The journey to a sustainable future is a highly important one, not just across Scotland, but across the whole world.

Ahead of the upcoming COP26 meetings being held in Glasgow in November, we are running a weekly blog series exploring the role of technology in achieving net zero with our Technology Scotland members.

Across the coming weeks, we will be hearing from a wide range of our members on a variety of climate focused topics; taking a deep dive into some of the innovative products created to combat climate change with project focused blog pieces as well as thought-pieces where we will hear from industry experts on the future of technology and its potential applications as we move forward towards a more sustainable future. Plus lots more!

This week we chat with Andrew Broadbent from Hitachi Europe’s European R&D Centre to find out about how innovative technologies and solutions will help us transition to a carbon-neutral world.

Hello Andrew, please tell us about your role and what the European R&D Centre is responsible for.

I am the Head of the Mobility System Lab in the European R&D (ERD) Centre. My team is focused on developing new digital technologies and services to shape our future mobility system so that it is sustainable, smart and resilient for future generations.

My team is one of six labs based across several sites in Europe and we form the regional Corporate R&D of the Hitachi group.   We cover a variety of different sectors and topics with a focus on digital disruption and advanced research Hitachi – European Research & Development.

Hitachi Europe is a principal partner for COP26 – why is it important for Hitachi, what does it mean?

After COVID this is the first time where the world will come together and address one of biggest challenges that lies ahead of us, that is climate change. COP26 is therefore an opportunity to come together behind our corporate strategy to become climate change innovators. It is an incredible opportunity, honour, and responsibility for Hitachi to be there.

At Hitachi, we are uniting all our businesses behind the common cause of the environment; it is the connector that flows across our businesses globally but also the link to the key challenges our clients are facing. Our aim is to help achieve a society that is decarbonised, resource efficient, safe, and harmonised with nature. To achieve this, we are orienting our business towards the sustainable technology of the future and we are proud of the role we can play, with partners, to create solutions that help achieve the goals of the UNFCCC and mitigate the impact of global climate change.

Hitachi has also shown its commitment to be a climate change innovator with the announcement that it will spend ¥1.5 trillion (almost £10 billion) over a three-year period on R&D technologies to foster digital innovation. This will include research and development of grid control to help deliver the mass adoption of renewable energy, as well as state-of-the-art materials, and hydrogen-powered mobilities (trains, buses etc) to help unlock digital innovation to achieve a decarbonized society.

You represent Hitachi Europe in our MaaS Scotland network. What role do you see MaaS can play to address climate change?

We started our mobility innovation work several years ago, considering new concepts for smart ticketing solutions as a way of improving customer experience for those that already use public transport, whilst also breaking down one of the barriers of modal shift towards greater use of public transport and adoption of active mobility. These ticketing solutions were deployed in a demonstration in Trento, Italy (Hitachi Rail STS Starts Proof of Concept of a New Digital Ticketing Solution) and Hitachi Rail will be starting commercial service in the near future.

At the ERD centre we have also expanded our future vision work to consider MaaS principles and have been collaborating with other parts of Hitachi to look beyond just multi-modal ticketing to the wider variety of other services for passengers, transport operators and local authorities. We consider these broader activities, beyond the core MaaS functions, as Green Mobility. We believe these have a significant role to play in reducing emission levels and congestion in cities and their surroundings.

Can you say a little more about your Green Mobility activity?

MaaS solutions and Green Mobility have a key role in changing societal behaviours, encouraging long term shift to zero emission forms of public transport. We are actively working with our colleagues in Hitachi Rail on the development of back-end AI and machine learning solutions that can support and enhance services to customers and operators, building upon solutions like the bus congestion demonstrator running in Genoa Genoa starts trial of Hitachi Rail congestion monitoring system on AMT buses.

What about the other teams in ERD, what activities are they doing / most excited about?

We have quite a breadth of expertise and knowledge that we are applying to multiple projects but some good examples where we are contributing to climate change would be:

  • Sustainable Finance Ecosystem – our aim here is to boost investment in sustainable finance, using IOT and blockchain technologies to improve the visibility and verification of environmental projects
  • Intelligent Fleet Decarbonisation – we are supporting this programme with development of battery life monitoring and life extension solutions
  • AI, Captain! – an AI and machine learning based solution we developed to help shipping companies reduce fuel consumption while maintaining schedules
  • Design and Futures Thinking for Post-COVID Societies– we have been developing foresights considering post covid and sustainable urban environments. The foresights are used with our researchers and businesses to define desirable future visions and new initiatives to get there.
  • We are also conceiving and developing solutions for Autonomous Driving of wheeled- and rolling-vehicles; we believe that such technologies not only will increase safety in cities but will also help to reduce emissions and optimize infrastructure capacity.
  • As part of the UK Department for Transport FOAK innovation scheme, we are also progressing a demonstration project focussed on optimising passenger flow through train stations.  The objective is to help station and transport operators have a better understanding of passenger behaviour in a post-COVID situation so that we they can encourage a return and increased use of public transport.

What are you plans around COP26?

As a COP26 principal partner we will have a presence in the Green and Blue zones throughout the whole COP26 event. We are also holding a public European Innovation Forum on the 5th Nov at the Marriott Hotel with a series of talks around the subjects of Future Energy, Future Mobility, Role of Digital and Beyond Zero Carbon. More details can be found here Hitachi European Innovation Forum.

As a personal activity I also had the pleasure of being a cyclist working as human generator to help power our latest Zero Carbon advert Hitachi Launches World First Zero Carbon Powered Film | Hitachi in Europe in the build up to COP26.