The Dilemmas of Digitalization

Address by Knut Sebastian Tungland to SIRIUS General Assembly in December 2017,

The world consists of dilemmas. And we in SIRIUS are not exempted. These dilemmas are challenging but can also be opportunities.

One of these is the gap between research and industry. Researchers ask: “Tell us your problems and we will apply research results to find solutions”. They expect the industry to be able to articulate its business challenges in a comprehensible language. They also expect the industry to have some intuition about the problems researchers can help solve. On the other hand, the industry – the consumers of technology – asks the researchers: “What can you do for me?” They expect that the researchers can articulate how their know-how and technology can assist industrial operations. Thus we face what is known as an ill-structured problem.

How do we resolve this dilemma? One way is to engage in longer conversations. We need to follow up initial questions with dialogue and open questions that delve deeper into both business challenges & opportunities and know-how & technology. In SIRIUS, we need to strive to express ourselves in terms that can be grasped by the “other party” and write in a language that communicates and inspires beyond its own environment. We also need technology demonstrators that show the capabilities inherent in technology and know-how.

Another dilemma is that improved efficiency creates both winners and losers. The International Energy Agency predicts that widespread use of existing digital technologies could reduce oil and gas production costs by between 10% and 20%, and that technically recoverable oil and gas resources could be increased by around 5% globally. The power sector may save 5% of the total annual power generation cost through use of digital technology. Part of this story of increased efficiency is that some companies will lose business unless they change. This applies to operators, contractors and technology providers.

How is this relevant to SIRIUS? We are a group of industrial actors, where each individual is employed by a company with the goal of improving their company’s role and position. We need to be aware of this dilemma. Academics need to understand and respect the forces and agendas that drive each company’s representative. As industrial partners, we must grasp the opportunities given by new technology and know-how and not cement an inefficient status quo.

We want SIRIUS to bridge the gap between research and industry by being a place where the long and fruitful conversations can take place. We want SIRIUS research partners to engage in showing how research and knowhow can improve efficiency in the industry. We want researchers to establish demonstrators that show how things can be done. And we want the industry partners to provide problems and data that allow the research community to discover and develop this new knowledge. At the same time, we want to increase the awareness of knowledge and technology among the industrial partners. This will create useful products and business opportunities in a competitive environment.