Why we need innovative co-operation to tackle climate change

We must act fast on climate change and air pollution. We need to act fast to reduce emissions globally through expansion of existing market mature solutions enabled by good policy design and institutional investments. We cannot wait.

We need to act fast to commercialise the solutions we will need to completely dominate the market in the long term – solutions that are delivering our product and service needs much, much more efficiently, and which are supplied by renewable energy. We need this to secure a future life on this planet where we stay within planetary boundaries while also pulling the human population out of extreme poverty.

This requires innovation to decouple economic development and the fundamentally unsustainable levels of environmental impact we currently have. We know from the latest IPCC report that this means a future with no further fossil fuel use (and associated emissions) and a full reversal of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It also requires land use changes – to go from land being a source of emissions to a growing emissions sink instead.

Supporting innovation

Global collaboration around commercializing promising innovation from all corners around the world must be an essential part of this journey. WWF has proven through its Energy Report that a 100% renewable energy future with the necessary zero fossil fuel emissions is technically feasible and economically attractive, with a holistic long-term economic planning approach. In order to deliver a sustainable development that can deliver a good quality of life in harmony with the natural environment surrounding us, the development and roll-out of clean technologies are paramount.

Through initiatives like Climate Solver, Sustainia, Cleantech 100, and hundreds of national cleantech associations and other platforms, we also know that the entrepreneurs that want to build this future are already here. But we also know that so many of these solution providers are struggling to grow fast enough – they are held back by conservative policy makers, corporate incumbency and investors that value short-term financial risk way more than planetary risk (and its associated financial repercussions).

Whenever innovation is raised in the global climate change debate, the emphasis seems to be on increasing research and development (R&D) expenditure. However, government spending on energy R&D was at 3-4% of total R&D in 2000 – appalling even compared to the 11% we saw in 1981. So this is important to address in areas of heavy industry decarbonisation, sustainable negative emissions, material science to address critical material availability through substitution and efficiency. It is also generally helpful in cutting costs even further for a range of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.

But a far more important innovation issue is to commercialise, demonstrate and deploy all the thousands solutions that are already at hand. Transformative, disruptive entrepreneurs and proactive business are taking market share from many of the incumbents calling for R&D money, whilst not addressing or fully understanding that their business model is doomed to fail as we are heading into a much more resource efficient and innovative future.

Too often transformative entrepreneurs with very resource efficient, verified and tested innovations are still stuck in the Valley Of Death – right there before our very own eyes. This is a big innovation and planetary issue that must be addressed collectively.

Working together

There must be a spirit of collaboration. Trade restrictions on efficient lighting and solar energy products in EU and the US from countries like China must be lifted rather than imposed. This is no time for petty trade wars, especially in important solution areas that are lose-lose for both countries suffering higher costs, lower sales, poor environmental progress and fewer jobs. This is the time for innovation partnerships with win-wins for collaborating countries gaining cost cuts, larger market availability with increased sales, a better environment and more jobs.      

Climate innovations will not penetrate new markets and win the desirable increasing shares just because they exist. Innovation ecosystems around our most promising climate innovations that work in the short as well as the long term must improve in China for the sake of China and the rest of the world, in Nordic countries for the sake of the Nordic economy and the rest of the world, and so on.

Driven by the need to innovate, countries, cities, corporates and universities have established orchestrators in the form of science parks and incubators that are pulling market actors together and increasingly focusing on cleantech as a cross-cutting sector for economic growth. In parallel, private orchestrators have formed to pull market actors together in the cleantech space, such as Cleantech Scandinavia, the host of Cleantech Capital Days in Malmö. The orchestrators have, as their core business to incubate, i.e. to help cleantech innovation entrepreneurs individually by coaching their business development, connect them to relevant business and investor networks, and provide legal and business development advice for domestic and foreign markets.

We need to increase the deal flow in both directions of necessary cleantech innovation between cities and countries – and make these flows permanent. The current agenda of an unpredictable series of 2-3 year government programmes focused only on one way flow (ie export alone), is not delivering enough on permanence nor on deal flow rate.

Orchestrating success

As described in An outline of how international collaborations can support the diffusion of climate innovations we need to form global networks of orchestrators that are permanent and already have a deal flow to work together to nurture a larger range of the most promising cleantech entrepreneurs of our time to grow faster in order to combat climate change, air pollution, water scarcity and so on.

The orchestrators must be given center stage in innovation policy design – in Climate Solver work, such orchestrators could include some of our existing partners such as Tianjin TEDA Science & Technology Development Group, South African Renewable Energy Business Incubator (SAREBI), STING – Stockholm Innovation & Growth, Zhongguancun science park (Z-Park), Innovatum, Cleantech Inn, Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (IIM Ahmedabad in India) and Scandinavian Cleantech, but also others who work continuously with the focus on making our best ideas flourish.   

In this sense, China is particularily interesting as the world’s strongest cleantech commercialiser. It is better positioned to scale cleantech fast to global markets than any other country. But China is not the best in the world at generating a steady stream of the most innovative cleantech companies in the world.

The best start-up generator countries in cleantech innovation so far outperform China in this discipline. Start-up champion countries like Israel, Finland, US, Sweden, Denmark, UK, Canada, Switzerland and Germany have the opportunity to foster new ways of innovation collaboration with China in cleantech. We need to see more collaboration – where orchestrators and incubators with a complete range of services can help Chinese start-ups to enter their foreign markets and start-ups from those foreign markets can be helped to start up. They need to do this in a way that business models and plans are shaped to suit a massive and rapidly growing market rather than the comparatively slow and small markets at home.

Initiatives like Tekes and MOST joint call for cleantech proposals between Finland and China are worth watching – as they may prove to be a lead example of a new direction for innovation policy in clean technology. Strategically combining the strengths of the world’s best start-up generators (e.g. Finland and the Nordics) with the strongest commercialisers (e.g. China) carries a lot of potential for years ahead.  

From export to internationalisation and innovation houses

Cleantech Capital Days now starting is set in the Nordics, the archetype of being strong start-up generators in the cleantech space but failing continuously in scaling these small innovative entrepreneurs to become medium-sized and large corporates. In this respect, the newly set up Nordic Innovation House is an interesting move to follow as it is set inside Silicon Valley, a large orchestrator of innovation (including cleantech).

It is part of a broader Nordic collaboration in Silicon Valley. Located in the heart of Palo Alto, it serves as a co-working space, a resource center and a networking hub for Nordic tech startups. Its main objective is to lower the barriers to effectively access the Silicon Valley ecosystem, and thereby provide the best possible opportunities for companies to scale and become competitive on large international markets.

Through Nordic collaboration, they leverage the local resources of each individual Nordic country in Silicon Valley and achieve the critical mass necessary to be able to offer the start-ups connections to high-quality mentors, investors and potential business partners, as well as other business connections into the local ecosystem, over a 6-12 month incubation period.

The initiative is funded by an alliance of Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic and Danish government agencies, as well as Nordic Innovation, an institution supported by Nordic governments that works to promote cross-border trade and innovation. The establishment in October 2014 between the individually small countries has already, after 6 months, led to a doubling of Nordic innovation companies trying their luck in the US market.

But with cleantech innovation top of mind, China is the largest market and superior platform to commercialise for global market penetration. So are the Nordics ready for a cleantech-focused Nordic Innovation House inside the top Chinese orchestrators of business and innovation growth? And when will we see Chinese, Indian and South African Cleantech innovation houses in Europe?  

A selection of the climate entrepreneur and innovation offers available in Malmö this week are:

Stefan Henningsson is a Senior Advisor Climate Innovation for WWF. He is based in Sweden.

Find out more about which countries are suited to cultivate cleantech innovation in the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2014


WWF South Africa announces 2015 Climate Solver award winners

WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) has announced the three winners of the 2015 South African Climate Solver Awards in recognition of innovations that reduce carbon emissions or boost access to energy.

The three are MellowCabs, a prototype for a public transport micro vehicle, Findmyway, a smartphone app to help commuters navigate public transport and Eco MC2, a hydraulic energy storage system.

Speaking at the award ceremony in Johannesburg Director of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University Professor Wikus van Niekerk, emphasised the critical role clean technology businesses have to play in driving the transition from a high fossil-fuel economy to one based on clean, renewable energy before awarding Climate Solver Certificates to the three South African innovations.

Mellowcabs is a public transport solution in the form of a micro vehicle designed to provide convenient, low cost and potentially emissions-free transport in cities. The three-seater electric vehicle, which runs on hydrogen fuel cells supplemented by solar panels and regenerative braking, provides transport at a lower cost than traditional taxis.

Founder Neil du Preez: “Transport produces approximately 23% of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. One of the major impediments to widespread use of public transport in South Africa is the challenge of first and last mile transport, in other words, how does one reach the train station or bus stop from one’s home or workplace? Mellowcabs aims to bridge this gap.”

Findmyway, developed by South African-based start-up WhereIsMyTransport (WIMT), is a smartphone app to help commuters find their way from A to B navigating across the various modes of available public transport in South Africa.

WIMT co-founder Devin Devries: “Our mission is to make transport in South Africa more efficient and accessible. Not only does the app inform commuters on their travel options, but it also feeds back to transport operators enabling them to improve their services going forward.”

The Eco MC2 from Leaper Innovate is a hydraulic energy storage system designed to store energy generated from renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic panels.

Leaper Innovate founder Warwick Leaper: “The major problem with any form of renewable energy has always been storage. Batteries have a number of problems; they offer limited storage, contain heavy metals and may contain substances which are limited resources. The Eco MC2 has a thirty-year lifespan and far longer storage capacity.”

WWF International Senior Adviser Climate Innovation Stefan Henningsson: “Climate Solvers was developed to raise awareness for essential technologies like those designed and already commercialised by our winners and to communicate the value of innovation and rapid commercialisation as an immediate and practical solution to climate change.

"South Africa is a nation with a history of strong innovation and entrepreneurship, but shows little support for cleantech innovators compared to many other countries. South Africa risks falling behind in job creation for global solution providers if there is no boost in public and private finance for both mature and early stage cleantech. Data from the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2014 shows that a large country like South Africa spends eight times less in cleantech research, development and demonstration than Finland and 100 times less than Japan. Connected to this is that South Africa currently files 60 times less environment-related patents than Germany and six times less than India.

“There is however an increase in the number of creative South African entrepreneurs who will have many of the solutions we need to see growing on the global market in order to simultaneously combat climate change and energy poverty in the years ahead. Attention to the needs of these solution providers by policy makers, investors and corporates is crucial to enable the growth of the clean technology sector and our global effort to disrupt the current high-carbon paradigms.”

“Part of the goal of Climate Solvers is to give the awarded cleantech companies the best chance of success by giving them the credit they deserve and increasing their national and international profile. They also serve as beacons for inspiration of others, spurring entrepreurship as well widespread adoption of clean technologies.”

WWF partners on the Climate Solver project include; Centre for Renewable and Sustainably Energy Studies (CRSES), University of Stellenbosch, GreenCape, The Green House, Atlantic Specialised Finance, University of the Free State, Process, Energy and Environmental Technology Station (PEETS), University of Johannesburg, and the Technology Innovation Agency.

Five outstanding Chinese technologies appointed as 2014 WWF Climate Solver winners

(Beijing, Jan 23, 2015) - Five Chinese companies with innovative technologies were today announced as the winners of WWF-China’s third annual Climate Solver Award.

The five outstanding technologies and companies are vertical high-temperature continuous graphitization furnaces (produced by Miluo Xinxiang Carbon Products Co., Ltd); MetaSpace air domes (produced by MetaSpace (Beijing) Technology); zinc bromine flow batteries (produced by Anhui Meineng Store Energy System Co., Ltd); multi-metal composite and re-manufacturing technology (produced by Deyang Advanced Material Technology Ltd); and smart meters (produced bySan Fran Electronic Co., Ltd).

If these five technologies reach their expected market share, more than 0.118 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents will be reduced every year.

The objective of the Climate Solvers programme, started by WWF-Sweden in 2008, is to strengthen innovation ecosystems around climate entrepreneurs’ so as to increase their capacity for widespread use of low carbon technologies in society. WWF discovers and promotes a selection of transformative technologies and business models every year with great potential to grow economically whilst reducing carbon dioxide emissions around the globe.

WWF-China, working with technology parks, incubators, financial institutions, governments and enterprises, strives to identify major opportunities and to eliminate barriers of the desperately needed clean technology transfer to accelerate global transformation to a low-carbon future. Since 2012, the programme has recognised 14 Chinese companies for their innovative technologies.

“Climate change has become an increasingly important global challenge. WWF sees climate innovation technology as one of the key solutions for phasing out fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions,” said Sze Ping LO, CEO of WWF-China. “Small and medium-sized enterprises are characterised as innovative firms with the potential to become leaders in China and the world in tackling climate change.”

This year’s selection process was launched in October 2014. The expert panel evaluated the nominations according to key criteria such as emissions reduction potential, innovativeness, technology reliability, market potential and business strategy. 

"The selection of Chinese Climate Solvers this year proves that we can deliver the same or better service with five times less energy and other resources as input,” said Stefan Henningsson, senior adviser for WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “It is also evident that China now is in the phase of creating better industrial ecosystems for nurturing start-ups with exciting new Silicon Valley-style incubators becoming more and more common.”

The Climate Solver Award programme is currently run in China, India, South Africa and Sweden. 

Notes for Editors

The 2014 Climate Solver China Award Winners are:

1. Vertical High-Temperature Continuous Graphitization Furnace

Miluo Xinxiang Carbon Products Co., Ltd. located in Hunan Province, has researched and developed a vertical high-temperature continuous graphitization furnace, which can produce high-grade graphite materials used in areas such as specialty steel smelting, the aluminum industry, synthetic diamond production, the development of new energy batteries, aerospace and so on. The vertical high-temperature continuous graphitization furnace could be applied instead of the traditional extensive way to produce graphite, such as Acheson graphitization furnace and lengthwise graphitization furnace. The products of vertical furnace have the good qualities of high-carbon, low-sulphur, stable carburetion and good absorption rate. Compared with domestic traditional techniques in China, Xinxiang Carbon’s technical operation has the advantages of saving power by more than 72% and saving water by more than 80%. Moreover, the graphite materials have the potential to optimize energy consumption with their customers in related industries.

2. MetaSpace Air Dome

MetaSpace (Beijing) Technology’s innovative MetaSpace air dome uses high performance architectural fabric as the dome’s “shell”, which is inflated by an intelligent mechanical unit to form the envelope of the structure. Neither columns nor beams are needed to support the structure. MetaSpace air dome combines advances in aeromechanics, new materials, ergonomics, energy saving and environmental protection to provide space for recreational facilities, logistic and warehousing centres. Comparing with conventional structure, such as steel structure MetaSpace air dome can save 30%-90% energy attributed to its superior performance with its air tight and patented insulation system.

3. Zinc-Bromine Flow Battery

Anhui Meineng Store Energy System Co., Ltd’s zinc-bromine flow batteries (ZBEST) is a  high-tech company dedicated to developing advanced energy storage systems. After eight years of technical development, the company has made significant progresses in developing a zinc-bromine flow battery, an emerging technology that provides a viable energy storage option for the fast-growing renewable energy market. The company has also built up in-house capability for developing key components and materials of the zinc-bromine flow battery including bipolar electrodes, membranes, electrolytes and flow frames, which could reduce the cost to the half of original. In 2015, the company will launch an innovative business model called Electricity Bankwith its cooperators in operation chains, which stores excess solar power at a cheap price and then sells it to the grid when needed at higher price and demand. By applying energy storage systems, ZBEST can greatly enhance solar power integration, and consequently reduce clean energy wasted, coal burnt and CO2 emissions stemming from China.

4. Multi-Metal Composite and Re-Manufacturing Technology

Deyang Advanced Material Technology Ltd. is professionally engaged in the research and development of multi-metal composite and re-manufacturing. It is also responsible for a breakthrough innovation to restore copper and other metals from metal powder without the need to melt them in a furnace. With the new technology of electrochemistry, partial or whole surface re-manufacturing on the scrap parts can be achieved under normal temperature and pressure. The company is specialized in the production of high purity, high uniformity, superfine shaped grain alloyed material and other special double metal (BIMETAL) or multilayer metal alloy material in steel base, nickel base, copper base, aluminum base, ceramic base of metal mechanical parts. The whole-restoring technology reduces energy consumption sharply compared to the conventional melting process in a furnace, using less than one tenth of the energy to provide the service. The end products’ metal material performance index shows that the mechanical properties equal or surpass those comparable materials from conventional production processes.

5. Smart Meters

San Fran Electronic Co., Ltd. applies switch power supply technology instead of traditional inefficient linear power supply technology, which enables smart meter power consumption at 77% below industry standard. In order to achieve the goal of reducing the overall power consumption, the meter adopts a flyback switch converter program, selects low power consumption components, and designs lower power consumption dispatch policy software. A product with the features of small size, low power consumption, high efficiency, wide input, multiple -output, high isolation voltage and so on.

About WWF

WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. The Global Climate & Energy Initiative (GCEI) is WWF’s global programme addressing climate change, promoting renewable and sustainable energy, scaling up green finance, engaging the private sector and working nationally and internationally on implementing low carbon, climate resilient development.

For More Information:


Yan HUANG, Climate and Energy Communicator, WWF China, +86 10 6511 6229

Comfort, without the environmental cost

Chinese innovation provides green solution to temperature extremes

The quest for a constant, comfortable temperature in which to live and work can be directly linked to approximately 60% of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, an action which ironically leads to the uncomfortable temperature extremes that we were so anxious to avoid.

A Chinese company has found an innovative solution to the challenge of moderating temperatures in regions which experience both extremely hot summers and cold winters.

The Hunan Qiuke Heat-Source-Tower Heat Pump Technology Engineering company (QIUKE) was named as a WWF Climate Solver for its design of a wide-finned copper pipe evaporator system which works equally well in humid summer and winter conditions.

The wide-finned structural design uses sensible heat (the warmth generated when an object is heated) and latent heat (heat that causes a change in state – from liquid to solid or gas - without changing the temperature) to supply air conditioning, heating and hot water for the building.

The design reduces frosting on the air conditioning unit, which in turn means that an auxiliary heat pump is not needed, even in the most extreme conditions.

In the summer, a large scale screw air compressor is used in conjunction with the wide-finned copper pipe evaporator.

The energy savings in all seasons from the technology are as high as 30% even when used in conjunction with a traditional air conditioning system, and as much as 60% if the QIUKE system is used on its own.

According to the WWF's Senior Advisor of Climate Innovation at the Global Climate and Energy Initiative, Stefan Henningsson, if technology with this performance is applied in just 15% of new and retrofitted buildings globally by 2023, there will be a saving of about 25 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

Zero emissions buildings in sight

Elegantly simple condensation cooling innovation promises massive greenhouse gas reductions.

Imagine an air cooling system which is self-adjusting according to the atmospheric temperature, never needs chemical cleaning and the only water it needs is harvested from rainwater.

Well, it’s real. This innovative idea, developed by Green India Building Systems and Services (GIBSS) was honoured with a WWF Climate Solver award.

“Conventional air cooling systems are responsible for as much as 70% of the energy consumption in buildings, usually through condenser systems or a cooling tower,” explains Mandar Kaprekar, Executive Director for Technology and Product at GIBSS. “We believe that zero-emissions buildings are possible, and our system goes a long way to achieving that goal.”

The innovation takes advantage of the fact that the earth retains a constant temperature throughout the year, and in the Indian tropical summer months in particular, this temperature is considerably lower than the atmospheric temperature.

The heat exchanger has an elegant simplicity: the building heat is channelled through a closed water piping system buried in the earth below the building. Harvested rainwater flows through this geofield system, rapidly dropping in temperature, before being channelled back into the building where it cools the air around it.

“In India alone, residential, commercial and public buildings account for about 89 million tonnes of CO2 emissions,” says Stefan Henningsson, Senior Advisor of Climate Innovation at WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “We recognised the innovative potential of the GIBSS system, with its potential to significantly reduce both emissions and costs.”

If the GIBSS system is adopted in new and retrofitted buildings, it has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 20 million tonnes by 2022.

Since being named as a WWF Climate Solver company, GIBBS has installed its system in a number of buildings. Operating costs for these properties have dropped between 50 and 60%, which means that the system pays for itself less than two years after installation.

The company's commitment to the environment also extends to the safe disposal of redundant air cooling systems in retrofitted buildings. GIBBS buys the old systems from the building owners and provides certification of safe disposal, further adding to their green building credentials.

The social impact of the system is also significant. Since its establishment, GIBSS estimates that the power freed up on the grid by the system has been sufficient to light up as many as 149 small villages in the subcontinent.