Dutch consortium NL-ECO: a testbed for energy-efficient technologies

The ever-growing digital transformation of businesses and organizations and the benefits it brings to these companies and consumers are tremendous. However, as more companies adopt cloud and other digital technologies, associated energy costs are growing exponentially due to computing power, storage, and other exchanges between applications and hardware.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global data center electricity use in 2021 was 220-320 TWh, or 0.9-1.3% of global final electricity demand. IEA predicts that demand for data-intensive activities, cloud, and applications will continue to increase, significantly impacting energy usage and generating GHG emissions.

In an effort to curb this rapidly increasing energy consumption, in December 2022, the Dutch Research Council (NWO) granted EUR 10 million to NL-ECO consortium to investigate new concepts for energy-efficient IT. The consortium comprises over 30 partners covering academia, social partners, and industry, including the Delft University of Technology, University of Twente, IBM Zurich Research Lab, Toyota Motor Europe, European Space Agency, and NL Digital, among others. It aims to develop new materials, technologies, and scientific research for sustainable and energy-efficient IT.

As an example, one of its partners CogniGron (Groningen Cognitive Systems and Materials Center) from the University of Groningen, is conducting research into self-learning materials and systems for a cognitive computer. This system is being developed to solve complex challenges in an energy-efficient way.

Overall, the consortium aims to develop several scalable concepts over the next five years, which can dramatically contribute to energy-efficient IT, contributing to new opportunities in various industries, e.g., medical applications, transportation, etc., while in the process supporting and accelerating sustainability strategies of many businesses and organizations.

For IT providers and businesses in the Netherlands, this is a great opportunity to engage with some of the most innovative and experienced interdisciplinary and technology researchers in the country. Undoubtedly, for those active in the provisioning of sustainability services and solutions, cooperating with NL-ECO and its partners might bring exposure to much-needed energy-efficient technology or generate new ideas and insights.