Battelle’s second Innovations in Climate Resilience Conference drew nearly 300 participants, including experts from government, industry and academia who shared breakthroughs and solution-focused action plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. The event was held March 28-30 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Unlike other climate events, this collaboration between Battelle and the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories offered a distinctive, curated technical program on climate resilience. Battelle’s reputation and standing with the federal government and other businesses positions it to convene this many people to discuss solutions to a problem common to us all.
“It’s about making connections,” said Battelle Technical Fellow Justin Sanchez, who served as the conference co-chair. “I’ve heard multiple times that people made connections with people they never would have at other conferences. We bring communities together for the bigger picture of climate resilience, and that is the most valuable thing I’ve heard from people who are here.”
The opening session featured speeches from Battelle President and CEO Lou Von Thaer, Vice President of Philanthropy and Education Wes Hall and Sanchez. They also presented the award to the winner of the Battelle Climate Challenge, Ashley Nguyen, a high school student from California. Her winning proposal was a "Seed Bomb," a cost-effective, sustainable, seed-based restoration method designed to increase the germination of eelgrasses to fight erosion along the California coast.
Battelle Technical Fellow Amy Heintz, who also served as conference co-chair, heard from multiple speakers that there is an unmet need for materials that support clean tech, especially when replacing such materials as copper and lithium and others. “Battelle sees opportunities to address these needs by developing environmentally sound mining processes and replacement materials that are more readily produced,” she said.
Mike Janus, General Manager of Battelle’s Environment & Infrastructure business unit, said the conference focuses on the next big problem that Battelle is situated to address. “Climate resilience impacts all aspects of our business,” he said. “It affects the world, every part. For us, it’s chemistry, biology, national security, greenhouse gas reduction, large research infrastructure. It’s embedded in our business.”
Janus said that reason makes the conference important. “Innovation and solutions align well with our strategy. Our DNA is not to focus on basic science around what is causing the climate to change—it’s what can we do about it? We are developing solutions to push the whole community forward.”
Others attending the conference found ample value. Tammy Ma, a keynote speaker who is the Lead for Inertial Fusion Energy Institutional Initiative at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said the conference lifted her spirit. “What absolutely gives me hope is being around innovative, passionate people who care deeply about the environment, about society, and about the future,” she said. “Everybody across all sectors being able to meet each other at this conference that gives me a lot of hope.”
Brad Ringeisen, another keynote speaker, is the Executive Director of The Innovative Genomics Institute. “I think that the ICR conference has been really valuable,” he said. It’s combined an interesting mix of people. There’re government people, academic individuals like myself, plus people from Battelle,” he said. “I really think that it’s important for Battelle to be holding a conference like this. By Battelle saying that climate resilience and climate change is a problem, and that we need to create more climate resilient technologies, it’s important. It means something. To gather people together, I think it’s really exciting to get different people from different backgrounds to be able to just create ideas, create collaborations, and identify those problems that need the most work, and the most effort, and potentially the most funding.”
Erin Sikorsky is the Director of The Center for Climate and Security. Her experience at the conference was informative, she said. “It’s a great opportunity to have those multidisciplinary, cross sectoral conversations, which I think is so critical at getting after these issues,” she said. “And so, I really like the grouping of people here who are tackling these issues.”
We look forward to continuing the conversation and developing solutions that will address the changes in our climate at ICR24.