Report: AI could offer £167bn circular opportunity for food and electronics sectors each year

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could unlock almost £170bn in value a year for the food and consumer electronics industries alone by designing out waste by 2030, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Google.

According to PwC, the global economy could see a potential contribution of $15.7trn from AI by 2030

According to PwC, the global economy could see a potential contribution of $15.7trn from AI by 2030

Published today (23 January), the study looks at how AI could be applied to deliver a circular economy at scale. It claims that the potential value delivered by AI in helping design out waste for food is up to $127bn (£98bn) a year in 2030, and $90bn (£69.5bn) for consumer electronics.

The report highlights that AI can improve the reverse logistics infrastructure required to ‘close the loop’ on products and materials, by improving the processes to sort and disassemble products, remanufacture components and recycle materials.

Researchers also identify the potential for AI to extend the lifetime of electronics through predictive maintenance. In the food sector, AI can suggest new recipes for plant-based food by combining characteristics of vast amounts of materials, researchers say.

Rise of AI

AI is predicted to add an extra $13trn to global economic activity by 2030. A separate report from PwC launched yesterday shows that 85% of chief executives believe that AI will “dramatically change” their business over the next years. Nearly two-thirds view it as something that will have a larger impact of the internet.

Global management consulting firm McKinsey estimates that tech giants spent $20bn-$30bn on AI in 2016, with 90% of this spent on R&D and deployment. The likes of Google want to use AI – which is a branch of computer science that utilises intelligent machines to work and react like humans – across the areas of environmental science, healthcare, and wildlife conservation.

Despite being in its relative infancy, businesses are already using AI to transform efficiency processes and deliver savings across key environmental footprints. Water company United Utilities is set to roll out an energy flexibility platform which incorporates AI to cover its entire water network, after a three-month trial generated energy savings of 22%.

Budget airline Norwegian Air has revealed it is using AI technology to boost fuel efficiency on select flights – and would expand the use of the technology across its fleet. Elsewhere, ferry firm Stena Line recently unveiled what it claimed was the world's first passenger boat that uses AI to determine the most fuel-efficient route.

The UK Government has recognised AI’s far-reaching potential, setting aside funding for AI as part of a £1bn investment fund for cutting-edge technologies in 2017.


edie Explains: Artificial Intelligence for sustainable business

edie recently published an Explains guide, sponsored by Ditto AI, which outlines everything businesses need to know to explore, understand and consider when investing in deploying AI to boost energy efficiency and drive sustainability.

The eight-page edie explains guide provides an end-to-end overview of the various AI solutions and their uses, helping sustainability and energy managers understand exactly how to make the most out of AI. You can read that guide for free, here.


George Ogleby


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