The higher education sector has a major role to play in the journey to Net Zero – both in terms of reducing its own environmental footprint and by helping to develop new climate technologies through applied research and co-innovation with industry. The convergence of digital and Net Zero is a new frontier for innovation and is another major driver for Universities digital transformation. To date the role of digital in measuring, reducing or avoiding emissions has been largely ignored or unknown but Cisco’s latest white paper in collaboration with higher education on the subject highlights a range of opportunities.

“Two of the major disruptions gathering pace in the Australian economy are digital transformation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to Net Zero” Dr Alan Finkel AO.

The scale and depth of the environmental threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions is widely accepted. Industry’s focus on Net Zero solutions is increasing, with companies in all industry sectors setting targets for Net Zero and moving into implementation mode. Some companies and sectors are going further that setting targets for their direct emissions and requiring companies in their supply chain to also be Net Zero.


New research and skills are needed to meet Net Zero demands

Solving problems at the intersection of digital and Net Zero will require collaborative action from government, universities and the private sector to harness Australia’s collective research capability. Innovation and rapid technology development is required in a broad range of areas, including how digital technologies will assist in reaching Net Zero ambitions.

The opportunity is broader than research – Smart Zero skills will be in high demand and modelling suggests Australia’s transition to Net Zero could create thousands of new jobs. If Australia is to create and fill these new jobs – while dealing with the turbulence that’s likely to occur within existing roles – it will need to scale up skills across a range of areas including climate modelling, digital technology, battery storage, heating and cooling, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS), climate resilience and land use.

Institutions that embrace digital technology and advanced networks today are likely to have a competitive advantage. A digital first approach is required to accelerate progress towards Net Zero at every stage of the Net Zero lifecycle. This will include use of digital technologies to optimise energy usage across universities campuses. Advanced networks – connected to sensors and underpinned by AI and machine learning – will help universities reduce their carbon footprint while realising cost savings.

The Cisco whitepaper highlights that higher education is one sector that is currently producing a low proportion of emissions but has a major role to play in developing and incorporating digital solutions to accelerate Net Zero. The other is information and communication technology.

Visit us at Smart Zero to learn more about how Cisco is using advanced networks to accelerate progress towards Net Zero.


Reg Johnson

General Manager, Education

Cisco Australia and New Zealand