Conclusion on The Tongji - Covestro Sustainable Development Forum


The 2015 Covestro – Tongji Sustainable Development Forum focuses on the theme “Smart Materials in Sustainable Future Cities”. It aims for developing an agenda that allows Covestro, Tongji University and other partners to work hand in hand on shaping sustainable urban future in the context of China. The 2015 Forum shifts a focus from PR to Pilot Projects, and identifies the key role of Covestro’s material science in a pilot project nZED near Zero Energy District, a new model of future sustainable urban systems for that is urgently needed for China to deal with challenges of climate change and urban development. It also aims for building a strong partnership with universities, corporations, governments and organizations such as UNEP-Tongji Institute that are leading the new area internationally and nationally, to jointly explore opportunities advancing and realizing Covestro’s sustainability and innovation agenda.

Strategic Partners of 10KM2 Near Zero Energy District


The discussions of four core groups, Infrastructure, Communications, Energy and Water, converge into five themes and each theme has a dual pathway to innovation for sustainability:

1. End-user: all groups acknowledge it is important to understand end-user’s needs and demands including their desirable quality of life and comfort. On the other hand, some suggest possibility of shaping endusers’ behaviors by incentives and education.

2. Technologies: many new technologies of each city system are developed and advanced to address sustainability challenges (e.g., new energy storage facilities, renewable technologies, water treatment, purification and recycling, new energy automobile etc.). Smart materials are crucial components of these technologies and therefore the technologies inform the development direction of smart materials. On the other hand, smart materials enable the advancement of technologies for building sustainable urban systems for future communities in China.

3. Urban systems: at the city level, policies, best practices, city planning, infrastructural engineering and strategies or initiatives can be game changers that create new demands for sustainable development. For instance, policies and new building code or zoning regulation that encourage and incentivize green buildings and passive system design lead to demands for smart materials. On the other hand, policies also demand materials to be “greener” and produced in socially responsible ways.

4. Performance modeling and evaluation: big data and the use of smart meter are key features of smart cities, which constantly tracing the behavior of cities and performance of materials. On the other hands, big data are valuable sources of information that inform new trends and issues. Intelligent use of big data generates knowledge that helps support the use of smart materials, inform user behaviors, and shape policies.

5. Stakeholders and partners’ network: key stakeholders and partners are crucial in realizing sustainability vision and innovation of the pilot project. The pilot project will be a vehicle for connecting to networks of key stakeholders such as government, corporates, research universities, developers and communities. Embedded in such networks help communicate the concepts, features, and functions of smart materials, which pave the way to wider acceptance of the materials science and applications for eco-friendly mode of future development.

The dual pathway to innovation is summarized as the Figure below.

The first side of the pathway focuses on closely monitoring demands and requirements of different aspects of cities including users, technologies, and policies of different industrial sectors (e.g., infrastructure, communications, energy, and water). Based on the information, materials are developed to meet the demands and requirements.

The second side of the pathway focuses on leading the market development and shaping the demands by capturing the trends and issues, experimenting sustainable initiatives, and defining best practices through innovative partner networks. This strategic pathway fully explores the synergies of the five themes through collaborative innovation networks. The collaborative network and synergies, once developed, can become self-reinforcing, self-sustaining. The systematic, holistic pathway will enable Covestro to provide solutions to issues of city’s sustainability rather than single material products.


MA Hui
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