The man who flew around the world on a solar plane invites 1,000 solutions to change the world


Stating that the future of the world lies in connected and clean technologies, third-generation explorer Bertrand Piccard aims to ‘match-make’ 1,000 solutions that can transform life on earth with governments that can bring them to fruition.

Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard was born in a family of pioneers. In 1960, his father, Jacques, with Dan Walsh of the US, was the first man to reach the deepest point of the world’s oceans, the Mariana Trench. Thirty years before that, his grandfather ballooned into the stratosphere. Bertrand did his own bit – in 1999, along with Britain’s Brian Jones, he circumnavigated the earth in a balloon, flying more than 45,000 km in 20 days. But he didn’t stop there. In 2016, he completed the first round-the-world solar flight in history on the Solar Impulse, a long-range aircraft powered by solar energy.

He has created the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions with its Constituent Assembly at COP23, on November 23, 2017, to promote “concrete energy efficient solutions to solve many of the challenges facing society today”. The committee has invited 1,000 clean solutions from across the world, 1,000 for-profit ventures that can make the earth a better place to live. The 1,000 ideas or solutions will be brought together under the World Alliance programme, which aims to change the world. Now remember all these solutions will be presented at COP24.

The explorer speaks to YourStory on why mobile tech and renewable energy are set to disrupt the future, and why it’s important to only do things you believe in.

Bertrand Piccard_© Philipp Böhlen

Edited excerpts of the interview:

YS: How does one make clean tech companies profitable, especially when world leaders like Donald Trump are rejecting climate change?

BP: Over the last few months I have been travelling across the world, inviting ideas to be part of the World Alliance, which will pick 1,000 solutions to be presented before governments at the COP24. These 1,000 solutions will be businesses with business models around clean-tech technology. It is in the interest of the governments to work with these ideas and hasten the process of protecting the planet from climate change.

I look at India and the pace of its growth and see that it needs to invest in clean tech faster than other nations. I also believe several of these 1,000 solutions could emerge from India. There have to be electric cars and LED lamps everywhere, and we must use all forms of renewable energy. The future will be disruptive, thanks to mobile technology and then renewable energy. These two things will be the biggest things that any government or corporate should invest in. Just follow energy stocks and you will see that investment in any industry that affects the climate is falling. Their stock prices are at an all-time low.

YS: Do you see a conflict between old businesses and new ones?

BP: A lot of the old guard of business leaders have not understood the change. As time passes by, people are realising that fossil fuel is not sustainable for the planet. Some of these old guard leaders are yet to come to grips with clean energy. But they are changing because investment patterns are changing – be it insurance companies, pension funds, or big banks. People don’t want to invest in coal anymore. They are selling all oil assets and the trend towards building clean energy tech businesses has already begun.

YS: How do you see the world moving towards cleaner energies?

BP: Phones being launched today consume less energy; battery capacities are increasing. There are solutions. Clean tech needs to be profitable and that’s what our organisation is committed to achieving. With these 1,000 solutions, we hope to get nations to sign a charter to improve the quality of life on earth and take these business ideas from lab scenarios to commercial endeavours. We will match-make these 1,000 solutions with world governments and these governments must work with these ideas to achieve these goals. Entrepreneurs who are in clean tech should not fear; it is not about failure, it is about preparing for something bigger.

That’s how I lived my life. If I believe in something, I go out there not to convince people, but to motivate them about clean energy. There is a difference between convincing and motivating. I don’t waste my time when people have no interest in what I am telling them about. Remember to do what you believe in. I don’t watch TV, I am constantly learning about new technologies. By the way, I am not even an engineer and yet I know what it means to build technology. I am an explorer and I am out there to discover things. The future of the world is through connected and clean technologies. The world has to go green and there are several startups that need support to make the world cleaner.