Making industrial systems more sustainable through new technologies

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Fri Mar 4 2022

Author: Guest contributor

Kathleen B. Aviso, the author of the book Input-Output Models for Sustainable Industrial Systems and a part of the editorial board of Process Integration and Optimization for Sustainability, talks about how new technologies can be integrated into current industrial systems to make them more sustainable.

What is the focus of your research work?

I work within the field of Process Systems Engineering (PSE) which is a sub-discipline of Chemical Engineering. I focus on the development of mathematical models to aid environmental decision making. PSE focuses on using a holistic perspective when examining problems. Most of my recent work has investigated how new technologies can be integrated into current industrial systems to make them more sustainable. These assessments consider multiple criteria and recognize the existence of multiple stakeholders to achieve environmental or sustainability goals. Examples include improving energy and resource use efficiency and adopting cleaner energy and cleaner production systems. These include increasing the proportion of renewable energy, as well as instituting retrofits to improve the performance of existing infrastructure. I believe that these clearly address SDG 9 which focuses on industrial innovation and infrastructure since the development of sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructures should be done in a holistic manner so that unintended effects are reduced or minimized. 

How would you define societal impact when it comes to research?

I believe that societal impact from research requires a chain of research activities and as such will necessitate scientists and researchers focusing on different phases of the process. This includes developing theory, creating prototypes, and upscaling and deploying technology.  Social impact does not occur overnight, but we should be patient and trust good science and the process. Social impact is about creating quality research which helps industries improve their processes and services and supports government in developing better policies for the public. 

How, if at all, has your research shifted given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the trends you’ve noticed within your field?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have noticed that researchers within the PSE field have included within their portfolio the use of PSE techniques and tools to address different issues that have arisen due to pandemic. Personally, our research group has developed models for the proper allocation of antivirals to reduce casualties resulting from the pandemic in consideration of scarce health facilities and resources. That work was published in the Springer Nature journal “Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy.” I have seen colleagues working on strategies to address other emerging issues from the pandemic such as increasing generation of plastic waste, economic impacts resulting from economic bottlenecks, and the need for scaling up pharmaceutical supply chains to name a few. Such problems will necessitate the institution of infrastructure that can dynamically respond to shifts in system behavior, and the development of innovative technologies for better processing and management of activities. For example, innovative technologies for treating and managing wastes need to be developed, while adopting digital technologies within industry processes can improve their resilience and efficiency. However, climate change remains to be the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed beyond the pandemic.

What do you think is the most productive way to engage with your target audience? 

I believe that the most productive way to engage one’s target audience is to get them involved in the research as much as possible or allowable as well as to explore different venues for engagement. For example, strengthening industry – academe engagement will facilitate the upgrading of industrial technologies as both parties work towards addressing a common problem; conducting focus group discussions and webinars and participating in various scientific conferences help communicate research results and provide opportunities to solicit insights from stakeholders. Strengthening engagement strengthens trust in the process of research and development and assures stakeholders that their interests are considered throughout the research process. In addition, engaging stakeholders help shape where new research questions can be directed.  

What support do you feel is needed by early career researchers to maximize their societal impact?

I think that the most important support which early career researchers should have is having a good mentor to help them navigate through their career. Good mentors provide many opportunities for growth and can help early career researchers learn efficient strategies to strengthen their research portfolio, expand one’s network, and better engage society. 

What do you see as the role of publishers when it comes to addressing the SDGs? How can they best support researchers?

Being the main channel for communicating research results, publishers can help address SDGs by providing special issues which focus or feature specific SDGs welcoming researchers to contribute their related work which can also subsequently be organized into special collections. 

About the Editor
Kathleen B Aviso

Kathleen B. Aviso is a University Fellow and a Professor of the Department of Chemical Engineering and currently the Dean of the Gokongwei College of Engineering of De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering (cum laude) from the University of the Philippines-Diliman, her MS in Environmental Engineering and Management from De La Salle University and her Ph.D. degree in Industrial Engineering from De La Salle University. She is the author of more than 190 Scopus-indexed publications with an h-index of 29. She is a part of the editorial board of Process Integration and Optimization for Sustainability. She is the author of the book Input-Output Models for Sustainable Industrial Systems.


Author: Guest contributor

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