“Can I dream out loud?” Eske van Egerschot asks, before answering when she thinks LEAP is a success. “The Netherlands is seen worldwide as an example for the sustainable digital economy, as the inventor of sustainable digital applications.”
Van Egerschot was a member of parliament for the VVD for three years, led Reguls, a PR and training agency in Brussels for ten years, and until recently was director of Communications Corporate and Public Affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. And now Van Egerschot is faced with a new challenge as LEAP’s intendant.
LEAP is an initiative of the Amsterdam Economic Board, working with about 40 frontrunners on a sustainable digital infrastructure. To this end, LEAP develops and integrates energy-efficient, technological innovations, thinks about making the digital system more flexible and about how to make circular use of hardware such as data servers.
Welcome to LEAP, Eske! Why did you choose this job?
“I wanted to focus more on technology and sustainability in my day-to-day work. These are two subjects that I have always been committed to. As a Member of Parliament I was already a spokesperson for technology and innovation. At Hill+Knowlton I advised clients on technology and I used virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence in my public affairs work. I am extremely interested in what can and will be created, but I also embrace the sustainability goals for 2050. They are under pressure, partly due to all those new technologies. As a quartermaster at LEAP, I can work on both themes.”
Your political and administrative background will also come in handy here.
“Certainly! I am a child of the Dutch ‘polder model’. Throughout my career I have seen that you can solve complex social issues when you join forces, if you forge alliances. I will of course also use that knowledge and experience for LEAP.”
What are your further plans with LEAP?
“I am convinced that we as the Netherlands can play a pioneering role in shaping our sustainable digital future. I actually think that LEAP is already very well on its way. There is an attractive coalition of frontrunners from the public and private sectors. In the first place, I want to get to know these coalition partners and find out what is needed and what we have to offer each other. I will also do my best to get more parties to join. The broader our coalition of the willing, the more knowledge becomes available in our discussions and the further we progress.”
“In addition, European and Dutch legislation and regulations have my attention. We are now waiting for the new Energy Act. A first step will be to get all parties in agreement. There may be things missing or there may be things that make us dream or have nightmares and we have to do something about that. I would of course prefer to see that laws and regulations have a facilitating and stimulating effect on the themes that LEAP deals with. It helps that I know how things roll in Brussels and The Hague.”
Not all companies are technological frontrunners. What can other companies do with LEAP?
“Within LEAP there are indeed high-tech organizations that are working on the latest innovations: they are thinking, for example, about how we can renew our digital infrastructure with photonics. But in the near future I also hope to enthuse ordinary users of technology for the subject and encourage them to look at the sustainability of their digital infrastructure. For example, something as small as turning on the eco mode on your servers can already provide 10 percent energy savings and that message from LEAP has already reached many companies in recent years. We will also continue to share knowledge and best practices at LEAP in the coming period, for example about green software and innovative cooling of server rooms, which will benefit every organization.”
“This is also reflected in the three themes that LEAP focuses on. These are technology, circular and distributed. The theme of technology is about reducing energy consumption, using different technologies. Circular is about how we use circular principles to reduce material consumption. The distributed theme is about decentralizing and making the time and place more flexible for processing power.”
You already mentioned the eco mode on servers that already has a lot of impact on our digital sustainability in the short term. What technology do you have high expectations for in the long run?
“Quantum, without any doubt. Quantum technology will soon make processors much more energy-efficient. It will take a few years before we can use it widely. The big question is: who will benefit first from the quantum advantage in the future. The financial world is now working on using this technology to earn even more money. I wish we can start using quantum for sustainability and to combat inequality. I hope we can make that happen.”
Text: Mirjam Streefkerk