What is Leapfrogging for Sustainability?

By Aurelien

What is leapfrogging? The first thing that could pop up in your mind is the game we all played as kids:


In the theory of innovation

In the theory of innovation (and in particular in Schumpeter’s) however, leapfrogging refers to the ‘breakthrough innovations’ leading to the ‘creative destruction’ cycle, as opposed to smaller, incremental innovation steps. The new breakthrough innovation often comes to swipe away the previous technology consequently becoming obsolete. In most cases, the new breakthrough comes in at a time where the current technology has already saturated the market: think of electrical locomotives replacing steam locomotives, or mobile phones replacing landline phones (in developed countries).

Innovation LifeCycle

But with leapfrogging, the breakthrough comes in even before the current technology has reached market saturation or has even been introduced at all. A typical example is the adoption of mobiles phones instead of landline phones in emerging countries, such as Vietnam shown below (click on the picture to enlarge):

Fixed line vs mobile penetration rates in Vietnam

Leapfrogging in sustainable development

In the context of sustainable development and in particular for developing countries, leapfrogging refers to “skipping inferior, less efficient, more expensive or more polluting technologies and industries and move directly to more advanced ones” (source: Wikipedia article on Leapfrogging). Because there is an opportunity to learn from mistakes of the so-called “brown economy”,  the green economy is a “chance for emerging and developing economies to leapfrog unsustainable and wasteful production and consumption patterns” (source: OECD report on ‘Green Growth and Developing Countries’).

Less efficient, more polluting technologies

Worldchanging.com founder Alex Steffen clearly explained this concept in his TED talk as a fundamental and preliminary step among others on the route to a sustainable future (jump at 8″36′):

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Introducing… the Leapfrog Project

With these concepts in mind we started the Leapfrog Project, an innovative approach to boost the leapfrogging potential of the next generation of eco-imagineers in emerging countries. For this matter, we’ve partnered with best-in-class organizations: the TU Delft University (Netherlands), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and instances of National Cleaner Production Centres (NCPC).

The Leapfrog Project

In the coming weeks and months, we will drive you through the journey and backstage of this project with a series of blog posts. So bear with us and… follow the frog :wink:

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Sharing Energy in the City: 2030

By Aurelien

With the development of decentralized electricity and energy production, the sharing of energy between citizens, industries and public institutions will certainly reshape our relationship to energy in our everyday life. With this in mind, French electric utility company EDF decided to launch the prospective challenge “Sharing Energy in the City, 2030” in order to stimulate interdisciplinary innovations and to foster international opportunities dealing with this major and inspiring issue which affects us all.

Watch the video below to learn more about this initiative:

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If you are keen on the urbanization, energy and sustainability topics and working as a researcher or postgraduate student from a lab/school/university/incubator/cluster (or if you know someone in those fields), then this challenge is a fantastic opportunity to bring your project to life!  :D

6000€ in Prizes will be awarded to the most innovative and collaborative projects, but more importantly, a 6-month work placement, connection with key stakeholders and funding for your project from EDF are the real rewards of this Challenge.

All details regarding the expectations can be found on the dedicated website and Community “Sharing Energy in the City, 2030“. You can also tweet questions to @Challenge_2030. Don’t wait too long, the deadline for applications is March 31, 2014!

Towards Net Positive Impact: A Glimpse into the Sustainable Future

By Asheen

Corporate Knights Global 100At the World Economic Forum at Davos recently, ratings agency Corporate Knights announced their Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list from a more than 4,000-company starting universe, and we are excited to be ranked #5. We’re proud of this ranking, but as I’ll explain in this post, we measure our own sustainability progress a bit differently — not as being the most environmentally efficient, as the Global 100 emphasizes, but in being the most sustainably innovative.

This is no sour grapes — we are pretty environmentally efficient. Our high ranking on the Global 100 is based largely on our environmental productivity scores, such as Carbon Productivity, which is a measure of how much revenue we generate per unit of carbon, and the similarly derived Energy Productivity.

Airplane engine exhaust

We enjoy a bit of a sector bump, as software companies generally make a lot of money from limited environmental capital — I often joke that our supply chain consists of electricity and coffee! — but in our case, our Carbon Productivity (revenue per unit carbon) is 75% higher than the next-best software company, and our Energy Productivity is 20% higher. This means that we’re squeezing more value from the environmental resources we consume — which in our case is mainly gasoline, jet fuel and electricity for our travelers and our developers.

But we don’t think this is the end of our story. With more than 175,000 companies designing, engineering, simulating, manufacturing, storing and searching their products on our 3DEXPERIENCE platform, we have the potential to influence a far greater swath of the world’s environmental footprint than that from our own operations. As we build sustainable innovation tools into our Apps and Experiences, these will make the planes you fly in, the vehicles you drive, the clothes you buy and the devices you communicate with more sustainable. Through sustainable innovation, we can “move the needle” on a scale far greater than our own footprint, creating a positive impact that Greg Norris of Harvard University calls a “handprint“.


So if our positive handprint outweighs our negative footprint — we’re convinced it does, but we’re doing some work now to back this up — then Dassault Systèmes will be a net positive organization. That is, the world will be better off with our company serving it.

As our CEO Bernard Charlès said in a recent interview, “A product exists within nature, its components come from nature, and it will likely, eventually, decompose back into the natural world.  How much a part of the natural world is it?  How much does creating it, using it, and disposing of it distort or damage the natural world around it?  How much energy does it require across this entire life cycle?  We try to develop solutions to help our customers explore these questions so that they can make the most informed, sustainable decisions possible.”

This is the extent of our sustainable innovation vision: to rank highly not just on sustainable indices, but on the scale of society, the economy, and the biosphere, by helping our customers achieve a positive environmental impact on the planet and grow their own businesses sustainably.

Asheen PhanseyAsheen PHANSEY is Head of Sustainable Innovation Lab for Dassault Systèmes


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Beyond PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. 3DSWYM, 3D VIA, CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, EXALEAD, NETVIBES, SIMULIA and SOLIDWORKS are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries.