Interview with Peter Loescher, CEO of Siemens AG, about innovative solution on urban planning.
What are the scientific and business goals behind the ‘Future Dialogue’?
Today, science and business can make a lot of things possible. However, in our fast-moving times, more than ever before these two areas now need an open dialogue with each other and with society in general. The ‘Future Dialogue 2011’ will bring together scientists of world standing, policy-makers from business and politics, as well as influential thinkers and opinion-formers in order to discuss and develop innovative and new approaches in relation to sustainable, long-term urban development. The rapid growth of cities represents a particularly difficult challenge for threshold countries like India.
This is why Prof. Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society, and I decided to get together and host the ‘Future Dialogue’ series of conferences. It was and still is our aim to sharpen awareness for innovative, scientific solutions which are being developed as future responses to the challenges of today. To achieve our targets we want to improve the level of cooperation between science and business in order to ensure that solutions can be promptly translated into marketable concepts. During the ‘Future Dialogue’ we will discuss the best ways in which the general public and policy-makers can support this process.
In 2007, for the first time the number of people living in cities exceeded the population living in rural areas. By 2050 the urban proportion of the population is set to rise to 70 percent.
Due to their increasing economic importance, cities are the engines of economic growth of the future and therefore Growth with consequences Innovative solutions for urban planning offer opportunities for development, employment and prosperity. The special requirements of cities pose a major challenge however, and time and again these requirements cause the growth of urban infrastructures to reach its limits. In addition, the consumption of natural resources is particularly high in cities. For example, 75 percent of the world‘s energy consumption takes place in cities. They are also responsible for 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the study ‘India’s Urban Awakening’ prepared by McKinsey Global Institute in April 2010, India‘s urban population of approximately 340 million in 2008 is set to swell to 590 million by 2030. 80 to 85 percent of the country‘s tax revenue is gene-rated in India‘s cities and towns. As a result, India has to manage a delicate balance between economic growth on the one hand and the impact on society and the environment on the other. The biggest challenges are in the cities – and the fight against climate change will also be decided in the cities.
Consequently, energy-efficient and sustainable infrastructure for buildings, traffic, energy and water supplies is urgently needed. This is the only way to ensure that the standard of living can be preserved in cities, competitiveness can be safeguarded and – at the same time – protection can be afforded to the environment and our natural resources.
The Green City Index established by Siemens compares the development of metro cities around the globe according to a fixed set of criteria. In February 2011, Siemens published the Asian Green City Index, also covering the four Indian metro cities Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore. From your point of view, which steps are urgently needed in order to lift the Indian cities up to the average level of the Asian Green City Index?
The challenges Indian cities in general face, are pretty similar in nature: congested traffic situation, missing green areas, missing water supply as well as waste water management and a missing efficient energy supply. In an environment where space is rare, the challenges for city planning stakeholders are manifold and the situation is worsening due to further rapid urbanization. Alignment amongst the city’s stakeholders, introduction of future oriented and integrated city planning and consequent investment in appropriate infrastructure technologies are the talk of the day and should be the first step to be implemented.
How shall India deal with the expected high urban growth rates in the years to come?
According to the latest McKinsey report on urbanization in India, it is expected that by 2030 there will be 68 cities in India with a population of more than one million each. So the problem will not be solved when only concentrating on the four metro cities mentioned in our Green City Index, while the next wave metro cities is already knocking on India’s door. We need a concerted action of Government, city stakeholders, banks, city planning consultants, civil construction and technology companies like Siemens to come up with a framework of possible solutions as there is no “one size fits it all” approach. India’s cities are in different stages of development and require situation specific solution patterns which have to be developed and implemented.
Who should take the leading role in a dialogue between policy makers, science and business?
As mentioned before, a concerted action is needed amongst all stakeholders, starting with a huge awareness process, followed by a city specific design-framework and last but not least walk the talk means implementation. As we all know, implementation of measures adopted can pose huge challenges. Hence the cities need assertive persons who can take over effectively and are equipped with the necessary authorities and power.
In Mumbai our colleagues from Siemens India have already started to talk, align and team up with many of the city’s stakeholders. The responses we got so far are overwhelmingly positive. We are seen as a valuable sparring partner and coach for all of them and we are prepared to play our role in this huge endeavor to improve the infrastructure situation today and prepare the city for tomorrow.
Which priorities are important for the development of concepts for an environmentally and people friendly living in Indian cities?
From an Indian context I would clearly see the following high focus areas: Urban and suburban trains or metro solutions to provide environment friendly mass transportation to and inside the city, traffic management solutions to bring relieve to traffic congestions, smart grid solutions to improve energy availability and efficiency and water supply, waste and water management solutions as well as low cost and green housing solutions to solve slum challenges and provide a perspective for additional building needs.
What kind of ’out-of-the-box’ thinking should find an entry into the gamut of possible solutions in order to prevent a possible collapse of Indian cities?
Well, as always in life there are a few possibilities to solve a problem. One is to implement relieve bringing solutions, once the problem has occurred and trying to control and prevent similar situations in the future. The other one would be by rout course management, means to somehow drastically reduce the urbanization trend and by doing so, stopping the problem before it occurs. Improving the conditions in rural areas by usage of affordable technologies and increasing the attractiveness for the industry to settle down in rural areas by respective tax holidays would certainly be worth to think about. Siemens is heavily involved in the development of so called SMART products, which stands for Simple, Maintenance friendly, Affordable, Reliable and Time to Market. These products, while being affordable, certainly can help to improve the living conditions in such rural areas.
Which important contributions to this development can come from Siemens?
With our solutions in transportation and logistics for people and goods we can provide world class products and services that maximize efficiency by increasing the utilization of the existing infrastructure. We can realize innovative mass transit concepts with trains and automation infrastructure as well as intelligent traffic solutions which can increase efficiency of existing infrastructures. Our building solutions can cut the energy consumption of some commercial buildings by half, leading to vastly reduced carbon dioxide emissions and lifecycle costs. With our intelligent power grid solutions we can enable a much larger share of decentralized generated power.
How can Siemens India Ltd. be involved in the development of these solutions and processes?
Siemens in India has already geared up in designing, developing and manufacturing such solutions with our local research and development team, along with our engineering resources. In our 20 local factories currently more than 60 SMART products are in our development pipeline. Furthermore we have implemented a fantastic innovation platform, which allows all our employees in research and development to share their innovative product ideas with other colleagues and to further develop them in a concerted action till a certain degree of concept is reached. Thereafter they are taken over by the product management experts who integrate these concepts in new products or feature enhancements.
From your point of view, how long will Indian cities need for the change towards sustainable, environmentally and people friendly cities?
Looks like a long road ahead, but every journey starts with a first step. Since more than 140 years Siemens is established in India. Today we are seen as an Indian company with German roots. We are prepared to support India with our expertise, technologies, products and services in its endeavor to transform its cities into modern, people and environmentally friendly home harbors. As the landscapes of Indian cities are changing rather fast, not every change for more environmental consciousness and quality can be implemented in the shortest of time. However, it is very crucial that all these challenges will be tackled rigorously and with the necessary perseverance and stamina.
© GermanyContact India 5 / 2011
The interview with Peter Loescher was conducted by Achim Rodewald, Editor in Chief of GermanyContact India.