Your gadgets impact the environment and the well-being of other people – long before you buy them. In our field, we want to influence from the start, where many minor improvements can result in major benefits at the end of the day. Rikard Söderberg, Director at Chalmers Production Area of Advance has a strong believe in the sustainability impact we can do, as researchers and teachers.
It is rarely a matter of ground-breaking inventions, but rather of enabling sustainable choices on a broad front, says Rikard Söderberg who is head of the Production Area of Advance.
Chalmers and its Production Area of Advance have national responsibility for research related to sustainable production. Together with Lund University, Chalmers was tasked by the government in 2010 to conduct the strategic Sustainable Production Initiative.
“A total of SEK 162 million has been invested in the initiative – SEK 122 million from the government and SEK 40 million from Chalmers – which currently includes 220 researchers in the Area of Advance.
Our aim is to spread out the work to as many research projects as possible. The idea is for all the 220 researchers to do something that contributes to a more sustainable society.”
Chalmers Production Area of Advance works very closely with industry. Since it has been proven that decisions made early on in the development of a product or a production system have greater impact than decisions made later on, researchers have a good chance to influence in a positive direction,” says Rikard Söderberg.
“We are often included in the planning phase for evaluation of different technical solutions for both the product and its production system. Amongst other things, we are eminent in computer simulations of product and production systems, where it is possible to test what the outcomes of various choices will be in advance. Previously issues basically only related to finances, but now we can also show companies how selection of materials and methods impacts people and the environment.”
He is personally convinced that the companies most willing to meet the challenges posed by sustainability are the ones that will cope the best in the future.
“Convincing the masses, however, is a little like making a turn with a large oil tanker. You have to do it gradually and plan in advance,” says Rikard Söderberg.