Solving the problems of tomorrow

We were given the chance to meet and speak with Arnold Stokking, the director of the Industrial Innovation unit. It is instantly clear that this is a man who is totally passionate about what he does, and why he does it. It’s also clear that he knows what he’s talking about. “Fundamentally,” he says, “I believe that innovation is becoming more expensive and more complex than in the past, and yet the challenges we face are bigger and will need joint industry research to solve them.”

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In the past, we could answer needs in a pretty straightforward way: a company wanted some research done and we did it. Today we do less and less of this contract research. We still occasionally do this type of work, but more often now we are involved in multi-company and joint industry research. We need to be, especially if we are to tackle the big projects of tomorrow, things like the energy crisis, cost of care (of older people), geopolitical issues, etc.”

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“Above all, we work to create an eco-system with people who share a certain question, and who might actually have different views on the question. It means working on a challenge together, and creating change – complex change – together. Let me give an example,” he explains: “take the case of energy storage. It’s an issue today’s society faces more and more: how can we store the excess electricity we generate? One solution is better batteries. Another is to pump water higher up a mountain (as they do in Norway and Austria). Yet another idea is to use chemistry and change smaller carbon molecules, like CO2, into larger, more complex chains, like methanol. Whatever the solution, and there’s no ‘best way’ as yet, it’s ridiculous to think that one company can address all the issues.”

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