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The Future Belongs to the Curious

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Imagine a world without curiosity. A world in which Isaac Newton simply picked up the apple and took a bite, rather than questioning why it fell and developing his theory of gravitation; a world in which Thomas Edison never felt the urge to experiment with electric lighting until he was able to create the first light bulb safe enough for use in the home, and a world in which Steve Jobs never pondered whether a mobile phone could do more than make calls. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Curiosity is the driving force behind innovation, but natural curiosity seems to be something that either dies with childhood, or is pushed to the back of our minds, as shown by the findings of The Power of Curiosity report we recently published in partnership with the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) which revealed that the daily grind and modern technology are impacting upon our desire and capacity to act upon curiosity, as adults.

Therefore it is more important than ever to foster the inherent curiosity of children as we seek to maintain Britain's heritage as a nation of innovators, and find ways to address the challenges which we all face over the next few decades.

As part of our Generation Green education programme, we recently held a gathering of twelve of the nation's most curious children and tasked them to work with the RSA, Centrica, British Gas and the BRE (Building Research Establishment), to come up with solutions to the challenges faced by the energy industry and its customers both now, and in the future.

These inspiring children were selected as winners of our Generation Green 'Why Factor' competition, and dreamt up such innovations as:

  • Powerdown: a system that automatically turns off all unnecessary appliances:
  • When the last person leaves the house
  • When a self-set energy usage limit is reached
  • Energy ID: personalised energy efficiency consultancy - both through in-home consultations and a high street drop-in service
  • Polycharge: mesh-like technology that can be attached to any surface to collect the energy from human contact with it, for example, storing energy directed at a punch bag or treadmill
  • Appliance-Eye: technology that allows all customers to see exactly how much energy individual appliances have used, when it was used, and how it could be used more efficiently

We face three key challenges in the energy industry in years to come: reducing carbon emissions, securing supply and ensuring energy bills are affordable. Stimulating the curiosity of the next generation so that they are equipped to address these challenges is what Generation Green is all about, and we were certainly impressed by the ideas that our Why Factor winners have come up with.

The job now for us, is to undertake research into the feasibility of these curiosity-driven ideas, and assess whether they could, in fact, be made a reality and support existing energy management measures we have introduced, such as the roll out of over 600,000 Smart Meters which are benefiting homes and businesses.

Our innovation lab is always working on new solutions, but the future of the energy industry belongs to the curious, and it will be their ideas that help us to live more sustainably for years and years to come.

Visit http://www.generationgreen.co.uk/curiosity to test your curiosity

The full The Power of Curiosity report is available at http://www.thersa.org/projects/social-brain/power-of-curiosity