8 breakthrough ideas for real change

Atlas of the Future was created in 2015 by editor-in-chief Lisa Goldapple as a “resource of hope”. It is a showcase for important innovations; a platform which both promotes and empowers the ideas solving tomorrow’s challenges.

Atlas also wants to make the issues more accessible. “We wonder why so many of the mainstream stories are hard to understand, or too elitist, distant or fear-inducing,” says Goldapple. “We want to help people understand there is super-cool stuff in the world making things better.”

Users can suggest ideas and submit projects, while Goldapple and her colleagues raise the profile of, and add to call to actions to the selected enterprises. Atlas also connects the people behind the ideas for “another level of mapping”.

“We are at a really critical moment as the world needs to change more quickly than ever. We all have a role to play”.

Here’s our selection of eight ideas from the hundreds currently on the site.

1 Plastic Bank: Turning plastic into wifi access

CEO David Katz’s Plastic Bank looks to slash global plastics pollution whilst turning rubbish into a source of income for underserved communities. Collectors exchange plastics for cash, sustainable cooking fuels, wifi access, solar power, or even 3D printed items. The plastic is then recycled into pellets or ‘social plastic’, and is sold to corporations; Lush cosmetics already uses the plastics for bottles. A pilot took place in Peru in 2013, and they’re now also in Haiti.

2 The Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Norway’s giant freezer

The Seed Vault is an insurance policy for world agriculture. In a huge freezer 130 metres inside a mountain in the Arctic, around 900,000 seeds are being preserved. It has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties and withstand manmade and natural disasters and can continue to operate for several weeks after power failure.

@ Plastic Bank/ Atlas of the world

3 Disrupt North Korea: Truth through balloon drops

This project, a brainchild of the Human Rights Foundation, looks to bring independent media and information to North Korea, and ultimately to improve the dire human rights situation. The organisation launches tens of thousands of balloons over the border which carry USBs loaded with transistor radios, DVDs and democracy information. They aim to get 50,000 drives into North Korea by the end of the year.

4 Hampton Creek: Sustainable food miracles

CEO Josh Tetrick’s food science startup replaces animal ingredients with plant proteins to create products that will take us towards a more sustainable food industry, including mayonnaise made from pea protein. The company already supplies almost 20,000 outlets and Tetrick wants to be the biggest food company in the world. Hampton Creek recently brought in Google big data mastermind Dan Zigmond to catalogue the world’s plants with software algorithms. He is using data mining to research 18 billion ingredients, finding new combinations to guard against food scarcity.

5 The Machine to be Another: Get under someone’s skin

Learning to see things through others’ eyes could help create a more empathetic and communicative world. The Machine to be Another puts virtual reality immersive headsets on two participants, which then display the experience and point of view of the other person. The projects takes different forms, including a Gender Swap element, which looks to promote understanding in transgender and gender issues. The enterprise also seeks to step into the realms of conflict resolution and neurological rehabilitation.

@ Ocean Clean Up/ Atlas of the world

6 Ocean Cleanup: A 21-year-old on a mission

Boyan Slat has removed over seven million tons of plastic from the ocean in just five years. His system exploits the ocean’s currents to funnel rubbish into a network of floating boons and processing platforms, which avoid damaging marine life in the ways nets do. Slat’s operation could remove half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within a decade. After a prototype in the North Sea in 2017, the project aims to start cleaning the Pacific in 2020.

7 The Curve: The AirBnb of energy

CEO Jim Woods is applying the AirBnB model to energy management, sharing information on energy projects and ensuring that positive investment opportunities are not missed. The project aims to knock 20% off corporate carbon emissions. Woods believes the clean energy market suffers from a lack of information, so he set up The Curve as a P2P database for energy executives, finance teams and public bodies to share experiences and data investment information to kickstart unrealised projects, which are often synonymous with carbon reduction.

8 Solar Impulse: Around the world in a ray

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg have flown around the world in a plane powered purely by solar energy. The unprecedented development was thanks to zero-fuel, lightweight airplane Solar Impulse, which uses stored solar in its lithium polymer batteries to allow it to continue at night. The plane has over 17,000 photovoltaic solar cells, which powered them for over 40,000 kilometres. The achievement marks a major breakthrough for clean aviation, and Borschberg is working on leveraging the technology alongside exciting developments from NASA and Airbus.

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