If you are looking to take a meditative hike into the world of all things hi-tech and futuristic industries (including nuclear, of course), look no further than Helixos. Their depiction of calm mountain ranges, bright ice glaciers and deep waters invoke an odd sense of familiarity, especially for those who’ve seen the brilliant blue glow of a nuclear reactor.
And it’s a clever move on Helixos’ part. They are framing the serenity of nature within the corporate perception to push forward a more positive and empathetic conversation about the role of hi-tech industries and the impact they have on a sustainable future. Lenka Kollar and Alex Borovskis are the founders of Helixos, a technical advisory and management services company, and they are on a mission to make it easier for hi-tech businesses to achieve sustainable practices, including on energy and waste.
Helixos was founded in 2020 by Alex Borovskis and Lenka Kollar (pictured above). As a technical advisory and management services, Helixos work with clients in the hi-tech and clean energy industry, including hydrogen, advanced nuclear, fusion, solar, hydrokinetics, nuclear medicine, and more.
Normalizing social design in hi-tech industries
An increasing number of companies are evaluating their practices against environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors to measure how much they are working to achieve sustainability to fight climate change and social inequality. For Helixos, focusing the metrics on an already existing global framework – the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – is part of the equation.
“With each project we take on, we look at how it will help attain certain sustainable development goals and targets to make a positive impact in the world,” says Lenka. Helixos has or is currently working on projects that cover 11 of the 17 goals with clients in Australia, the US and Canada, and Europe. These are often narrow initiatives with a focused product that significantly bolsters their clients’ social impact and help them stay ahead of the curve.
Have a look at the Sustainable Development Goals workbook Helixos created for a group of engineers in Australia.
The founders’ combined experiences of working in the nuclear industry as engineers who have progressed into managerial roles over time helped them realize how best they can push the hi-tech industry forward. Having worked as a chemical engineer in the nuclear, aerospace and pharmaceutical sectors in Australia, Alex sees the nuclear industry as a unique sector that intersects with so many of the SDGs. Other hi-tech industries can learn a lot from the nuclear sector, says Alex, as it is the “gold standard for the safe and efficient management of assets and processes.”
However, “most of the issues we [in the nuclear industry] face is about policy, public perception, and community engagement. It’s not really the technical side of it,” says Lenka, a nuclear engineer and communicator from the US. “It’s important to bring in the policy and social side of engineering to the picture.” This is what Helixos refers to as social design, evaluating the holistic impacts of technology to achieve the best outcomes for everybody and society as a whole.
Helping startups commercialize in the clean energy space with all stakeholders in mind is a big part of that work. Whether a client is in the pre-commercialization stage or looking for new markets to enter, Helixos includes a customized and comprehensive social design for the client. “We incorporate [social design] into the work even when clients don’t directly ask for it, because impacts have to be equitable across different industries,” continues Lenka, “meaning that you have to take in the social context of the technology and be aware of stakeholders that may be impacted in different ways.”
Collective intelligence is the new mindset for decision making
Social design deviates from the conventional problem-solving solutions that are executed with a top-down approach. At the core of social design is an integrated solution where actions are centered around the need of the community. Essentially it is a bottoms-up approach for implementing projects that considers diverse perspectives. This is why social design is integral in Helixos’ operations. According to Alex, collective intelligence is the key foundation to success, and understanding the perspective of others is critical to inclusiveness.
He further continues that “collective intelligence is about distributed decision making and accessing the input and insight of diverse people within organizations, broader community, and the industry. And that engagement – being able to access those insights and inputs – facilitates better decision making and reinforces trust.”
Alex notes Helixos’ ambition to work with “incredibly motivated and engaged people already working in different industries, different functions, and different regions, but all aligned with our mission to continue to make the world a better place.” Tapping into collective intelligence will be key to being agile and adapting to a new paradigm, especially as we approach 2030, the year when the SDGs are set to be achieved and climate change becomes irreversible.
The pandemic opened up more opportunities
Connecting with wider markets and communities have been a silver lining of the pandemic for Helixos. “We have been able to access markets and communities that we would not have had the opportunity to enter as easily as we can today,” says Alex.
Building trust among stakeholders and collaborators has been an interesting transition from the pre-pandemic professional landscape. Lenka, who has been working remotely prior to the pandemic, noted that the shift from preferring conference calls to video calls may have contributed to people being more comfortable in building virtual relationships.
It has offered better work opportunities for employees at Helixos, who are working remotely from the US and Australia. The company sees remote work as a great opportunity to continuously expand their team. “We plan to build a global team, so we plan to stay remote. We can better access collective intelligence because we’re not looking for people who are just in our vicinity,” says Lenka.
With no doubt, Helixos is setting a new tone on how companies approach sustainability practices and redefine success. Their philosophy and expertise may just be the missing piece organizations and businesses need to thrive in a changing social climate where they are expected to treat nonfinancial outputs as equally important as bottom line targets. Within the deep dives that Helixos takes with each of their clients are global lessons on community engagement, trust, empathy and collective intelligence – a mindset much needed in any future-oriented technical sectors.