More than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and that figure is expected to grow by another 2.5 billion people by 2050. This densification has profound implications on such vectors as energy usage, food and water consumption, conflict, quality of life and carbon emissions, among numerous other factors. Cities currently occupy only two percent of the world’s land mass but are the source of more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gases. The challenges associated with the breadth and depth of population density creates intense strain on local infrastructures and natural resources, yet gives rise to numerous opportunities to both develop and implement disruptive technologies to meet the changing needs of urban areas.
In August 2017, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) convened a Summit and brought together more than 150 stakeholders from across the country to discuss innovation in residential buildings, transportation, agriculture and food systems, and water use as the keystone for building smart and connected communities. IN2 is a unique technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Companies selected to participate in the IN2 program receive funding and access to NREL’s world-class research facilities and expertise to prove, optimize and test their technology at scale. Founded in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting innovations in the commercial buildings space, its current mission is to create a collaborative ecosystem that enables smart and connected communities of the future.
The 2017 IN2 Summit addressed three mutually dependent subjects relevant to the creation and advancement of smart and connected communities: residential buildings; transportation; and the nexus of food, water and energy. The discussions generated great insights into the future of smart communities and revealed several prevalent themes that guided conversation. A fuller accounting of these dialogues are contained in the body of this white paper.
As discussed in this white paper, the crossover and challenges presented between agriculture and food, energy, and water provides tremendous opportunities and potential for impact for the IN2 model can best be leveraged in this technology vertical. A resulting outcome will be the release of a roadmap and announcement of subthemes IN2 will focus on in this space. We will share this document with the greater ecosystem once finalized in late Spring.