PICMET '21 Keynotes


"Applying Digital Technologies to Manage Climate Change"

John R. McDougall, PICMET Fellow, Former President, National Research Council, Canada

Arguably, the most serious challenge confronting the world is the rapid rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Scientists, engineers and business people are all challenged to address the global GHG challenge in a major way. To make a significant difference, solutions must be scalable to billions of tonnes or more per annum, require no or very low external conventional energy inputs, and be very cost effective. It must not simply push the problem down the road, thereby creating another issue.

Solutions will likely be found at the forefront of current scientific capability. Pushing the limits of science to address GHG on such a macro scale pushes us toward biological systems which have demonstrated chemical and physical processes that convert GHG inputs (CO2, CH4, NOx, etc.) to useful outputs of various kinds. Biological systems are self-replicating, and under some circumstances demonstrate runaway genetic duplication effects, essentially becoming self-assembling machines at very high rates.

GHG solutions will involve capabilities including biology, synthetic biology, bio-engineering techniques which are enabled, developed and knit together with applications of Digital technologies and machine learning bio-algorithms. This presentation will explore how that may occur.

John R. McDougall

John McDougall has 50 years of experience in 75 countries in the natural resource, IT, manufacturing, consulting, real estate and investment industries as well as research and development and academia. He retired from Canada’s National Research Council after six years as President, a position he accepted after 12 years as CEO of the Alberta Research Council. He was the inaugural Chair in Management for Engineers at the University of Alberta from 1991-97, and he initiated Innoventures Canada Inc. in 2006 to bring together Canada’s leading research and technology organizations providing technology development, demonstration and deployment services as centers of excellence for commercialization and research.

In the private sector, after eight years with a multinational, he managed and founded firms in real estate, investment and development, frontier exploration and logistics, project management, technology development, economics and economic development, financial and business planning, data processing and custom software development and natural gas brokerage. He has also served as an outside director or advisor to several public and private firms.      

John is an active volunteer in business, professional and not-for-profit organizations where holding leadership positions in local, national and international organizations such as The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Centre, Capital Care Foundation, Engineers Canada, St. John’s Ambulance, Eureka and the G8 Heads of Research Organizations. He has also served on dozens of academic and government committees and agencies.      

He has received medals and recognition including the 2015 PICMET award for Leadership in Technology Management, Honorary membership in the Mexican College of Civil Engineers and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.      




"Digitalization Mitigates Climate Change and Moves Us to a Sustainable Future"

Dr. Dietmar Theis, Honorary Professor, Technical University of Munich, PICMET Fellow, Germany

Progress in containing the growing risk to the planetary environment – i.e. the uncontrolled increase in anthropogenic global warming – will depend strongly on the deployment of the arsenal of the digital revolution.

Digital technologies play a vital role in accelerating decarbonization efforts with ever-growing impact on cost-effective clean energy technologies. The electricity sector is at the heart of this digital transformation. So far electricity was generated in large power plants, transferred through transmission and distribution networks and flowing one-way to end users in the residential, commercial, industrial and transport sectors. Digitalization is enabling and accelerating the shift towards efficient, renewable, clean energy technologies and a multi-directional, distributed energy system (smart grids).

Digitalization is also transforming road transport, where connectivity and automation (alongside further electrification of mobility) could dramatically reshape the sector. Connectivity also provides a wide range of opportunities to link industrial facilities to their surroundings, thus facilitating the reuse and recycling of materials along value chains. Real-time information on the availability of local waste streams can boost system efficiency. This presentation will try to highlight some essential features of the digital change towards sustainability and point out some of the associated risks.

Dr. Dietmar Theis

Dr. Dietmar Theis is an Honorary Professor at the Technical University of Munich, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, where he has been teaching since 1994. He obtained a Master´s degree (Diploma) in Physics from the Technical University Berlin and a Doctoral degree in Solid State Physics from the same University. For his PhD work he was awarded with the Scheel-Prize of the German Physical Society.

In 1977 Dr. Theis joined Siemens´ Research Laboratories (Corporate Technology) where he worked on optoelectronics, mainly light emitting diodes and flat panel displays, later on power semiconductors. He published more than forty technical research papers. Since 1995 he was responsible for R&D marketing communication, R&D policy and government relations as well as university liaisons. He edited the Siemens´ R&D Journal “Pictures of the Future” and was involved in the company´s technical foresight activities. Dr. Theis was elected as a member of the Engineering Academy of the Czech Republic in 2006 and served as an R&D advisor to the CEO and the Head of the Supervisory Board of Siemens.

In 2008 Dr. Theis has retired from Siemens and now continues his professional life as a consultant to several European Scientific and Engineering Associations and as a university lecturer. He keeps contributing to European Foresight Projects and acts as an R&D advisor to companies. In summer 2019 Dr. Theis was elected a PICMET Fellow.


























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