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How can leaders ensure the tech sector is more sustainable?

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HP Ireland’s Gary Tierney discusses how tech companies need to work together to ensure they tackle the climate crisis and make the world more sustainable.

With new devices and endless data constantly being produced in the tech sector, there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to sustainability.

Earlier this year, we spoke to digital expert Gerry McGovern about the impact of e-waste and digital pollution. “Digital is not green,” he said. “Digital is electrical, meaning that everything we do in digital consumes energy and creates pollution.”

However, there have also been moves in the right direction when it comes to offsetting the damage from emissions in the tech sector.

For example, in Ireland, Microsoft partnered with SSE Airtricity to install solar panels on the roofs of schools. Amazon announced a new 115MW windfarm project in Co Galway last year, which will begin operating in 2022. And data centre group Host in Ireland recently launched a pollinator plan to address Ireland’s biodiversity plight and help save the bees.

On a broader scale, many tech companies such as Facebook and Google have made net-zero emission pledges. Another tech giant focusing on this goal is HP, which plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its value chain by 2040 and carbon neutrality for its supplies business by 2030.

However, Gary Tierney, managing director of HP Ireland, said that while the tech industry has come a long way, there still is plenty of work still to do.

“More and more tech users are making purchasing decisions based on their principles, just as much as the actual product or service on offer, so it is important that tech companies implement sustainable business practices across all levels of their business,” he said.

Reducing waste

“To start, businesses need to find a way to use less, waste less and recycle more,” Tierney added. “A vital part of this is reimagining product design – developing energy-efficient products and setting default design choices to renewable materials so that when a product reaches the end of its useful life, it can be broken down and recycled.”

The European Commission has already taken a number of steps to tackle this issue. Its Circular Economy Action Plan, published last year, highlighted reducing e-waste as a priority for EU countries.

In December, it proposed that all batteries placed on the EU market should be sustainable, high-performing and safe throughout their life cycle.

‘Corporations have contributed significantly to the climate crisis, so they must also contribute to its end’
– GARY TIERNEY

“Another key element is the creation of new business models and the reform of supply chains. By switching to contractual ‘as-a-service’ models rather than transactional models, tech companies can work more closely with customers to ensure that products are kept out of landfills,” said Tierney.

He added that in line with this model, HP has repaired and reused more than 4.6m hardware units and recycled 528,300 tonnes of hardware and printing supplies.

“Coming from a print background, I’m proud to see HP making bold steps in transitioning our supplies to be carbon neutral, by launching a cartridge renewal pilot programme that focuses on reducing raw materials and creating less waste when managing and delivering print supplies,” he said.

The Instant Ink programme will launch next month in Germany with plans to move to the wider European market over the next two years.

“By leveraging our existing cartridge collection programme to replenish cartridges for Instant Ink delivery, our supplies can have a renewed life cycle, which will reduce the amount of virgin plastic used.”

Working in silos won’t work

Aside from individual actions that companies can take, Tierney also highlighted the importance of collaboration across the sector.

“Corporations have contributed significantly to the climate crisis, so they must also contribute to its end. But working in silos won’t achieve the impact needed to create real and lasting change. By working together, we can all focus on the areas where we can have the biggest impact,” he said.

“For example, as a printing company, we have focused our efforts on finding new ways to reduce our impact on the world’s forests and address consumer concerns on the amount of paper used in printing.

“To accelerate this, we’ve worked closely with organisations such as WWF, Arbor Day Foundation and Conservation International on collaborative efforts to fight climate change. This includes an investment with WWF to protect 200,000 acres of endangered forests.”

Tierney said these steps are vital towards creating a more sustainable world. “We recognise this is a challenge that no single company, sector or country can meet on its own,” he said. “It is imperative that business leaders in the technology sector and beyond come together to fight climate change, protecting our planet and our future.”

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NUIG to spend €5m on research to help address global issues

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Several key research areas have been identified by NUI Galway to work towards for 2026.

NUI Galway’s recently launched research and innovation strategy includes a €5m investment on support for its multi-disciplinary research teams as they grapple with several global issues.

The strategy, which lays out plans for the university’s next five years of research, focuses on six areas: antimicrobial resistance, decarbonisation, democracy and its future, food security, human-centred data and ocean and coastal health.

“As a public university, we have a special responsibility to direct our research toward the most pressing questions and the most difficult issues,” said to Prof Jim Livesey, VP for research and innovation at NUI Galway.

“As we look into the future, we face uncertainty about the number and nature of challenges we will face, but we know that we will rely on our research capacity as we work together to overcome them,” Livesey added.

The plan focuses on creating the conditions to intensify the quality, scale and scope of research in the university into the future. This includes identifying areas with genuine potential to achieve international recognition for NUI Galway. It also aims to continue to cultivate a supportive and diverse environment within its research community.

NUI Galway has research collaborations with 3,267 international institutions in 114 different countries. The university also has five research institutes on its Galway city campus, including the Data Science Institute, the Whitaker Institute for social change and innovation and the Ryan Institute for marine research.

Its research centres in the medtech area include Science Foundation Ireland’s Cúram and the Corrib Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Lab.

The university will also continue to involve the public with its research and innovation plans through various education and outreach initiatives. It is leading the Public Patient Involvement Ignite network, which it claims, will “bring the public into the heart of research initiatives”.

Another key area identified in the strategy report is the development of partnerships with industry stakeholders. NUI Galway has spun out many successful companies in recent years, including medtechs such as AuriGen Medical, Atrian, Vetex Medical and Neurent.

According to MedTech Europe, Ireland has the highest number of medtech employees per capita in Europe along with Switzerland.

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France hails victory as Facebook agrees to pay newspapers for content | France

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France has hailed a victory in its long-running quest for fairer action from tech companies after Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users.

Facebook on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with the APIG alliance of French national and regional newspapers, which includes Le Parisien and Ouest-France as well as smaller titles. It said this meant “people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected”.

France had been battling for two years to protect the publishing rights and revenue of its press and news agencies against what it termed the domination of powerful tech companies that share news content or show news stories in web searches.

In 2019 France became the first EU country to enact a directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, called “neighbouring rights”, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. But it has taken long negotiations to reach agreements on paying publishers for content.

No detail was given of the exact amount agreed by Facebook and the APIG.

Pierre Louette, the head of the media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, led the alliance of newspapers who negotiated as a group with Facebook. He said the agreement was “the result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform”. He said the terms agreed would allow Facebook to implement French law “while generating significant funding” for news publishers, notably the smallest ones.

Other newspapers, such as the national daily Le Monde, have negotiated their own deals in recent months. News agencies have also negotiated separately.

After the 2019 French directive to protect publishers’ rights, a copyright spat raged for more than a year in which French media groups sought to find common ground with international tech firms. Google initially refused to comply, saying media groups already benefited by receiving millions of visits to their websites. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions complained about not receiving a cut of the millions made from ads displayed alongside news stories, particularly on Google.

But this year Google announced it had reached a draft agreement with the APIG to pay publishers for a selection of content shown in its searches.

Facebook said that besides paying for French content, it would also launch a French news service, Facebook News, in January – a follow-up to similar services in the US and UK – to “give people a dedicated space to access content from trusted and reputable news sources”.

Facebook reached deals with most of Australia’s largest media companies earlier this year. Nine Entertainment, which includes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said in its annual report that it was expecting “strong growth in the short-term” from its deals with Facebook and Google.

British newspapers including the Guardian signed up last year to a programme in which Facebook pays to license articles that appear on a dedicated news section on the social media site. Separately, in July Guardian Australia struck a deal with Facebook to license news content.

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Flight Simulator says Windows 11 has been downloaded on Xbox • The Register

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, will not fly until the first half of next year at the earliest, as the manufacturing giant continues to tackle an issue with the spacecraft’s valves.

Things have not gone smoothly for Boeing. Its Starliner program has suffered numerous setbacks and delays. Just in August, a second unmanned test flight was scrapped after 13 of 24 valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system jammed. In a briefing this week, Michelle Parker, chief engineer of space and launch at Boeing, shed more light on the errant components.

Boeing believes the valves malfunctioned due to weather issues, we were told. Florida, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where the Starliner is being assembled and tested, is known for hot, humid summers. Parker explained that the chemicals from the spacecraft’s oxidizer reacted with water condensation inside the valves to form nitric acid. The acidity corroded the valves, causing them to stick.

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