Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: Kimberly Mathisen, HUB Ocean

photo by Heidi Dokter

Kimberly Mathisen is CEO of HUB Ocean foundation, an affiliate of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) network which aims to be the world’s ocean data collaboration hub.  She has more than 20 years of experience in digitalization and technology, branded consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and media in North America, Europe and Asia. Her previous roles include CEO of Microsoft Norway, CEO of Lilleborg (Orkla Home & Personal Care); Global VP & Alliance Leader, Eli Lilly; General Manager, Germany and Norway, Eli Lilly; Co-Founder Appear Networks; and Process Engineer, Procter & Gamble. Mathisen was named one of Norway’s top female executives in technology by the Abelia and Oda Network and as one of Norway’s most influential leaders by Kapital. She has a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  She recently spoke to The Innovator about why collecting data about the ocean can help industry and ocean health.

Q: What is HUB Ocean’s mission?

KM: We are a foundation, a non-profit, founded by the Aker Group, an industrial concern with a history of ocean businesses, oil and gas as well as high tech digital software that helps it collect disparate kinds of data in an industrial setting. The entrepreneur and founder Kjell Inge Røkke– as part of signing the giving pledge – wanted to make a heavy investment in things that have a big impact on the ocean as he owes so much to the ocean, as all of us do. The ocean condition, the climate condition is urgent, a crisis really. Aker and the World Economic Forum teamed up in 2019 to create a powerful data platform that could unify and make available a vast range of ocean-related data – as a common good. Out of this HUB Ocean emerged, and it is an affiliate of the Forum´s Centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Shortly after, the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy gave a mandate to Microsoft and HUB Ocean to unlock data across government, finance, and industry.

Scientists have shared a lot already through their research and publications, and governments have also done a reasonable job of opening a lot of information. Not all businesses have not been as forthcoming so collaborating with industry can make a big difference. We want to aggregate the data in a way that is consistent and accessible.  We aim to have more than 30 major ocean databases connectable and ready for use on our platform . There has been some wonderful work done but it is still not easy for scientists and data scientists and data managers to access and analyze the data. We want them to be able to find in 30 seconds or less vast amounts of ocean data and easily add in their own research.

Q: What is the incentive for industry?

KM: The shipping industry needs to get to zero carbon sooner rather than later so we are looking at how can data accelerate that.  Aquaculture is another area. To support the growing population the world needs to harvest more food from the ocean and do it sustainably. We have deeply damaged the ocean in the past 50 years but if we change our behaviors, we can get six times more food out of it, to feed our growing population. We need 40 times more renewable energy by 2050, which is a really short time away, but it will take time to get offshore windmills in place. We have worked really hard in the last months to define problems in very specific industries and to work deeply for and with scientists and for governments and nations to help them better grapple with and manage data.

Q:  Can you give an example of how you are working with a specific industry?

KM: The shipping industry is a really great example. We combined curated AIS [Automated Identification System] data from Spire and our partner the Global Fishing Watch with a large vessel database covering 250.000 vessels, and run emission estimates on all these vessels. By putting all of the open-source data into algorithms, we have been able to come up with estimates of carbon emissions on any given shipping route with an error rate of under 10%. We can couple this information with specific ship data, if and where the ship owners want to provide it, but even without that, this transparency can be a powerful instrument for change. A good example of the use of the estimator data is the pilot we are running with our partner Vanora and a couple of major producers who ship their goods globally. Vanora runs an online vessel chartering platform, and our estimates are used to include the cost of carbon into the chartering process.

Starting in 2023, EU regulation will require that all vessels calling at an EU port to start paying for their carbon emissions through ETS [the EU Trading Scheme]. It is in everybody’s interest to use data to know exactly how much a ship on a particular route emits and what that would cost them. So forward looking companies are saying ‘the data has to be brought to bear to help make this clear.’ HUB Ocean is bringing this third-party open data onto our platform to serve as a one stop shop to give them an accurate view. Going forward, if you damage the climate you will have to pay so there will be an incentive to go with ships who are using the new green fuels.  The idea is to align everybody’s incentives, so shipping doesn’t damage the environment.

 Some shippers are forthright and others not at all. But they are being pushed into being clear and transparent by their customers like Walmart, IKEA, and Hydro who purchase massive amount of shipping and are starting to procure on that basis. Transparency, and even forced transparency is absolutely going to be one of the important drivers of behavior change and investment. It is here to stay. It is such an interesting time. If we had tried to do this five years ago it would have been extremely difficult. Now it is the right time. Everyone is engaged in the complex process of trying to determine their own supply chain footprint. Once they know what their own footprint is they can act ahead of what regulators will require them to do. 

Q: Is HUB Ocean accepting members?

KM: We are always interested in on-boarding new partners and would love to hear from industry and scientists. The idea is to create a place where we can all come together and get things done. We will be showcasing our platform at the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos in May and at the U.N. Ocean conference in Lisbon the last week of June and opening our Ocean Data Platform for a limited number of partners for use and testing.

Q: Why did you take on the job?

KM: I always knew that I was going to do something more deeply mission driven. I have a healthcare background so I thought that might be what I do next. When I asked myself how can I make a global impact I looked at education because I believe that tech can be force for uniting us across borders and work as a positive driver. Then, when I was at Microsoft running their Norwegian operations, through my work with clients I got a deeper and deeper look at what data we have on the condition of the world and the ocean and saw the limitations of the data sets.When I learned that the Forum was founding HUB Ocean I thought this was the perfect opportunity to bring in Microsoft, which had a whole climate action program. Then, after working with HUB Ocean at a distance for its first 2 years I decided to join. Leading this effort to aggregate ocean data allows me to use everything I have learned in my career and apply it to a space that needs tech and leadership to bridge across silos, so after thinking about how I could make a difference to many different sectors, here I am.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.