"Alpbach is not an ordinary conference, it is what you make of it!" - in line with the official slogan of the European Forum Alpbach (EFA), our neoom hero Markus Sieberer decided to get as much as possible out of his Alpbach experience! And there were plenty of opportunities for that: almost 600 students from almost 80 countries around the world as well as many hundreds of participants from politics, business, technology, art and energy were present at the forum! The program ran from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., sometimes with 5 parallel events.
There was always a seminar in the morning, and in the afternoon there were lectures, chats (on a small scale), hikes with top politicians and experts from Austria and at an international level, as well as networking events. In between there was always the opportunity for “fire-side chats”, in which an informal exchange could take place in small groups with politicians, company bosses and other experts.
With all these exciting program items, it was important to choose wisely. Therefore, when choosing their seminars, the scholarship holders were asked to consciously choose topics in which they had little or no know-how.
Bitcoin and the energy transition: a contradiction in terms?
So Markus Sieberer chose the seminar "Towards a European Perspective on Bitcoin" and explored Bitcoin as a possible alternative or additional monetary system of the future. Because our current monetary system has the system error of inflation, which motivates people to spend their money faster and to consume products. This opens the spiral of "consumerism" that accelerates climate change. Bitcoin can therefore be a solution. But the digital currency system has fallen into disrepute because of its high energy consumption. The explanation for this: Since bitcoin miners scattered all over the world mine bitcoin using their own power supply, they are directly linked to energy consumption. But this motivates miners, be they companies or private individuals, to mine energy-efficiently. The energy transition will also make it possible to mine more and more sustainably through renewable energies or sector coupling. And finally, bitcoins already use less energy than our current monetary system.
Cradle to Cradle at the End of Life
So much for the theory. The practical skills of the students were sharpened in the course of a 24-hour marathon: Within 24 hours, the scholarship holders had to work out a task for a sponsor in an international team of five with students from Germany, Poland, Austria, Bangladesh and China. Innovation coaches actively supported the Alpbach scholarship holders. The client of Markus' team was Fronius Perfect Welding, a business unit of Fronius. The marathon revolved around making welding sustainable using the cradle-to-cradle approach. To work on the topic, the diverse team chose the high-volume product car. Because today's cars increasingly use composite materials and plastics as well as light metals, which reduce the weight of the vehicle - and thus the emissions during operation! – but are very difficult to recycle at its end-of-life. The team therefore suggested to pay more attention to the choice of materials in the future and minimizing the number of different, often bonded fabrics. The scholarship holders developed welding instead of gluing as a solution, since it brings advantages in terms of sustainability: Welded materials are much easier to sort and recycle. In addition, new products can be created from the materials. The team's conclusion: It is essential not only to optimize the use phase of products such as cars, but to take the entire life cycle and, above all, the end-of-life phase into account from the very beginning when designing such products!
Interdisciplinarity as a future discipline
These diverse approaches to knowledge acquisition and exchange made it clear to our neoom hero Markus Sieberer that almost all current problems are interdisciplinary challenges, which accordingly also require interdisciplinary solutions. After all, solving a problem with just technology or just politics or financial incentives is often not possible. Socio-political factors also play a role, especially when it comes to the energy transition. All aspects must therefore be taken into account and challenges tackled in a variety of ways. The neoom APP with the neoom KLUUB is a suitable example for this: Classic entrepreneurship is combined with social entrepreneurship in order not only to support the energy transition technologically, but above all to involve every single player and participant and offer the opportunity to play an active part to take in the energy revolution.
If you ask Markus about the most exciting conversation in Alpbach, he reports about a dinner with the CEO and board of ÖBB as well as representatives of Erste Bank and APG, to which Markus was able to join and in the course of which the future expansion goals of ÖBB in terms of personnel capacities and their own sustainable Energy supply and development potential were discussed. Because all of these are exactly the questions that Markus also deals with in his everyday life at neoom - and with which all of us will have to deal in the future! It is experiences like these that show how important it is to open up Alpbach to young people - and to enable exchange between young students and representatives of politics and industry.