The card of presentation of Gunter Pauli (Antwerp, Belgium, 1956) is something more than a simple declaration of intentions: "I want to change the world for the better". And period. Without half measures. With a recognizable Latin American Spanish accent, this Belgian entrepreneur, a member of the Club of Rome – an NGO made up of scientists and politicians who strive to improve the future of the Earth – appeals to sustainability and environmentalism as the only ways of understanding innovation. The digital transformation that defends and practices always part of the respect for the environment. This way of conceiving the world system is reflected in his book The blue economy, which explains about a hundred innovations that start from nature itself. These days pisa Madrid to deliver the awards for entrepreneurship of the Everis Foundation.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur today?
Many of us have the dream of changing things, but people often feel small in the face of such a great challenge. The most important thing for an entrepreneur is to specify. If I talk about physics or the internet for light, I would lose all my audience except two scientists who would understand what I'm talking about. That is, if I can not explain where each miner is, each tunnel in the mine, someone might ask why not everyone does what I do myself. It's about justifying what my position is in the entire market.
What have you learned from your experience for decades as an innovator?
My history as an entrepreneur is about marketing, about communicating. I try to always make clear everything I discover. I put the challenges of the Earth in clear terms and with solutions that anyone understands. Is anyone able to understand why we can not talk under water, for example? When I am teaching my son to swim, it would be desirable to listen to his parents to be calmer. This is the common sense that I try to transfer to global challenges of any kind.
What is the role played by technology in the midst of all this simplicity you are talking about?
Technological knowledge does not need to be explained. We, as entrepreneurs, give the solution. People want to know what the solution is, not the black box. I work as if everything were a sandwich. You need two slices. One will be science, which I translate into something concrete; the other is to communicate it clearly. The strength of both parties is tremendous. The entrepreneur has to realize that there is innovation and underneath an understanding with the new generation of young people. After 25 years, we have an acceleration of many innovations that would be fruit of debate by many experts if we did not have an explanation of their benefits. For example, we can make stone paper with the waste from a mine. The evidence shown is that it improves the environment and promotes other uses.
But without investment and capital, the path of innovation would be very short.
We have also learned to accelerate investors, but not the typical unicorn or venture capital fund. You have to focus on the investor who wants to change the world. If I can leave an inheritance that is called Internet without radio frequency, I do it. I put my money there.
So, how do you manage to attract investors?
An added value is needed. It's not about being the cheapest. We must work with a high added value at a financial, social and ecological level. That is, the ability to reduce public lighting consumption to 80% indirectly gives you capital. I look for where this capital is. If we do not subject innovation to the rigor of performance, there is no project. Inefficiency is the great enemy of digital transformation. Another example. If I can offer a load of 23 videos per second, I assure you that there is a market more than interested; and at any price. For some this will be extraordinary and they will invest.
Why are you so in favor of implementing the internet through light?
For a security issue. It is a way to avoid hacks. You would need to cut off the light, because that is where the data is transmitted, to attack me. 32% of investments in information technology is in cybersecurity. It's about seeing it in an integrated way and not just as a mere facilitator of connection to the network.
And why is not its use so widespread?
The invention of internet through light is from 2005. However, we do not know until there are three different generations of LED. If we have one that gives light and another geolocation, why not use them at the same time? The added value is not only to illuminate, but to give multiple services. If you know how to change a light bulb, you can switch from having a lamp to light through the internet. We do not realize that there are complex solutions, but that, thanks to innovation, they are easy to adopt. The beauty of the transformation is its simplicity.
Do LED bulbs have more uses yet to be explored?
They would allow us to grow a salad in just over two weeks. Imagine what we could get in Madrid with all its roofs! The one that bets for this agriculture will make a great investment. The downside is that this involves managing the roof water at the same time. If you have the possibility of eliminating the distribution, because you produce the food directly in your home, you also leave behind the logistics and the presence of trucks in the center of the city. If you calculate all this, you will realize that there is a possibility of sustainable transformation capable of generating multiple income and benefits.
Does the enterprise go through self-consumption?
The entrepreneur not only generates billing. For me it is everyone who increases the purchasing power. A simple example With mandarin peels, seven tablespoons of sugar and a glass, you can create your own bathroom cleaner. If I remove this product from my basket, I increase my purchasing power and I can assign it to something else. Someone dedicated to self-consumption is as enterprising as the one who only seeks to sell and bill.
Where will innovation go in the short and medium term?
Towards urban agriculture. I think half of this sector will be in cities with solutions like the ones I mentioned about roofs. Waste management will also play an important role. There are already seven municipalities, such as Ulsan in Korea and Lidköping in Sweden, which have opted not to pay for the collection of garbage to convert it into income. What they get is that the cities are paid for the treatment of solid and liquid waste.