UK: Technology — The Cause (And Solution) To Problems On Planet Earth

Last Updated: 9 July 2018
Article by Ian Atkinson

Powerful ideas, whether they are of a political, religious or technological persuasion, have the capacity to improve our lives. But such ideas can also be misused — either intentionally or unintentionally — which can lead to unforeseen consequences, and cause significant harm to both people and the natural environment here on planet earth.

Putting clean technology in the driving seat

In the sphere of technology, there are many examples of developments that have had an adverse impact on the environment. Generally, these then require new technologies to alleviate or eliminate the negative effects.

Take petrol and diesel powered cars — catalytic converters, particulate filters and other more efficient, cleaner engine technologies have been developed to reduce harmful emissions. Further developments in electric vehicle technologies, powered by fuel cells or batteries, seek to provide an even cleaner means of transportation.

In the field of power generation, nuclear technologies are capable of providing cleaner energy supplies when compared to traditional fossil fuels. Yet, fission technology also produces harmful radioactive waste, and when things go wrong, radioactive leaks have devastating effects. Current research into nuclear fusion technologies, such as the work at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, seeks to provide a solution to this problem.

The plastic pollution problem

A topic of current concern is that of plastic pollution in our oceans — a major environmental problem highlighted in the recent BBC series, Blue Planet 2. For many years, materials companies have been developing plastics for a range of applications. From one perspective, it could be argued that the use of such man-made materials to reduce the demand for natural alternatives such as wood, has a positive environmental impact.

However, many materials have been engineered to improve the performance, robustness and lifetime of plastics. While useful for practical applications in products, these clearly lead to problems when such materials find their way into the natural environment. Research is ongoing to better understand the environmental impact of man-made materials and produce alternatives which do not have such an adverse impact.

A recent BBC article tells the story behind developments in a new frontier of mining — one that would see valuable metals extracted from the rocks of the seabed. The article highlights our increasing demand for raw materials such as cobalt, lithium and copper. It also explores the conundrum that, while such materials are being used to develop cleaner and more environmentally friendly technologies such as electric vehicles, the increased demand for and mining of the required raw materials has an adverse environmental impact. While the ocean floor may provide a valuable source of such materials, there is a need to tread carefully and develop technologies that do not exacerbate the adverse impacts of previously developed technologies.

Can patents save the planet?

Balancing the demands of modern human society with the environmental impact of such demands is clearly an emotive issue. While technological advances have had an adverse environmental impact on planet earth in a variety of ways, given the current state of play, technological advances are required to solve these issues.

These include (but are not limited to):

" Systems and methods of extracting raw materials with reduced environmental impacts.

" Systems and methods of recycling materials to reduce the requirement for further raw materials.

" Alternative product designs which have a reduced requirement for further raw materials.

" More efficient manufacturing methods with reduced energy requirements.

" More energy efficient products.

" Biodegradable materials (or recyclable materials) which have a lower impact on the environment.

" Better filters and waste management systems.

Improvements in all these areas require technological advances. So, while it is clear that technology has many things to answer for in terms of problems caused on planet earth, it would seem that many of the answers to these problems must inevitably lie in technological developments.

In this regard, it's been recognised that the patent system can be used to encourage innovation in green technologies, with the aim of making it commercially beneficial for companies to seek environmentally friendly solutions to the technological problems of today. For example, in the UK, a special 'Green Channel' has been introduced to allow patent applications to be fast-tracked if the invention relates to green or environmentally-friendly technology.

While legislation and ethical arguments seek to encourage green technologies, there is little doubt that given current global market economic systems, providing a commercial driver for companies to develop environmentally-friendly technologies is a key factor to achieve rapid progress. Patents can play a key part in the provision of such a commercial driver — and will hopefully help to save planet earth.

25 April 2018

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions