Anyone who is active in the start-up scene has had the annual ViennaUp event on their calendar for a long time. From 2 to 3 June, all tech and data enthusiasts could take part in the hackathon organised by Sustainista at the brand new ÖBB Open Innovation Factory. The main topic could not have been more topical and urgent: AI for Sustainability. Our DIO team went to the event to find out exactly what the hackathon was about and what challenges the participants faced.

There are numerous goals that the organisers of the hackathon want to achieve. When asked what the key results of the event are, Alin Kalam, Head of Marketing Intelligence & Retail/Digital Data Strategy at UNIQUA Insurance and mentor at Sustainista, answers with a clear statement: “Results that bring more transparency to the market

In the same breath, Alin points out one of the biggest challenges, namely the lack of standards that need to be created if companies want to act more sustainably and greener. AI-powered solutions help to successfully categorise the data. This knowledge can be used to better develop further fully automated applications that support sustainable recycling, for example.

Recycling is one of the two big challenges that the participants of the hackathon worked on. The organisers of Sustainista have focused on this area because they think that “(…) recycling is still in its infancy, especially in the West, where we consume an extremely large amount (…) – proportionally to other countries.” Alin also immediately emphasises that “(…) the speed with which we recycle is [enough] to reach our [green] goals.” Sustainista has discovered a gap in recycling, which they are working on together with AI experts as part of the hackathon.

The second big challenge that the hackathon participants faced is ESG: Environmental Social Governance. Alin emphasises the importance of this topic for a common and sustainable corporate practice. He explains that it is extremely difficult to determine appropriate standards. Large companies have different goals and use different tools than SMEs to achieve them. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss strategies that will drive sustainable standardisation. “The more standardisation we introduce, the more transparent we can work with each other and the more room for manoeuvre we also have.”

Problems abound. Sustainista prefers to focus on the solutions that the young and highly talented generation is working out and bringing to light at events like this hackathon. Alin looks to the future: “We need communities like DIO. We need initiatives like the Green Data Hub where we can dock, where we invite companies to create more transparency, but also encourage them […] and implement a business case. That’s what it’s all about.”

We agree with Sustainista’s statement and look forward to hearing more from our community about what they are doing with AI and data to become greener, more sustainable and more forward-thinking. Write to us at: