Thought Leaders

A ‘Cleantech’ Future: The Innovation Challenge 2024

Thought LeaderIeda Gomes YellNon-Executive Director of BusinessIsle of Man Government

In this interview, AZoCleantech speaks with Ieda Gomes Yell, a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Institute for Energy Studies and a non-executive director of Business for the Isle of Man, about the Isle of Man's Global Innovation Challenge to develop solutions that tackle key issues in FinTech, Cleantech, and Artificial Intelligence.

Could you start by introducing yourself and sharing a bit about your background?

My name is Ieda Gomes Yell, and I’m an expert in the energy and infrastructure sectors with an international career spanning 35 years. I have held senior roles with major companies, including at BP and in BP Solar, where my team developed solar photo-voltaic projects and connected funding agents to provide sustainable solar solutions to rural communities across Latin America and Southeast Asia. Much before that, I was responsible for a pioneer biogas from landfill project in Brazil.

I now live on the Isle of Man and sit on the board of Business Isle of Man, part of the Government’s Department for Enterprise.  

With a career spanning over three decades in the energy sector, could you share what initially drew you into this field and how your passion for energy and infrastructure has evolved over the years?

I began my career pioneering the first-ever biogas project in Brazil, extracting natural gas from landfills for use in residential settings. The first car to be powered with compressed natural gas in Brazil came from our project!

I believe access to energy is fundamental for the world’s progress and human development. I found it very rewarding to be working in this space and, in particular, providing sustainable and cleaner energy solutions for industries and people living in cities and rural communities or areas that didn’t have access to traditional energy infrastructure.

The Innovation Challenge 2024, hosted by the Isle of Man, is an extraordinary opportunity that enables visionaries and disruptors worldwide to drive change, unleash creativity, and make a lasting impact on the world. Can you provide an overview of the Isle of Man's Global Innovation Challenge and its key objectives?

The Innovation Challenge invites companies and individuals from around the world to help find solutions for societal, political, and environmental issues. Participants from around the world will develop and test creative, technology-based solutions to challenges ranging from AI to climate change.

The Innovation Challenge 2024 provides entrants with a platform to collaborate, learn, and make a difference, partnering with Government, regulators, and local businesses in a leading tech hub. Working to scale up their solutions for the global market and gain valuable insights into fine-tuning their proposition, entrants will benefit from our agile regulatory environment and mentorship opportunities.

A ‘Cleantech’ Future: The Innovation Challenge 2024

Image Credit: metamorworks/Shutterstock.com

In what ways does the Isle of Man's unique status as a UNESCO Biosphere nation position it as a global leader in Cleantech innovation, and how does this challenge contribute to that narrative?

Our unique status as the only whole nation in the world to be wholly designated a UNESCO Biosphere means that we are committed to becoming a clean, green, sustainable place to live and work. Our Government has been leading the way internationally on net zero commitments and developing and implementing our Climate Change plan. This is echoed across businesses and citizens, too – this is an Island where people are very community-orientated and really conscious of the importance of preserving our environment for future generations.

There are three main strands to the challenge: Cleantech, FinTech, and Artificial Intelligence. Please could you briefly introduce each strand?

This year, there are three strands to the Innovation Challenge: CleanTech, FinTech, and Artificial Intelligence. Within each strand, there are a number of challenges and examples that businesses are invited to consider their solutions to. We encourage people to think of practical solutions, and these could be from any sector at all – there are no restrictions on who can apply to each strand.

Why were these specific themes chosen, and how do they align with the Isle of Man's strategic vision for innovation and sustainability?

These specific themes were chosen as these are areas where we feel there is the greatest opportunity for creative solutions, as well as the areas where we feel that businesses and Governments around the world are facing some of the greatest challenges. We hope that some of the innovative that come out of this challenge could provide practical, long-term solutions that can benefit the Isle of Man and beyond.

Can you elaborate on how this initiative aligns with the UK's ambitious net-zero targets, particularly in terms of reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable practices?

The Isle of Man has long served as a test bed for emerging technologies that are then rolled out in the UK and further afield. The challenge provides opportunities for businesses to consider solutions across a wide range of issues.

For example, there would be opportunities for companies to come to the Island and help us change our energy profile, accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, or find ways to make our mostly Victorian houses more energy-efficient. Once solutions to those issues can be found on our Island nation, we can help companies scale up and launch those solutions in the UK, Europe, and beyond.

A ‘Cleantech’ Future: The Innovation Challenge 2024

Image Credit: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock.com

Education and awareness are crucial in driving change. How is the initiative engaging with communities and stakeholders to promote understanding and action towards net-zero goals?

Engaging with the community and culture of the Island is a very important part of our UNESCO Biosphere status. This is an Island where people are very community oriented and are very mindful of the importance of preserving the wonderful natural environment around us.

As a mentor in the Isle of Man's Global Innovation Challenge, what key pieces of advice do you plan to share with participating companies, especially those venturing into the cleantech and energy sectors?

The Isle of Man Government has a long history of partnering with companies to drive innovation. Companies have until the end of February to apply for the Innovation Challenge, and once they have applied, they will be matched with mentors who have expertise in their specific field. As a mentor, I will then work with any relevant companies, giving them strategic advice on how they might make their creative ideas a reality and helping them break down any barriers they come across.

Drawing from your extensive experience, what are the most significant challenges facing cleantech innovators today, and what strategies would you recommend for overcoming these obstacles?

Cleantech is a huge space and there are many different challenges facing companies in different ways. A major challenge for innovators is getting started; you might have a brilliant idea, but you need the space and support to test and develop it before you can roll it out.

This is where we hope the Innovation Challenge will help. In the agile regulatory environment of the Isle of Man, and benefitting from expert mentors and close relationships with civil servants in the heart of government, we can give innovators a chance to test their ideas, develop them, and ultimately aim to scale them up so that they could be rolled out across the whole nation and beyond.

Having witnessed and contributed to significant developments in the cleantech field, from biogas projects to solar energy advancements, how do you see this sector evolving over the next decade, especially in the context of global sustainability goals?

There is no doubt that the next decade will be a very significant one for the future of our climate. New innovations will help to find ways through the challenges we are all currently facing, from specific issues around how to store energy generated from renewables most efficiently to whole-society challenges like how to engage everyone in the race to net zero.

But we also need to make sure we, as nations, are making the best use of the amazing technology that is already available to us. For example, every time there is a new housing development built, we should consider whether we can fit solar panels and heat pumps and make sure that these houses are as energy-efficient as possible.

Every small step like that will be extremely valuable as we, as nations and a global community, look to cut our carbon emissions.

With your background in developing photovoltaic cells and sustainable solutions, what emerging technologies or innovations in cleantech do you find most promising for addressing global energy and environmental challenges?

Due to the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies, there is a need to develop large-scale and more affordable battery and energy storage systems that will allow for energy availability when the wind is not blowing, and the sun is not shining.

Also, because fossil fuels will continue to play an important role in the next 20-30 years, it is fundamental to develop solutions for carbon capture and sequestration. Coupled with that, artificial intelligence might play a key role in the operation of increasingly decentralized energy systems.

A ‘Cleantech’ Future: The Innovation Challenge 2024

Image Credit: E_LEE/Shutterstock.com

As a senior advisor and mentor, what is your vision for the outcome of the Isle of Man's Global Innovation Challenge, and how do you hope it will influence the global cleantech landscape?

The Innovation Challenge is an exciting opportunity for people to bring creative ideas to the Island and have a chance to test out their solutions in our supportive environment. We hope that this challenge will help innovators develop and scale up their ideas into technologies and businesses that can make a significant contribution to the global cleantech landscape, offering new solutions to pressing challenges that are being faced around the world.

Given your influential roles in WILL Latam (Women in Leadership in Latin America) and Access for Women in Energy, could you share your insights on the current landscape for women in the energy sector and how these organizations are working to address challenges and promote leadership opportunities for women?

We see an evolving scenario where more women are studying sciences and engineering and an increasing cohort of very competent women working in the energy sector, which was predominantly male 20-30 years ago. WILL and Access for Women provide opportunities for connectivity and visibility. WILL has also organized a prestigious diversity award in Brazil, with more than 200 participant companies.

In recognition of International Women's Day 2024 and your advocacy for women's leadership in energy, how do you see the Innovation Challenge furthering the progress of women in clean technology and sustainability?

As we approach International Women’s Day 2024, I am very hopeful that we will see a strong cohort of women apply to the Innovation Challenge so that we can have a chance to work with them to progress their ideas and support future female leaders in clean energy. We have a great line-up of female mentors – and I’m proud to be among that number – who are looking forward to working with the Innovation Challenge applicants this year and beyond.

A ‘Cleantech’ Future: The Innovation Challenge 2024

Image Credit: Julia Savko/Shutterstock.com

About Ieda Gomes Yell

Bio ImageIeda is an expert in the cleantech and energy field and will be acting as a mentor to some of the companies that take part in the challenge. She began her career pioneering the first-ever biogas project in Brazil. Her project extracted natural gas from landfills for use in residential settings, and she and her team developed the first car to be powered with compressed natural gas in Brazil. Since then, she has held senior roles with major companies, including at BP and in BP Solar, where her team developed photo-voltaic cells and connected funding agents to provide sustainable solar solutions to rural communities across Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Bethan Davies

Written by

Bethan Davies

Bethan has just graduated from the University of Liverpool with a First Class Honors in English Literature and Chinese Studies. Throughout her studies, Bethan worked as a Chinese Translator and Proofreader. Having spent five years living in China, Bethan has a profound interest in photography, travel and learning about different cultures. She also enjoys taking her dog on adventures around the Peak District. Bethan aims to travel more of the world, taking her camera with her.

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