China's young entrepreneurs is a force of change we should all take seriously

China's young entrepreneurs is a force of change we should all take seriously


On Wednesday 27 April 2016, Freedom Day commemorating the first post-apartheid elections held on that day 1994 in South Africa, it was time once again to celebrate Chinese innovation towards a better planet for us all. Another step towards freedom from fossil fuel energy. Over the four years of running the program in China the quality of the innovations increases rapidly. None of the five new Climate Solver innovations this year even existed on the market when the program started in China four years ago or for that matter at the time when I was forced to leave the COP15 in Copenhagen corridors, if we want to make climate negotiation comparisons. As a collective their commercialistaion from now on carry the hope of increasing resource and energy efficiency 3-10 times in relevant sectors of replacing inefficient, carbon intensive practices and materials in fertilizers, water pipes, animal feed and data storage. They also spearhead the future of solar energy by already now aiming to increase resource efficiency, energy efficiency, production speed and lifespan of standard solar panels and heaters by 4-10 times. Together their solutions could avoid roughly 230 million tons of CO2 emissions per year by 2025 through taking market shares from less innovative standard practices on the global market. More on the innovations below.

Mr Xu Qinghua, Deputy Secretary General, China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) pointed out that China is entering a New Normal of economic development and we must change our mindset around how we think about growth. As China now enters a New Normal of economic development with lower speed growth it will be important for China to promote innovation in business models as well as technologies. Mr Thandukwazi Nyawose, Economic counsellor at the South African embassy, followed up by rightly pointing out that South Africa is the World’s fastest growing Renewable Energy market now and that they are welcoming Chinese entrepreneurs in this space to set up manufacturing in South Africa for their own and regional markets. As we know from Climate Solver South Africa there are also several South African climate entrepreneurs that could be exciting for the Chinese market. Interestingly JM Green that was awarded in China this year has a South African friend in the space of commercializing nutrient recycling. We hope to see much such south-south collaboration in the years to come.    

Mr Zeng Xiaodong, Managing Director of International Operations, Administrative committee of Zhongguancun Science Park raised that cleantech is the new normal. The science park's core focus is on Talent, Technology and Capital. And they have built up an ecosystem for start-ups on Beijing’s Innoway to which he welcomed all disruptive start-ups in the cleantech space to choose as their platform to grow from. Not least from other regions such as Europe, the Nordic region and the US. He also raised that Climate Solver like solutions is a nice fit with China’s One Belt One Road strategy and expressed a wish to present Climate Solver companies to his Board. He also gave a word of advice to start-ups in low carbon technology: You must use the markets as a power to grow.      

In this mix I presented the huge market potential for climate change solutions in the years to come, the need to go 100% renewable energy systems by 2050 latest for 1.5 degrees global warming, the innovation momentum in a range of important cleantech areas that are having a major economic impact and the tipping points provided by the Paris deal. I also got the opportunity to present China’s strengths and weaknesses in the cleantech innovation ecosystem as well as the story of Climate Solver so far.

Dang Falong, Xi'an Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone, presented their zone that hosts 40 000 business whereof 80% are SMEs. Shortage of finance is a challenge for many small companies so they have put a great effort into attracting more than 200 Venture Capitalists to Xi’an in order to address that. Their ambition as a zone is also to be powered by 100% renewable energy. A MoU was signed between WWF and Xi'an Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone to become our newest Partner to the programme of growing the next generation of climate entrepreneurs.

The most active partners this year Baoding National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone, Hunan Innovative Low Carbon Center, TEDA Eco Center, China-UK Low Carbon Investment Corp, China Renewable Energy Industrial Alliance, Energy Efficiency Investment and Assessment Committee CERS, Top10 China and Institute for Environment and Development made this years Climate Solver China possible and received a diploma and thank yous from us at WWF and the whole audience.

Luo Yun, Chairman of MetaSpace (Beijing) Air Dome Corp, reported that they have gained better market reputation and raised market awareness of the issues of air pollution and climate change. He was also happy to report that in past year their equity has tripled and profits doubled.    

In the afternoon investors, policy-makers, corporate representatives as well as old and new Climate Solver entrepreneurs had a workshop. All in Chinese, professionally moderated by Mr. Wu Dayou and highly appreciated by the participants.     

And then the highlight of the day of welcoming five new Climate Solver companies. So are they transformative? I say that they are definite disruptors in their sectors. Take a look at the bullets below, the full text and video on links and judge for yourself:      

Bamboo winding pipelines replacing steel, concrete etc with an organic raw material and with an energy consumption in whole production process of a unit length which amounts to 1/4 of a welded steel pipe and 1/3 of a polyethylene pipe

Super-Thin and Flexible Solar PV cells manufacturing where consumption of silicon material is 10 times lower than for traditional solar panels, reducing cell manufacturing energy consumption 4 times, lowering working temperature 5-7 degrees. Also achieving deposition at 400℃ lower temperature, 10 times faster and a 2 times higher production yield. 

Heat superconducting materials with thermal conductivity about 5000 times that of aluminum. Applied for combined heat and electricity from the sun it can achieve daily solar heat gains that are 60% higher than national standard. They claim to increase the efficiency of PV power generation by up to 50% and the ability of extending average service life of solar water heaters five times from 3-5 years to 25 years.  

Efficient data storage that can cut data center energy consumption 10 times whilst providing same service.  

Food Waste Treatment and Nutrition Recovery by Black Soldier Fly that turns otherwise wasted nutrients into insect protein and natural organic fertilizer to replace conventional production of animal feed and fertilizer 

The innovation journey in China is well underway and on that front we are clearly only just seeing the beginning of disruptive change. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows us that China has shifted fast from needs-driven to opportunity-driven innovation over the last decade. It also shows that a larger share of Chinese population starts new business compared to other countries and the typical entrepreneur in China today is a young man in their late twenties. Can this force of youth be a change agent to get us away from harmful air pollution, coal dependency, fuel-gustling cars etc? I firmly think so after having met several series of young CEOs, Directors, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs on a mission. And the New Normal of economic development for China is certainly embracing innovation in it’s scope – how deep will it embrace sustainability? The talent is there, so is the force in capital. Will the innovation with it’s technologies and business models be transformative enough?   


Stefan Henningsson, 4 May 2016  

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