Al Gore rattled me in 2006 with An Inconvenient Truth. He alerted me, like many, to an issue that I had not known about: Climate Change.
The fact that innovation in physical things is slow and complicated, and our apparent inability to out-engineer the fundamental challenges facing humanity, was my prime motivator to start Hyperganic.
As a kid, I believed by the time I grew up, we would be a civilization that had solved all fundamental engineering problems on Earth — energy, water, food, housing… — and had even expanded into space.
Instead, we live in a world where we made amazing progress in areas like Information Technology, but where many humans continue to struggle with basic needs like access to electricity, clean water and sanitation. And we continue to pollute the environment, and emit horrendous amounts of CO2.
Our children ask themselves — will they live in a world that is worth living in?
We have to get to work. We have to solve these challenges through a better way of engineering. We call it Algorithmic Engineering.
We work with our customers on the toughest engineering problems. But, through our Strategic Engineering Group, we challenge ourselves at Hyperganic to lift an entire field in engineering to a new level. We invest our time and money to go ahead.
Air-conditioning is such a field. It’s one of the most important energy consumers in the world — estimates are 10% of global electricity use. In a warming world, the use of A/C is going to rise, likely beyond the current projections. Even today’s numbers predict 10 units to be sold every second for the next 30 years.
Air-conditioning systems, especially compact residential units which make up half of the market, are not efficient. Their technology is simple; it has been optimized for cheap manufacturing using sheet metal and pipes.
We want to change this.
We believe that by combining Algorithmic Engineering with industrial 3D printing, we can engineer A/C units that, over the cycle of a year, consume only 10% of the energy of a conventional device. After long discussions with Hans Langer, founder of AM giant EOS, I am now convinced that we can do it at scale, and at a price point that is competitive with traditionally manufactured units.
The cost to buy one and operate it for one year should not exceed the same amount of money that you need to invest in an off-the-shelf A/C. This is what’s needed for a tipping point — I think we can do it. It’s going to be super hard and take a lot of effort on many fronts – engineering, manufacturing and industrialization. We have our work cut out for us, and I sincerely hope, we will get it done.
And we are doing it in the United Arab Emirates, through our new engineering office in Dubai, in close cooperation with our team in Singapore.
We have partnered up with Strata, the UAE’s largest advanced manufacturing company. In Strata, we have found the ideal partner to productize the device. When I saw what Strata had built in the desert oasis of Al Ain, I came away impressed. Within just a few years, they had built one of the most advanced factories for carbon composite aerospace parts.
Even during COVID, when most companies in the world shut down and complained about supply chain issues, they expanded their production capabilities and built a new factory wing from scratch. When I met their team, I knew they are doers, they make things happen. If they can convert a piece of desert into an aircraft factory in months, they can help us bring this product to life in an impossible timeframe.
For many people, the Emirates are unknown territory. But I lived in the UAE for most of 2021. Dubai was one of the few places in the world where you could still sit down and ideate projects. While the rest of the world shut down and watched Netflix, people in the UAE discussed projects to support the 2071 vision of the country. All facilitated by a functioning digital ecosystem to manage COVID tests and one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
I don’t have much patience for people who tell me why things cannot be done right now. The war. Recession looming. COVID. All valid excuses.
But the enormous challenges that humanity faces are not going away, while we deal with the comparatively small present issues, as horrific as they are. We need to work with people all over the world, who can find a way and deliver. And we found many of them here in the Emirates.
In the end, much of this comes down to a gut decision. A handshake, like the one I had earlier with Ismail Ali Abdullah, the CEO of Strata, where we said — yes, we will do this.
Our new office in Business Bay in Dubai, which will open in two days, has a direct view of the city skyline with the Burj Khalifa. People have criticized high-rise projects like the Burj with many valid arguments. But they are missing the point. When I walk the streets here and see buildings like the Museum of the Future, I think to myself, this is much closer to what I thought the 21st century would look like. When I take a bicycle ride from our office all the way to the Dubai Marina, on perfect bike tracks, and see that all this was built in an inhospitable place, just because someone decided to do it, I know what humans can do.
I want to work with the women and men who have built this over the course of just a few decades, and who are hungry to continue on that path.
And I want my team to be inspired to build the future and not despair about the present.