeNOW's very first industrial partners last year, because we believe in its founders' motto that things need to change. As the summit gathers people around the idea of "transformation", we know for sure that the audience there is very much aligned with what we're doing — and this variety of actors, industrials, startups, NGOs, associations, matches our idea that we can only succeed if we listen to and include everyone. It's also a real pleasure to talk with people whose vision may differ from ours: startups that were born yesterday, whereas we've been around for 170 years. Taking one step back, this kind of open innovation is what we do every day, as Veolia is present on thousands of sites across 45 countries, and we always work with our clients under that very spirit of cocreation.

Can you share 3 of the issues you deem particularly worthy of attention today?

It's tricky to only pick 3, as at Veolia, innovation takes many different shapes across many different sectors … but I would say first: EV battery recycling, which for us is a key topic. We have already developed solutions, but we need to go further in the handling of rare earth materials present in batteries. This is what has led us to strike a partnership with Solvay and Renault, to accelerate it. Then, food: How are we going to feed 9 billion people tomorrow? That's why we're working on bioconversion, or how we can transform a certain type of waste into animal feed, in a sustainable way. And third, air quality — an issue we're tackling along two axes: both indoors and outdoors, for example through carbon capture and storage solutions for the latter.

Veolia is an example of the leadership of French tech and innovation in the energy transition. Still, this is a global challenge. How important is it for you to seek solutions and talent internationally?

That's a particularly of-the-moment question for us! The merger deal we have struck with Suez was done precisely in that spirit, to create an ecological transformation "super champion". We are convinced that the scaling effect is crucial to identify the right solutions — and only by being present on all continents, as close as possible to the direct needs, that we will be able to come up with solutions that are truly adapted to the local context. Combining our savoir-faire also means that innovation can spread faster, and that we can attract more — and better! — ideas, startups, partners, best practices, that will allow us to build tomorrow's solutions together.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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