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Accelerated Disruption: The Five Year Plan for Improved Sustainability

By Dick Weisinger

The five year plan. Medium-term goal planning. A way to focus priorities and concentrate efforts over short periods of time to achieve top priorities. It was invented by the Soviets and used in Communist China, but IBM has picked up on the concept and adopted a “5 in 5 technologies” — a list of five technology hurdles that if solved within the next five years could have have dramatic impact on our lives.

In September 2020, IBM announced their annual 5-in-5 list for Sustainability:

Capturing and transforming C02 to mitigate climate change – Development of efficient ways to extract C02 from the atmosphere and then process it so that it could be reused.

Efficient methods to convert nitrogen to nitrate-rich fertilizer – Nitrogen fixation done sustainably would enable us to feed the world’s growing population.

Batter redesign – Develop safer and environmentally preferable batteries to support a more efficient energy grid and transportation.

Sustainable Tech – Advance the development of materials that can improve the sustainability of electronic components and devices.

Learning from our past – Apply more AI and analytics to health care to help physicians better diagnose and treat illness and develop new drugs that can save lives, especially in the fight against life-threatening viruses.

It’s a great list of goals, but perhaps overly broad in description. A five year plan might be further drilled down into and fleshed out to describe more concrete goals. But it’s a great top-level list.

IBM said that “2020 has illuminated the essential role of science—as well as clear actions based on that science—to combat some of the greatest challenges of our time. The need to rethink how the world creates, consumes, and disposes of materials has never been clearer, from storing energy more efficiently, to removing CO2 from the atmosphere to growing food more sustainably.”

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