Ideas
Explore the world's #1 largest database of ideas and innovations, with 470,002 inspiring examples.
Trend Reports
Discover why 1,267 brands rely on our AI-powered Trend Reports to get better, faster insights.
Newsletter
Join 313,776 subscribers who rely on our weekly newsletter to keep up with need-to-know trends and insights.
How to Hunt
Learn more about how to hunt megatrends, ideas, patterns and opportunity.
Consumer Insights
Uncover major shifts and emerging opportunities with our exclusive PRO research.
Trend Reports
Discover why 1,267 brands rely on our AI-powered Trend Reports to get better, faster insights.
Newsletter
Join 313,776 subscribers who rely on our weekly newsletter to keep up with need-to-know trends and insights.
How to Hunt
Learn more about how to hunt megatrends, ideas, patterns and opportunity.
Advisory & Services
Accelerate innovation and ignite disruptive thinking with our award-winning programs and research.
Trend Reports
Get fast, customized trend reports, presentations and deep dives 20x faster than traditional research.
Plans
Get started today with a free consultation, our self-serve tools, or a dedicated program.
Articles & Magazine
Get inspired with our 4,213 innovation strategy articles, keynote, videos and innovation tools.
Innovation Awards
Trend Hunter’s Innovation Strategy Awards recognize the best innovation tactics gathered from our interviews with some of the world's most notable business leaders, authors and change makers.
Advisory & Services
Accelerate innovation and ignite disruptive thinking with our award-winning programs and research.
Innovation Assessment
Enhance your innovation potential with a deeper understanding of your unique innovation archetype and how your organization benchmarks.
FuturistU
Prepare for the years ahead with 100+ lessons, tactics, tools and frameworks with our full learning database.
Innovation Books
Join 20,000,000 people getting better and faster with our New York Times Bestselling books and keynote videos.
Jeremy Gutsche
Ignite your event or virtual event with our CEO, a NY Times Bestselling Author and one of the top innovation keynote speakers.
Our Team of Speakers & Virtual Presenters
Inspire your group with our most popular speakers on innovation, trends, change and futurism.
Custom Training & Events
Bring the Future Festival experience directly to your team or co-hosted custom event.
Custom Masterclasses
Join the world's leading brands who leverage our custom programs to accelerate innovation.
FuturistU 5-Day Program
Become a Futurist with our immersive 5-Day program at Future Festival World Summit.
Online eLearning
Learn the fundamentals of futurism and trends with 100+ online courses about innovation.
How to Hunt
Learn more about how to hunt megatrends, ideas, patterns and opportunity.
Contact
Get in touch to learn more, ask a question or submit a tip.
About Us
Learn more about Trend Hunter and how we accelerate innovation.
Follow-Us
Join our 3,500,000 social media followers, on the cutting edge.
How to Hunt
Learn more about how to hunt megatrends, ideas, patterns and opportunity.
FAQ
Get answers to common questions about Trend Hunter.
Community
Stay on the cutting-edge with the help of the Trend Hunter community.
Team
Meet the team trusted by hundreds of leading businesses worldwide.
Jobs
Find opportunities to accelerate your career with the #1 Trend Firm.
News
Catch up on noteworthy Trend Hunter news and media mentions.
Join
Build a portfolio and put your trend-spotting abilities to the test.
Advertising
Supercharge your marketing by partnering with Trend Hunter.
Portfolio
Visit your public portfolio and browse your past articles.
Add a Trend
Write up an article and showcase your trend-spotting skills.
My Trends
Edit your articles and see how they stack up on the leaderboards.
Settings
Edit your profile, connect your social media accounts, and more.
Add a trend, customize your dashboard, or track topics.
Future Festival
Innovation Events
Join the world's top innovators at our in person events.
Free Webinars
Learn to innovate through chaos, navigate the new normal and maintain work culture from home.
Custom Training & Events
Bring the Future Festival experience directly to your team or co-hosted custom event.
Search our database of 470,002 cutting edge ideas.

The Power of Curiosity

An Interview with Phil De Luna, Chief Carbon Scientist and Head of Engineering, Deep Sky
Jana Pijak
February 5th, 2024
Phil De Luna is Chief Carbon Scientist and Head of Engineering at Deep Sky, a carbon removals developer building large scale infrastructure to reverse climate change. Prior to Deep Sky, Phil led carbontech at McKinsey & Company, was the youngest-ever Director at the National Research Council of Canada, and was a finalist in the Carbon XPRIZE. He is a Governor General Gold Medal winning scientist, a Member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada, an adjunct Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto, and a Forbes Top 30 Under 30.

1. What does innovation mean to you? What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?

To me, innovation means being fearless in trying new things to achieve a vision of the future without knowing how to get there. The biggest challenge when innovating is thinking backwards from our desired goal. Humans are used to thinking forwards – time moves forward, movies move forward, our lives move forward – it’s incredibly unintuitive to work backwards from an end goal.

2. Do you have any rituals for resetting your team to be creative or to think differently during challenging scenarios?

We are constantly trying to think from first principles when we encounter a challenge. We constantly question requirements for why things are the way they are. We often ask why is a requirement in place, what was the rationale, and does it matter in our context? At Deep Sky, we are trying to build large scale infrastructure to remove CO2 from the air and the ocean. Infrastructure is a highly conservative industry that is not used to moving fast. We are trying to change that.

3. How do you identify trends and what role do trends play in your industry?

The carbon removal industry is still its infancy, and we have a unique opportunity to shape this industry as it is being formed. At Deep Sky, rather than think about identifying trends, we think about how we can set trends. Of course, we follow the deals that are happening and the startups that are forming, but we focus on becoming the leader in the industry that everyone follows. We ask ourselves, how can we move faster and be better than ourselves from yesterday?

4. As Chief Carbon Scientist at Deep Sky, you are actively involved in scaling and deploying direct air and direct ocean capture technologies in Canada. Could you elaborate on the specific challenges and opportunities associated with implementing these technologies on a large scale, and how they contribute to mitigating climate change?

The world is on fire with record warming, hitting faster and more intense than any of our scientific models predicted. It is clear that reducing emissions is no longer enough to keep our climate stable. We are past the point of emissions reductions alone – we need to actively remove CO2 from our air and our oceans to stop climate change. As each year passes that we miss our emissions reductions targets, the role of carbon removal becomes ever more critical. The IPCC estimates that we will require 6 billion tonnes of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere yearly by 2050.

The challenges with technology-based carbon removal, using machines to pull CO2 out of the air and ocean, is that these are early stage technologies that are expensive and require a lot of energy. Every nascent technology starts off expensive, but through economies of scale, further innovation, and learning, we often see exponential cost reductions. This has happened in solar cells, electric vehicles, wind turbines, cell phones, and computers. It will happen in carbon removal as well.

5. Your background includes being the youngest-ever director at the National Research Council of Canada and receiving recognition as a Governor General Gold Medal-winning scientist. How has your past experience influenced your approach to driving innovation in carbontech at Deep Sky, and what key lessons have you learned that you apply to your current position?

I have been incredibly lucky in my career. I have often found myself in the right place, at the right time, meeting the right people. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the mentors in my life who gave me the tools and opportunity to succeed. Because of this, I have been able to make my mark in academia as a world-leading scientist, in the government as a public servant and leader of a national lab, and in corporate industry advising fortune 500 companies on decarbonization. Each experience has built me up to be uniquely positions to drive innovation at Deep Sky.

As a scientist I learned how to think critically, ask good questions, and sift through the noise in data to find meaningful answers. As a public servant I learned how to be effective in a massive bureaucracy, I learned about the “art of the possible”, and gained an appreciation for how difficult moving against inertia is within massive organizations. As an advisor and consultant, I learned how to speak the language of business, how to rapidly pinpoint the issues that matter, and make critical decisions without fear. Each of these experiences have helped prepare me for leading innovation at Deep Sky.

6. Has Deep Sky ever looked to adjacent industries for inspiration?

We draw inspiration from other companies that have been able to rapidly scale an industry and bring down capital costs of physical things. Two specific companies we draw inspiration from are Tesla and SpaceX. Both of these companies have been very effective in launching new industries – the electric vehicle revolution, and the disruption of the space industry. We are constantly focused on how we can scale carbon removals in the same way.

7. Can you speak more about your recent partnership with Samsung and the brand's Solve for Tomorrow Contest?

The Solve for Tomorrow Contest is Samsung’s flagship competition for youth to develop innovation and breakthrough solutions to big challenges. I had the honour of being approached to be a judge for this contest and I immediately accepted. When I was a kid, science was always my favourite subject growing up – The Magic Schoolbus was my favourite TV show, and I always loved the chemistry kits you could get at school book fairs. To play a role in encouraging a new generation to solve problems with science and engineering is so important to me. This year’s content is focused on sustainability, and I’m so excited to see the creative solutions that students come up with. Applications are still open until Feb 15th for Canadians classrooms in grades 6 through 12 – if you’re interested or know a team with a bright idea apply today at samsung.com/ca/solve.

8. In your role as a judge for Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow Contest, you've been involved in inspiring the next generation of scientists. How crucial is it to engage and inspire young minds in the field of sustainability and climate technology, and what advice do you have for aspiring scientists who want to make a meaningful impact in this area?

At the heart of science is the love of discovery, of pushing the boundaries of human knowledge further – even if just by an inch. Science is how we understand our world, and how we can change it for the better. There is no bigger challenge and problem than climate change, and science will be one of our most powerful tools to solve it.

My advice to aspiring scientists is to never lose your curiosity. Science is not about finding the right answer, it’s about asking the right questions. Answers are often never binary and what is “right” can change with context and time. There was a time when scientists thought the world was flat. But asking the right questions is what makes a good scientist. We may no longer question whether the world is flat, but we still question our place in the universe. We should always be asking good questions, because that is how we learn.