NSF Engines: Type-1: Vibrant Ecosystem for Climate Change Mitigation
I. Topic Area:
The United Nation has identified Climate Change as humanity’s biggest challenge. (14) The human-driven disruption of global ecosystems is causing what scientists call the sixth mass extinction on Earth. A mass extinction is a period of geological time in which a high percentage of biodiversity, or distinct species—bacteria, fungi, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates—dies out. (2). The planet has experienced five previous periods of mass extinction, the last one occurring about 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs became extinct. However, this time humans are causing the sixth mass extinction, and climate change is a primary factor behind it. (15) “Scientists agree that global warming is caused mainly by human activity.” (13) According to data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we are approaching the point of no return where changes in water cycles are causing greater and more extreme catastrophes, endangering the continuity of human civilization. (12) Critical social infrastructure like housing, education, healthcare, and transportation are closely linked to environmental threats, exponentially growing. However, the Research and development (R&D) of new technologies supports climate resilience for sustainable change. For that reason, MIT (2019) states, “We should focus on the cardinal elements of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) to tackle climate change.” (8)
II. Region of Service:
Puerto Rico (P.R.) is an unincorporated U.S. Territory overseen by The House Committee on Natural Resources, which “advances the interests of the indigenous peoples and residents of the territories of the United States, and considers legislation and oversees federal conservation and species protection programs under the leadership of Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva.” (1) The island has been particularly affected by climate change. According to the National Hurricane Center (2018), Hurricane Maria entered historical records as one of the most catastrophic natural disasters ever to affect the region, causing thousands of deaths and more than $90 billion in destroyed property. (7) However, after this disaster, the Federal Government has Obligated Billions of $U.S. Dollars to FEMA, HUD, DHS, and other agencies for recovery. (10) The Climate Change Mitigation, Adaption, and Resiliency Law, which set a goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 was adopted by the U.S. Commonwealth. As summarized by Yale School of Environment, this legislation aims to “reduce energy consumption island-wide by at least 1 percent each year; prohibits extending or granting new contracts or permits for coal-based power generation; encourages the adoption of hybrid or electric vehicles; improves energy and water efficiency; and creates strategic water reservoirs for use during drought.” (9) Businesses rebounded and entrepreneurship rose across the board in a regional push to rebuild as an innovation hub. In fact, P.R. is ranked as the seventh-best tech hub in Latin America (Latin America Reports, 2021). (5) Numerous startup accelerator programs have flourished and the island has recently seen an increase in the number of tech companies relocating to P.R. According to a New York Times report (2021), thousands of investors are moving to P.R. in search of the island’s potential to become a regional tech hub.(6) A study by Ducker Frontier (2020) states that, “Puerto Rico could create between 26% and 34% additional jobs with the successful implementation of artificial intelligence (AI), while business services could increase by 50% and manufacturing would rise by 33%, filling the unemployment gap of 466,000 people in the labor market.” (3)
III. Purpose and Vision:
The purpose of this Engine is to support Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico’s economy, with the vision of establishing a regional epicenter for the research and development (R&D) of exponential technologies that lead climate adaptation design and implementation.
Taking a smart city approach to local innovation, this Engine establishes an industrial hub that hosts a regional Artificial Intelligence R&D Lab to serve as the brain of the ecosystem, connecting tech startups, universities, research centers, and international businesses, to apply exponential technology solutions for the most pressing challenges that result from climate change, as well as mitigating disasters impact to enhance resilience. Driven by inclusive and sustainable innovations, this Engine addresses the following specific use-inspired challenges that are crucial to mitigate the risks of climate change:
Disaster Management: applying real-time big data analytics to predict disasters and enhance emergency-response systems.
Public Health: leveraging the island’s competitive advantage of hosting 11 of the top 20 global pharma companies (11), collaborating with telecommunications providers and the pharmaceutical industry to enhance healthcare manufacturing in Puerto Rico.
Government services: integrating big data and Artificial Intelligence to procure the optimal functioning of critical infrastructure and public services.
Housing: introducing an Internet of Things (IoT) network into a data-processing infrastructure, to build sustainable and smart housing with low-carbon materials.
Mobility and transportation
IV. Regional Impact:
According to a University of Texas at Austin (UTA) study, published in May 2021, P.R. is among the world’s most vulnerable regions in the world to the effects of climate change. (4) This Engine leverages the creativity and ingenuity of the local population to create a vibrant ecosystem amid plans to fix and prevent problems uncovered by climate change, serving as the building block to re-design the Island’s economy and scale solutions nationwide. Moreover, the unique position of being a U.S. territory in Latin America enables P.R. to attract scaling companies from North, Central, and South America, serving as a regional hub for the incubation and acceleration of exponential technology companies. The multi-dimensional nature of climate change offers an opportunity to innovate in areas that are transversal to all aspects of the economy and attract talent to industrial growth and development, and Puerto Rico’s workforce is qualified to lead the implementation of new ideas that help mitigate climate change.
USGS states, “Deep convection in model integrations, is an important consideration for sub-tropical regions in general, and on islands with steep precipitation gradients in particular that strongly influence local ecological processes and the provision of ecosystem services." Data-driven machine learning models and other deep/exponential technologies represent more accuracy, speed, and interconnectivity at the time of predicting, dealing, and tempering with the climate change and its impact in socioeconomic development, nature and well-being.
For this reason, Vibrant Ecosystem for Climate Change Mitigation aims to gather national support and collaboration to develop multisectorial coalitions that achieve the creation of a regional “innovation ecosystem”, while managing the damage of current natural disasters.
As the leading organization, GENIA will mobilize the engagement of innovation networks that range from Singularity University, to Invest Puerto Rico.
VI. About GENIA:
GENIA (Unique Entity Identifier number: STZ1NJBRGYM4) is a Public Benefit Corporation harnessing the power of machine learning and deep tech to connect Latin America to a regional matrix of artificial intelligence research & development. Our international team researches and develops safe and fair Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, which include all sectors in the unfolding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the new digital economy.
Conceived at Singularity University at NASA, GENIA is home to a broad network of global AI specialists, and experts in Industry, Public Policy, Diplomacy and Technology, from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C. and all of Latin America. The company has grown exponentially, signing international implementation agreements with high-level multinational organizations and various governments in the region. GENIA is articulating the first international coalition to implement artificial intelligence that guarantees democratic values through the #YoSoyFuturo R&D Laboratory Network.