AMPLIFYING IMPACT: EIT CLIMATE-KIC AND PROJECT HYPERLOOP

Propelling hyperloop transportation towards global implementation through standardization

EIT Climate-KIC is one of Europe's largest public-private partnerships on climate innovation. One of its flagship projects recently reached an important milestone. In early 2020, European countries decided to create a European standards committee to develop standards for Hyperloop.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime,” says Theo Xenakis. He works as Innovation and Community Manager at EIT Climate-KIC. “To tackle this challenge, we need a common language across sectors and borders. I really believe that standardization can be that language.”

EIT Climate-KIC operates as a multiplier organization, in the sense that it 'amplifies impact'. It does so by bringing together over 400 cross-sector stakeholders, and supporting them to build and scale the projects that are needed for its mission.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime. To tackle this challenge, we need a common language across sectors and borders. I really believe that standardization can be that language.”

Theo Xenakis,

 EIT CLIMATE-KIC,

Amterdam, the Netherlands

Tackling climate change through systems innovation

“Our mission is to tackle climate change through systems innovation,” Xenakis explains. “We look at systems innovation because climate change is a very complex problem. One that requires action from a lot of sectors.”

 

Demand-led innovation is their focus. “We really look at where innovation is most needed, and where it can have the most impact. That is where we act. We take initiative, and we bring parties together to co-create solutions.”

Value chains across sectors

Xenakis goes on to explain that, at EIT Climate-KIC, they look at entire value chains, and the links between them. “Supply chains and value chains are not necessarily material. They can also be about legislation, policy, society, finance and economy. These are the types of problems that we look at, and try to find solutions for, that have influence across sectors.”

 

Besides building those partnerships and ecosystems of expertise and trust, EIT Climate-KIC also supports startups through ‘acceleration programmes’, by funding them from the beginning of their lifetime. There are also ‘education programmes’, where students and young professionals are taught the new skill sets needed for positive climate impact in their sectors.

Connecting with Hyperloop startup Zeleros

Spanish hyperloop startup Zeleros gained international media attention in 2016 when it won two awards at Elon Musk’s world-famous hyperloop competition in Texas. EIT Climate-KIC took the company under its wing, and now 'Project Hyperloop' is one of the flagships in their ecosystem.

“We connected with the Zeleros team, and supported them in the early stages of their development,” Xenakis explains the partnership. “As a multiplier organization, we put them in touch with different industry actors that they can either use to gain access to the market, to scale their innovation, or to get the right partnerships, to be able to achieve their targets and their goals.”

“Imagine a metro, but with the speed of an airplane.”

Theo Xenakis,

 EIT CLIMATE-KIC,

Amterdam, the Netherlands

Levitation and propulsion

Xenakis can barely contain himself with excitement when he talks about this new technology. “I want to express how cool this is, because it's based on levitation and propulsion! So, it's literally a transportation pod that's not touching the ground. It works with a magnetic field, and then there is an engine, like a propeller, that moves the pod into a tube, and then it just... travels. It is pretty awesome.”

 

Indeed, Hyperloop is a new ground transportation system, which can transport passengers and goods at speeds over 1000km/h. “Imagine a metro, but with the speed of an airplane,” Xenakis illustrates. “Imagine getting from Madrid to Amsterdam comfortably in less than two hours, and without any fuel.”

Creating Hyperloop standards

A very important milestone for this project came just at the beginning of 2020, when European countries voted positively for the creation of a European standards committee to work on Hyperloop standards. Essentially, this move to standardize the methodology and the framework of Hyperloop will achieve high safety standards and ensure interoperability throughout countries in Europe.

“Hyperloop will be a real game-changer in the field of transport. And standards enable that.”

Theo Xenakis,

 EIT CLIMATE-KIC,

Amterdam, the Netherlands

“The technological innovation makes Hyperloop possible, but it is the international collaboration with standardization that is going to make it a reality,” says Xenakis. In fact, this European initiative was the first-ever international partnership to establish standards and frameworks to regulate vacuum-based hyperloop transport systems. It is an initiative that will propel hyperloop transportation towards global implementation.

“And besides the connectivity and interoperability, a crucial element is that we know the implementation of a system like this is going to have a massive climate impact. It will be a real game-changer in the field of transport. And standards enable that.”

Harnessing the full potential of global innovation

Juan Vicén, the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Zeleros said: “We are marking the beginning of a new era in high-speed transportation. Cooperation in hyperloop standardization is key to ensure that the whole world benefits from it. Now is the moment to demonstrate the full potential of global innovation, combining efficiently the best from aerospace, railway and vacuum industries.”

Standards + Innovation

EIT Climate-KIC was part of a number of European awareness programs around standardization, such as the Standards + Innovation initiative. Since their participation in Standards + Innovation, Xenakis and his team encourage startups to get involved in standardization. They firmly believe that startups or projects can really benchmark themselves to an existing market, and manage to create a new market through standards. “Establishing standards can also really help to decrease decision-making time for policymakers and industry actors,” Xenakis adds, “which in turn increases the speed of scaling of an innovation.”
 

Eye-opening insights

Being part of the Standards + Innovation initiative was an eye-opening experience for him. “I had some great insights about standardization,” he says. “One insight was that standardization is open to all parts of society. It's a very open and inclusive process that operates on a consensus basis, so everyone can have a say. I found this really fascinating, and I believe this inspires a lot of collaboration on an international level, but also across sectors. That kind of collaboration is what we really need for true systems change, and also for essentially solving the climate crisis.”
 

Innovative companies can create a new market, hopefully one that will contribute to a circular and inclusive economy. Says Xenakis: “What I would say to fellow innovators, but also entrepreneurs, decision-makers, politicians, citizens and of course the industrial players, is get involved in standards. Take part in standardization committees. This way you don’t only see innovation happen, but it gives you credibility in your sector and the area of expertise you're in. Be bold and shape your industry!”

“Be bold and shape your industry!””

Theo Xenakis,

 EIT CLIMATE-KIC,

Amterdam, the Netherlands

Further readings

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