Dr Norman Apsley Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Science Park

This is the first column of what is likely to be the worst year for the global economy since the Great Depression; so I thought to speculate.

Before I begin however, let me admit up front that this is a luxury for one who does not have to take the hard decisions and make real choices. Nevertheless, here goes.

Now that Christmas is over and the High Street has had the annual dose of excess on which it seems to depend, can we think of investing in the things that will truly come to help us in the 21st Century.

The world’s financial chaos has caused those with oil and gas to let us off the hook (at least temporarily).

So why not use our need to restart the building trades with lots of insulation for all public buildings and for those who can’t afford it up front. Others will join in and we’ll get the lot done in one go.

For the long term, we could acknowledge that wind and wave might supply our needs.

We don’t have to pick winners, just make sure there’s a junction on the grid somewhere close to where the wind blows and the waves beat upon the shore. Inventors/entrepreneurs will do the rest.

We could add research into the most exciting form of zero-waste recycling that I’ve heard of: plasma-based gasification.

Everyone knows that gas-powered combined heat and power plants are the most efficient and effective but today, the gas comes less and less from sources under our control.

It would be foolish to give up on these intrinsically cheaper sources but to have enough of something else to keep them honest.

Burning our rubbish is a worthy alternative to our increasingly unavailable landfill but for the fear of pollution.

Plasma is the hot fourth state of matter and experimental systems are now under test in the US and elsewhere to see if they can successfully render all human detritus to safe basic gas, which goes on to power a CHP reactor. Should we not have a look at it ourselves?

Project Tellus told us that east Antrim has one of the highest potential for geothermal heat and, as luck would have it, Ballylumford and the National Grid are not for away.

Should we not have a look at what the Germans are doing to solve the problems of geothermal electricity production (deep drilling, ensuring no clogging of the pipes and careful tracking of the water circuit)?

To keep all six billion people of the world employed and adding value there’s no going back, but the Earth is finite. So we might as well get ahead of the game by learning how to continuously add value around a closed cycle!