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  

Chinese Low-carbon Innovation Drives post-Paris Era

On April 27th, the 2015-2016 WWF Climate Solver China awarding ceremony was held in Beijing. This event aims to promote champions in the necessary economic transition of our global society towards a 100% renewable energy future through innovations intechnology and business models. The five most promising Chinese low-carbon technologies this year were awarded as the 2015-2016 WWF Climate Solvers. None of these five innovations existed on the market four years ago. 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.

On April 22nd, 175 countries officially signed the Paris Agreement, marking the solid step towards combating climate change after 2020. The international society has to accelerate the process of innovation and application of low carbon technology to achieve the goal of net zero emission of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. During COP21 in Paris, 20 countries, including China, US and Australia, launched Mission Innovation, committing Governments to double their investments in cleantech R&D and launching Breakthrough Energy Coalition for private sector actors to take a leading role in financing important start-ups that can help achieve net zero emissions as fast as possible over years to come.

The Chinese economy has started it “New Normal” period after 30 years high speed economic growth. Transformation, upgrading of the productivity and diversity of innovation will become the main force to promote future economic growth. China is now trying to transform into being a fertile ground for innovation, creating a rare opportunity for the development and innovation of low-carbon technology in China as well as the world. Compared to other countries a high share of the Chinese population, in particular young 25-35 year old entrepreneurs, are now about to start or have just started new opportunity-driven business.

In November 2015, WWF launched the fourth “Climate Solver” selection with its partners. The project experts examined the potential of enterpreneurs emission reduction if there is good growth, technological innovation, market potential and other indicators through open and transparent procedure. And eventually the jury marked out the five most promising innovations, which are Bamboo Winding Pipelines, High-efficient, Flexible and Ultra-thin c-Si Solar cells/Modules, Flat Solar Collector Utilizing Heat Superconducting Material & Heat and PV Combined Module, Optimal Management Technology for Optical Disc-based Cold Data Storage System and Food Waste Treatment and Nutrition Recovery by Black Soldier Fly. If their five technologies could take good market shares from standard products in their sectors today by 2025, it will realize over 231 million tons CO2 emission per year.

WWF's climate solver project was set up in Sweden in 2008. It has been committed to identifying commercially available innovation developed by small and medium sized entrepreneurs (MSMEs) with a significant impact on avoiding emissions and providing clean energy access to poor communities. The Project also aims to communicate these innovations in an easy way to get the public more interested, engaged in and informed about the importance of climate innovations. It also provides access to potential investors, larger corporates and actors involved in international cooperation. Since it was introduced into China in 2012, WWF climate solver has been successfully hosted four times and selected 19 award-winning innovations in total. By promoting innovation cases and their potential to avoid emissions if they have strong growth is a way for WWF to make the potential of cleantech innovation more widely recognized by larger investors, corporates and policy makers which will help the sector and it’s companies to grow fast.

‘China has a strong advantage in clean technology and it is the largest country in the global  PV power generation capacity, and also is one of the biggest market of solar water heater.’ The world wide fund for nature (WWF) CEO Lo Sze Ping says, ‘This year we can see five exciting new technologies, which are examples of thousands of innovations being developed. We believe that they will be able to help the world take a step from fossil energy era towards a more sustainable future.’

“Climate change is far too urgent to focus innovation efforts to combat climate change on basic R&D.” commented Mr. Stefan Henningsson, Senior Advisor Climate Innovation at WWF Global Climate & Energy Initiative, “Innovation efforts must focus on taking technologies from R&D to Demonstration, Commercialisation and Deployment on large and rapidly growing global markets. Chinese entrepreneurs can play a key role on these markets if they also have strong domestic support by local policy, corporate, equity & debt finance community.”

As a global project of World Wide Fund for nature (WWF), WWF Climate Solver carries out the programme of identifying and promoting innovative entrepreneurship as a response to climate change and energy poverty in the Nordic region, China, India, South Africa and globally through partnership with Sustainia 100.

More information on the five awarded Chineses innovations will appear on the site shortly together with more information from the event in Beijing. 

The Climate Solver programme is possible thanks to financial support from Swedish Postcode Lottery and Dustin.


Hot climate for innovation in India

The third week of September was hotter than usual in Delhi for this time a year (almost 38 degrees Celcius). It was also a week of seeing how hot India is becoming in climate and energy innovation.

We had many eye-opening meetings and an innovation award event honouring four outstanding examples of Indian innovation, business models and entrepreneurship to combat climate change and enable energy access to more people:

-  Pay-as-you-go solar energy for energy-poor households by Simpa Energy

-  Reaching 200 000 people with solar energy through Hub & Spoke business model by Onergy

-  PLUGnCHILL - Electrified mobile cold storage avoids diesel going up in smoke by TESSOL

-  Switch from fossil energy to biogas and manure with a two years payback by BioUrja

Ajay Mathur, Director India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency, used the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme as a communication example for all climate entrepreneurs to learn from. Check on-line on and you can see that 14 558 520 LEDs have been distributed, saving 1 917 486 kWh/day, saving 9 056 767 INR/day and reducing 1572 tCO2/day.

By the time you read this, more LEDs will have been distributed – the counter is updated every 30 minutes. Ajay Mathur also expressed that these entrepreneurs show what can be done and what is the future and expressed that the Climate Solver programme is challenging us all to think how we can do things differently.

One absolute highlight this year was when Minister Prakash Javadekar said that he would like to know from these entrepreneurs what more they have to offer. Bringing awareness of the many solution providers to the highest policy arena was one of the purposes of setting up Climate Solver in the first place.

The Minister also congratulated WWF for highlighting the importance of entrepreneurship as a way of combating climate change and energy poverty and thinks the presence of Climate Solver in India will go a long way in having more solutions coming from the country in the years ahead. We hope it is true and after this week we are more confident than ever that the Indian cleantech innovation journey is only just starting on a long and exciting journey.

The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) is about to set up a 10th Centre of Excellence – On Start-Ups. A major business association opening up space for disruptors to have a central role can only be good news in constantly challenging conservative thinking internally, for ex in climate policy advocacy.

A very interesting initiative to watch is the Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) set up in public-partnership between CII and India’s Technology Development Board. Jointly funded development of cleantech already happens between India and Finland, Israel, UK, Spain and Korea on this platform. The kind of technology cooperation that we need to see more of and start-up generator countries in cleantech that are hungry for India’s huge market should not sit on their hands but get onboard if they are interested in strengthening commercialization opportunities for their business communities. Possibly even more innovative is the recently established Technology Acquisition & Development Fund (TADF) for "Green Manufacturing" where Indian companies can get direct funding support for Technology Acquisitions, indirect funding support through Patent pools and more.

The Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship in Ahmedabad is a key Orchestrator in the Indian cleantech innovation landscape. They are continually hosting 20 or so of India’s prime cleantech innovation leaders having gone through a very thorough screening process. And their more open cross-sectoral innovation call “Power of Ideas” with Economic Times and Ministry of Science & Technology generated 16 000 idea submissions last year. India’s got talent!

The creaming of the event cake was Ecolibrium. The company received a Climate Solver award two years ago as they presented their inspiring journey towards becoming a hardcore energy analytics company employing 550 people in 10 cities and saving energy every day they grow, which is already way outside Indian borders.

Five years ago they were only 2 people starting up a business in the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship in Ahmedabad and they testified that the recognition by WWF Climate Solver and UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change awards has served as an enabler for scaling up. Ecolibrium symbolised India’s position as a Strong Commercialiser in the Global Cleantech Innovation Index which was one of the areas we presented from WWF.

India is not yet creating as many start-ups (GDP related) as many western economies but how many European cleantech companies have seen an equivalent growth curve to Ecolibrium over the last few years?

So after all this, we do not read in too much in India ranking 81 on the INSEAD/WIPO Global Innovation Index (at least for those of us who are more keen to see fast scaling of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions than patents. This is also reflected by India scoring very high in Innovation Efficiency also by INSEAD/WIPO – very good at creating outputs as jobs and growing businesses from the inputs made into innovation infrastructures.

Using this quality, India has the potential to get existing and emerging technologies onto market through good policy and smart business models. For example, to realize the recent renewable energy roadmap released by WWF-India and WISE for the Palakkad District in Kerala provides a vision for a renewable and sustainable energy supply by 2030.

This district level study is a sequel to the earlier global, national and state level studies on 100% Renewable Energy by 2050. The district of Palakkad has a high potential for renewable energy resources, especially wind and solar. Considering the specific energy profile of the district, the focus is more on interventions in sectors such as transport, industry and domestic.

The study assesses a curtailed energy demand scenario that factors in aggressive interventions in energy conservation, energy efficiency and fuel substitution which lead to a reduction of 36 per cent in overall energy demand by 2030. Here again, the point is proven that energy efficiency and energy conservation measures are essential to reduce the overall energy demand, and the remaining energy demand can then be met by renewable energy sources. The same opportunity that we can grasp in Kerala, India, we can grasp wordwide and beyond COP21.

Dr TS Panwar, Director, Climate Change & Energy Programme at WWF India and Stefan Henningsson, Senior Advisor Climate Innovation, WWF International 

Reaching China: key success factors for the Nordic Cleantech sector (podcast)

This episode of the Green Exchange looks at China and how the Nordic Countries can build long-lasting successes with this country that keep the cleantech world dreaming. It includes an exclusive pool of international cleantech experts who discuss the many challenges of doing business in this emerging market as well as the cultural factors that come into play.

How can Nordic entrepreneurs engage the best aspects from both cultures to co-create a winning combination? Listen to find out.

Find out more. 

WWF-India recognizes innovative solutions through Climate Solver Awards

Four Indian innovators – GPS Renewables Pvt. Ltd., TESSOL, Simpa Energy India Pvt. Ltd. and Onergy (Punam Energy Pvt. Ltd.) - were conferred with WWF-India’s Climate Solver Award today at New Delhi. Started in Sweden in 2008 and in India in 2012, the Climate Solver initiative has now expanded to include countries like India, China and South Africa.

This year’s winners were awarded under two categories – Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction and Energy Access (EA).  Simpa Energy Pvt. Ltd. and Onergy (Punam Energy Pvt. Ltd.) were awarded for their innovative business models in enhancing energy access for rural households, and GPS Renewables Pvt. Ltd. and TESSOL were recognized for their cutting edge technologies under the GHG reduction category.

The Climate Solver (CS) initiative is WWF’s global innovation platform to encourage and support low carbon innovative technologies that contribute towards mitigating climate change.  The platform strengthens the development and widespread use of low carbon technologies that are being commercialized by thousands of SMEs around the world. The World Bank estimates that the cleantech opportunity for SMEs in 145 developing countries over the next decade is at $6.4 trillion.

“I believe in human intent and intellect. I believe in innovation”, said Shri Prakash Javadekar, Hon’ble Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, in a video message conveyed during the award ceremony. He congratulated the winners and invited more solutions from such entrepreneurs.  Recognizing innovation as a significant change agent, he added, “This initiative of WWF will go a long way to have more innovations in India, and India offering a real solution for climate change.”

If these winning business models under the EA category, Progressive Purchase by Simpa and Hub & Spoke by Onergy, are replicated at a large scale, they can together reach out to around 40 million people. The innovative technologies under GHG Reduction category – BioUrja, a dry anaerobic digester by GPS Renewables and PLUGnCHILL, a cold storage refrigeration solution by TESSOL, have the potential to mitigate around 50 million tonnes of GHG emissions.

Mr. Ravi Singh, SG & CEO, WWF-India said, “We are pleased to help showcase these technologies and innovative business models that can be emulated and scaled up both nationally as well as globally. Solutions such as these have the potential to bring about rapid and transformative changes at the grassroot level – in terms of reducing carbon emissions, providing clean energy access, reducing pressure on natural resources, providing conservation benefits, and overall compatibility with transition to a renewable energy future.”

Speaking at the event, Mr Stefan Hennigsson, Senior Adviser for WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative said, “Climate science and recent innovation trends tell the same story. As a global collective we should aim at an inclusive transition to 100% renewable energy as fast as we can whilst providing better services for people and planet. This is a trillion dollar global market and India has the potential to be a very strong commercialiser of such solutions coming from entrepreneurs such as the ones awarded today. But the Global Cleantech Innovation Index shows that India has untapped opportunities in increasing investor activity in the area, improving research infrastructure and in forging more strategic partnerships with countries that are already very strong in early-stage cleantech innovation”

Since 2102, 13 SMEs have been recognized as Climate Solvers in India, including the four winners from this year. WWF-India has been partnering with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), New Ventures India, Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (IIM Ahmedabad), Skyquest Technology Consulting Pvt. Ltd., National Innovation Foundation and Technology Development Board (Department of Science and Technology, Government of India) for the Climate Solver initiative.

Previous climate solver awardees under the Energy Access theme in India were Envirofit India, Naturetech Infrastructure, Gram Power and Enfragy Solutions, and under the GHG Reduction theme were Aspiration Energy, Clique Developments, Ecolibrium Energy, Toro Cooling Systems and GIBSS. Two of the winners -Toro and Clique Developments - were also among the 100 innovators listed in this year’s Sustainia100. All the WWF awarded entrepreneurs - from India, China, South Africa and Sweden - are portrayed on Read about India’s strengths and weaknesses in nurturing clean technology entrepreneurs in WWF and Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech Innovation Index.