Virtual twins: The technology needed to accelerate sustainability

An article by Dassault Systèmes

Today, it is widely accepted that in order to prevent irreversible damage from climate change, we must take urgent action. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have given companies and governments a clear set of objectives to strive for by 2030, which means we only have a decade left to deliver on these commitments. To the world, this signals the need to use radically, disruptive innovations in our path towards accelerating sustainability before irreversible damage is caused.

Ahead of COP26 at Glasgow later this year, a multitude of companies, institutions and governments are increasingly playing their part in setting goals to accomplish their sustainable ambitions and to reach Net Zero by 2030-2050. Setting an ambitious goal is step one, but step two – taking the plan into action – is where most struggle. The usual suspect for this mismatch is that despite good intentions, most organisations are not clear on which concrete steps to take in order to meet their own objectives.

At Dassault Systèmes, we believe “virtual twin” technology is a sustainability accelerator as it will help to operationalize sustainability and the circular economy at the speed and scale that is urgently needed.

What are virtual twins?

Virtual twins are real-time, virtual representations of a product, platform or even an ecosystem as complex as an object, a human body organ or even a city. Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform is one way to create virtual twins, used to invent, model, and test disruptive innovations. By eliminating the need for physical prototypes, they reduce time to market. By enabling collaboration and rapid design iteration in the virtual world, they reduce the risk associated with complex projects and improve regulatory compliance.  

In addition, virtual twins provide safe testing environments for radically disruptive green and circular innovation. By modelling entire value chains, virtual twins can improve the sustainability of products and services across the lifecycle, cradle to cradle: from designing for reuse to minimizing material use during manufacturing to estimating carbon emissions to modelling reverse logistics for circular economy systems.  

This is not some promised future technology: virtual twins are already in action today, with an estimated market of US$5.4 billion and a proven track record of helping companies and industries around the world improve the way they grow and operate. The market is set to grow at an astounding rate; it is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 36% over the next five years. But the current adoption rate of virtual twins is just 10% globally, meaning there is enormous untapped potential to apply virtual twin technology more widely to address global sustainability challenges and accelerate the achievement of the UN SDGs.

Reducing GHG emissions with virtual twins

Accenture and Dassault Systèmes have collaborated on a recent study, “Designing Disruption: The Critical Role of Virtual Twins in Accelerating Sustainability” to advance the understanding of how virtual twins could help meet the world’s sustainability goals. This paper explores use cases from five industries: construction, consumer packaged goods, transportation, life sciences, and electrical and electronics. These five virtual twin use cases alone can unlock more than 7.5Gt of CO2e emissions reductions through 2030 and US$1.3 trillion of economic value.

This ground-breaking study is about changing the value chains that deliver the goods and services the world requires. Incremental, continuous improvement in productivity, resource use, emissions and waste reduction are critically needed. But such efforts alone won’t address the climate crisis or achieve the UN SDGs. That requires a fundamental transformation of underlying systems and processes, and virtual twin technologies deployed at scale across industries hold the answer.

Dassault Systèmes’ purpose is to provide 3DEXPERIENCE® universes “to imagine sustainable innovations that are capable of harmonizing product, nature and life”. We are committed to this and convinced that virtual universes will be key to enabling the global sustainability transformation that is getting underway today, and have some strong proof points that this is already the case.

Download this paper to discover more about how virtual twin technologies can deliver significant sustainable innovation at scale in order to achieve the UN SDGs and redesign a low-carbon and circular global economy.

Please contact Severine Trouillet, Public Sector and Education Director or Shany Mizrahi Otero, Public Sector Associate for further information.

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