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Africa-Europe Alliance: EU boosts pan-African Internet connectivity with €30 million

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EU has announced additional €30 million for the project “AfricaConnect”, that will provide affordable, high-capacity Internet for research and education networks across Africa.

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “Affordable high-speed broadband connectivity enables African youth, students, and researchers to boost collaborative scientific research with their peers around the world to help them tackle challenges in Africa. This is an important step towards tackling the digital divide.”

Improved Internet connectivity will not only facilitate African participation in world-class research projects, but also enable education, training and research institutions to develop and use applications to improve their teaching and learning environments, such as virtual classes or massive open online courses.

This additional €30 million contribution from the EU budget will provide support to the three African Regional Research and Education Networks, which will also contribute €7.5 million:

  • UbuntuNet Alliance (Eastern and Southern Africa),
  • WACREN (Western and Central Africa) and
  • ASREN (Northern Africa and Middle East Arab countries) as well as
  • GÉANT, Europe’s leading collaboration on e-infrastructure and services for research and education and operator of the GÉANT pan-European Research and Education Network.

The new contracts signed today will support the third phase of the project. Since its launch in 2014, more than 800 higher education and research institutions have been connected, their high-speed capacity has been significantly increased, while costs have been lowered.

  • In Zambia the National Research and Education Network (ZAMREN) multiplied their Internet capacity by 60 times, while costs dropped by 94% over a 4-year period.
  • In Nigeria, the project helped students to improve campus security at the University of Lagos. By building a mock surveillance system for the detection of intruders, in the form of a moving robot, the project demonstrated a cost-effective way to deploy monitoring on Nigerian campuses. This has inspired other universities to improve campus security nationwide.
  • In Uganda, the project helped students to enhance their university services by facilitating affordable online access. Frustrated with long waiting lines and complex bureaucracy, a group of software development and data management students developed an application that optimised administrative processes and enhanced their learning experience.
  • In Egypt, AfricaConnect joined forces with the scientific community to issue early warnings about natural disasters. The impact of dust storms, which can cause injury through falling debris or trigger asthma attacks, is being mitigated through monitoring and timely alerts. Reliable Internet connectivity provided by this project has helped to access, download and transfer data from satellite sensors and meteorological stations.

Background

Home to the youngest population in the world, Africa is progressing rapidly in digital adoption. Over the past ten years, Africa has recorded the highest growth globally in Internet access, moving from 2.1% in 2005 to 24.4% in 2018. The digital economy in Africa provides not only opportunities for increased job creation and data, but also the basis for accelerating access to quality basic services, improving transparency and accountability of governments, and enhancing democracy.

Research and innovation environments can support the development of skills and improve the employability of young people. eEducation and eLearning can support the establishment of collective digital educational resources, and virtual reality can increase access to quality vocational education and training for young people in remote areas. Given their strong potential as enablers of “knowledge-based” societies, digital technologies are key to accelerating progress in the education and research sector.

AfricaConnect3 builds advanced Internet networks for research and education across the entire African continent. It involves regional networking organisations, facilitators of cross-border exchanges of data and collaboration, from three geographical areas: ASREN in North Africa; WACREN in West and Central Africa; UbuntuNet Alliance in Eastern and Southern Africa. By collaborating with the pan-European GÉANT network, it strengthens Europe’s links with the African continent and provides African research and education communities with opportunities for global collaboration.

The projects announced above are funded by the Pan-African Programme Annual Action Programme 2018.

They contribute to education, skills and digitalisation – key priorities under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The European Union-African Union Digital Economy Task Force, set up under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, recommends mainstreaming digital skills and responsible online behavior and the promotion of digital skills in schools, by reviewing education curricula in accordance with the evolving needs and trends in the digital economy and society.

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Climate tech investment grows at five times the venture capital market rate over seven years

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VC and corporate investment in startups developing technology enabled solutions to climate change, and the transformation to net zero emissions, grew at a faster rate than VC investment as a whole between 2013 – 2019. In that time, US$60 billion of early stage capital was invested globally into startups contributing to tackling the net zero challenge. 

As Climate Week in New York focuses attention on transforming business and economies to net zero emissions, the new research by PwC examines the global startup ecosystem critical to commercialising the innovation needed to make a net zero future a reality. The first-of-its-kind analysis defines the climate tech investment landscape, and examines global early-stage climate tech deals, volumes, trends, sectors and investors. Climate tech is defined as a broad umbrella of solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across energy, transport, the built environment, industrial processes, and food and land use; in addition to shifts towards less resource-incentive business models, or carbon removal technologies. 

While climate tech is a nascent sector overall in the VC market (approx 6% of total capital invested in 2019), climate tech VC investment increased from US$418 million per annum in 2013 to US$16.3 billion in 2019. That is approximately three times the growth rate of VC investment into Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the same period. 

Key factors influencing investment include capital efficiency to prove and scale solutions; and the potential for the solutions to provide cost effective carbon reduction or removal. 

Nearly half of all venture dollars ($60bn) went to US and Canadian climate tech startups (US$29 billion); China is second at US$20 billion. The European market attracted US$7 billion. Mobility and Transport solutions dominate US and China investment. 

“The analysis shows the urgency of the opportunity, and gap to close, to support and scale  innovative technologies and business models to address the climate crisis,” comments Celine Herweijer, global leader, Innovation & Sustainability, PwC UK. “Climate tech is a new frontier in venture investing for the 2020s.”

“Some of the technologies and solutions critical to enabling this transformation are proven and need rapid commercialisation, which is why venture capital is key. It will not need trillions invested in startups to make a difference. But for the trickier technologies and markets it will need targeted support, including from governments, to make it through research and development, and the early stages beyond which capital increasingly is lining up.”

Drivers for growth

Climate tech related to mobility & transport, heavy industry, and GHG capture and storage are the fastest growing segments in the analysis, followed by food, agriculture, land use, built environment, energy, and climate and Earth data generation. 

Investment in micro-mobility such as e-scooter and bike platforms and wider transport innovation has grown dramatically, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 151%, and representing 63% (US$37.4 billion) of all climate tech funding over the past seven years. The scale of transport innovation has also driven bigger deals.

“The climate tech market is maturing. As a society we are seeing more entrepreneurs launch startups, more investors back them, and an increasing number of larger funding rounds for later-stage high-potential deals.”, said Azeem Azhar, Senior Advisor to PwC UK, founder of Exponential View, and co-author of the report. “But PwC’s analysis shows the ecosystem is still nascent, with key gaps in the depth and nature of funding available to founders and tricky structural hurdles for them to navigate as they scale their businesses.”

Investors 

Climate tech venture funding is coming from every corner of the market.  Investors range from more traditional VC firms and venture funds specialising in sustainability, to corporate investors including energy majors, global consumer goods companies and big tech, government backed investment firms, and private equity players getting exposure to deals earlier.  

The strategic role of corporate venture capital (CVC) in particular, is key to many climate tech startups. Particularly those typified by high capital costs, targeted at disrupting asset-heavy incumbent industries with high barriers to entry, such as in energy, heavy industry and transport. For Mobility & Transport, 30% of the climate tech deals include a CVC firm, and in Energy, 32% of capital deployed came from CVCs. Overall, nearly a quarter of climate tech deals (24%) included a corporate investor.

“The involvement of corporates will be key to the continued success of climate tech – both in terms of their net zero commitments driving demand for new solutions, and their investments into commercialising innovation. It’s not just the financial means they bring, but the commercial know-how, and industry knowledge to help startups navigate how to rapidly deploy and scale new innovations into the market,” comments Celine Herweijer. 

Investment Hubs

Analysis of the top investment centres in Europe, Asia and the Americas shows climate tech startup investment in the San Francisco Bay area (US$11.7 billion) is 56% higher than its nearest rival, Shanghai (US$7.5 billion). Compared with the other regions, Europe is more invested in energy, particularly developing the core technologies for renewable energy generation (predominantly photovoltaics (PV) cells) and energy storage (batteries), demonstrating the potential for regional specialist capabilities to develop in a second wave of development of the climate tech sector, following mobility and transport.

Outside of mobility and the dominant US and China markets, Berlin, London, Labege (France) and Bengaluru, India were amongst the top ten cities for climate tech startup investment, attracting US$1.3 billion mainly across energy, agriculture and food and land use. 

The COVID-19 pandemic  reinforces climate tech need and opportunity 

In the short term, while COVID-19 is likely to have caused a lull in VC market activity during 2020, long term investment and potential in the market appears resilient. Over the past year, close to 300 global companies have commited to achieve net zero emissions before 2050. Many of these commitments include substantial pledges to fund innovation.

“Every commitment represents a demand signal—a new customer—in the market for a solution that helps them achieve net zero,” comments Celine Herweijer. “More broadly the increased profile of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), increasing government commitments to a ‘green recovery’, and continued rising consumer pressure to respond to the climate crisis is cementing demand for climate tech.”

“Despite significant and promising levels of growth, with just ten years to reduce by half global greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5C, climate tech needs a rapid injection of capital, talent and public-private support to match its potential to build and accelerate faster, bolder innovation,” adds Celine Herweijer. 

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Deloitte and Wichita State University Join Forces to Launch New Smart Factory

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Deloitte and Wichita State University today announced the launch of The Smart Factory @ Wichita, a groundbreaking and immersive experiential learning environment that will accelerate the future of manufacturing as innovation and new technologies continue to reshape operations and the modern enterprise.

Deloitte and Wichita State are constructing the brand-new facility on Wichita State’s Innovation Campus, which will include a full-scale production line, dedicated space for select ecosystem sponsors and experiential labs exploring smart factory capabilities. A smart factory is a highly digitized and connected production facility that uses technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and robotics to manufacture products. Working alongside humans, smart factories can self-adapt and autonomously optimize manufacturing operations. The Smart Factory @ Wichita will make digital transformations real by demonstrating how to merge existing technologies with new innovations, sparking a dialogue about how companies can accelerate their journey towards scalable and sustainable capabilities.

“Smart factory solutions are becoming even more important as companies re-evaluate the resiliency and agility of their supply chains, which can determine an organization’s success in the marketplace and the success of entire ecosystems,” said Nishita Henry, chief innovation officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Together with Wichita State, Deloitte will create a unique experience that captures the innovation, value proposition and disruptive technological capabilities of the smart factory.”

“Wichita is a cutting-edge hub for precision manufacturing and technology. By collaborating with Deloitte, we will be able to bring together the organization’s experience with our educational, research and innovation capabilities,” said Jay Golden, president of Wichita State University. “The Smart Factory @ Wichita is the future, offering endless technological capabilities for organizations, as we believe it’s critical to provide a hands-on learning experience for our business and academic communities.”

The Smart Factory @ Wichita will be a net-zero impact smart building on a smart grid featuring 60,000 square feet of sustainable space. The end-to-end smart production line will demonstrate the art of the possible through advanced manufacturing methods and technologies and will also manufacture STEM education interactive kits that will be donated to local organizations in support of Deloitte’s advancement of STEM education initiatives.

The facility is expected to open to clients, industry partners and students next year. It is the evolution of Deloitte’s existing experience at Wichita State, which features more than 40 robots, robotic programs and cyber applications, 26 AR/VR assets and high-end data visualizations, 10 types of 3D printers, nine reverse engineering machine types, 21 professional engineering software programs and more. It offers a compelling experience in which the digital, physical, and experimental come together—for educators, collaborators, and clients—providing the opportunity to see how Industry 4.0 can make an impact and spur innovation and smart factory capabilities.

The smart factory advantage
Smart factory technologies can dramatically improve business performance. In a recent Deloitte study, 86% of manufacturers surveyed believe that the smart factory will be the main driver of manufacturing competitiveness in five years. The study also showed that early adopters of smart factory initiatives are observing double-digit improvements across labor productivity, factory capacity utilization and total production output.

A smart factory can also address sustainability. Advancing technologies can streamline operations to promote sustainable practices, ultimately reducing environmental impact.

About Wichita State University
Wichita State University serves as the Kansas urban-based research university, enrolling more than 20,000 students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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Ultimate Guide To Increased Instagram Popularity In 2020

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What made you popular in 2019 might not apply in 2020. With lockdowns and quarantines due to COVID-19, people are spending more time on Instagram than ever before. Competition for those users’ attention is higher than ever and brands need to get creative with their strategies and tactics to stay relevant and popular on the platform.

So here’s the ultimate guide to increasing Instagram popularity in 2020.

Work Smarter Not Harder:

Posting At The Right Time And In The Right Way:

Studies suggest that posting once or twice per day is optimal. Further research suggests that optimal times to post are between 11am-1pm and 7-9pm. Instagram’s algorithmic timeline setting makes this not only optimal, but essential. Every business is different, however, and you can tailor your posting times according to your followers habits. You can learn about your followers most active times on the Instagram Insights feature.

Consistency Is King:

Building a strong brand that connects, creates clarity, expresses creativity and is consistent is the way to build brand awareness. The key is to engage, be consistent, know your audience and your niche. Creating a plan and brand guide could be your secret weapon in unlocking your brand’s unique and original voice.

Make A Difference With Hashtags:

Selecting the best hashtags for your Instagram posts can mean the difference between appearing as a top post or sinking to the bottom of the feed without a trace. According to Hubspot, the average post contains 10.7 hashtags.

Purchase Followers

If you really need a helping hand to get started, buying Instagram followers is a quick and easy way to do it and is way more common than you would think. Of course, it’s important to only do this with legit services like iDigic or you could end up with a bunch of bots that disappear from your follower list after a few days.

Content, Content, Content:

Inspire With Content:

Focusing on visual inspiration is key for 2020. No one wants to be preached to on Instagram, so tailor your content to tell your businesses story creatively across your captions, Stories, videos, photos and profile bio. The core message is that, rather than selling, you should be aiming to connect. Sharing user generated content (UGC) can be a great way to save time, money and connect with customers. Keep captions short, snappy and clear.

Visually Please With Aesthetics:

A visually consistent feed helps by not only making you look professional, but by helping users distinguish your posts from others immediately. Instagram began as a platform to share beautiful images and that has never changed. So, a visually striking and consistent feed can help you stand out from the competition and earn more likes and follows. WebDam reports that,  of the best performing brands on the platform, 60% maintain a consistent look and feel.

Use UGC As A Performance Enhancer:

User generated content is a marketer’s secret sauce. It earns high engagement rates and takes little to no effort to produce. Not only is it created and approved by your audience, but it helps to foster a sense of community around your brand.

Monitoring, Testing, Adapting:

What is Instagram Insights And How To Use It:

For business pages you can take advantage of the Instagram Insights tab. This can show you the performance of  content you have posted (posts, Stories, promotions etc.).  Critically, you’ll learn what worked and what flopped. What’s more you can review your reach, impressions and interactions over a given time period to bolster your analysis on what works and what doesn’t. Insights also offers key insights into audience demographics including location, age range and gender.

What To Test And How To Test It:

No plan survives first contact with the enemy and no two brands are the same. Therefore testing your tactics is the best way to understand if you are getting the most out of your Instagram presence. Examples of metrics you can test to optimize your performance include:

  • Posting Times: What times are your customers online and what location are they in? Try mixing it up with the day and time you post and let Insights tell you what works best.
  • Posting Type: Some brands find that Stories earn them higher engagement rates. Some brands find that traditional posts are more effective. You won’t know what’s best for you until you try out both.

Applying Lessons Learned From Analysis:

None of these insights mean anything unless you learn from them and incorporate them into your strategy. Make it a point to do a weekly deep dive into your Insights tab to see what’s stopping you from sitting at the cool kids table on Instagram.

By paying attention to your content, audience behaviour and Instagram Insights, you’ll quickly learn what’s increasing your popularity and what’s holding you back. What will you do to increase your Instagram popularity in 2020?

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