Imec is an R&D hub for nano- and digital technologies based in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. In 2019, Imec selected the Sustainable Development Goals on which it primarily – though not exlusively – focuses its research, because it believes nano- and digital technology can greatly speed up their progress.
Federico Corradi, Senior R&D Scientists for the company was interviewed to provide its feedback and opinion on how knowledge on complex systems contributes to its work and to the attainment of the 17 SDGs.
1. What are the main competences that a person in your company should have when working with tasks related to sustainable development?
- Interest in having an impact on the future of green tech; agility and interdisciplinary knowledge of natural science and other related hard sciences (e.g., mathematics, physics, computer science, etc.)
2. How do you perceive the challenge of integrating the 17 SDGs in your range of activities?
- First of all, it requires huge investments from the public sector. Without them, it would be very hard to work in the right direction. Secondly, it is necessary to have a holistic and human-centered perspective. For example, one of Imec's project (Smart Planet) focuses on the development of green tech for enabling smart farming, chaging the whole global agrifood chain. This will have a huge impact, making the sector smart, through the integration of data-analysis, automatization for the production of food of higher quality with less input in terms of resources (e.g. water, fertilizers, etc.) and human labor. To achieve this result, an interdisciplinary and holistic approach is necessary.
3. Could you give examples of tasks that would require a holistic thinking or thinking of systems?
- Most of the R&D activities we carry out need an holistic approach, as they deals with complex and wicked problems which require complex solutions. If you want to have an impact, you need a holistic behavior in which everything is connected.
4. Which challenges do you hear from current employees related to their work on sustainable development?
- The main issues are related to political and administrative aspects of the green sector. Up to now, there are not clear rules and many employees feel this is quite a challenge. Another issue is more related to the data-driven aspects of our project, which adopt large sets of data. Today, there is so much data that is hard to make a sense out of it. In this regard, an understanding of complexity is certainly useful.
5. How could better knowledge on complex systems help in completing tasks and improve quality of completion?
- The ability to represent, identify and model the main aspects of complex systems is a necessary skill in our domain and field of action.
6. What are your experiences of fresh university graduates as regards their knowledge and competencies for handling complex issues?
- It really depends. There are few people I know that are quite smart and can handle complex systems, but, however, it is an ability that comes with time. Moreover, it’s not for everybody. Some people become more specialized, while other tend to be more eclectic.