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. 

Innovating the future: 100 sustainable solutions

By Stefan Henningson, Senior Adviser Climate Innovation, Tabaré A. Currás, Advisor on Energy Economics, and Kookie Habtegaber, Green Economies Lead, WWF International.

In less than 200 days, the nations of the world will meet in Paris to agree to jointly embark on a great endeavor: transforming our economies towards a future without dangerous climate change.

Tackling this enormous challenge will require an end to business as usual, and leadership to pursue effective decision-making on mitigation and adaptation strategies. But such things will not come without economic, policy and behavioural changes that embrace cutting edge technologies around us. For that, governments and financial institutions must enable progress by creating the conditions for transformation.

They will need to invest in the right innovation, and not fight against it.

The solutions are here already

Looking at innovations portrayed in Sustainia100 over the years (as well as Cleantech 100, Climate Solver and others), it is clear that such a transformation is huge – but it’s not a technological moon landing. We have the solutions right now. We urgently need to embrace them, intergrate them in order to transition towards a more sustainable economy.

The 4th edition of Sustainia 100 displays another set of innovative and readily available sustainable solutions. These innovations are top notch, and join the ranks of the many examples of projects and technologies that are already shaping a better future for people and the planet in different corners around the world.

Among all the solutions identified by Sustainia100 this year, there are five common features that will influence the climate and energy sector in the years ahead:

  • They incentivize circularity:  Businesses are responding to the economic logic of going circular, and attracting more customers by sharing the financial rewards that a more sustainable business model results in (See page 156; “Circular Food Waste Processing into Biofuel”, page 93 “Climate-Positive Data Center”, page 54 “Leasing Organic Kids’ Wear”). More than $1 trillion a year could be generated by 2025 from a successful transition to a more circular economy.  
  • They encourage access over ownership: It is estimated that the sharing economy can increase global revenues from $15 billion in 2015 to approximately $335 billion by 2025. Pooling resources and joint investments for the common good can foster quality goods and services (see page 102; “Mobile Solar Computer Classrooms”), reduces consumption (see page 74; “Electric Vehicle Car-Sharing”) and results in significant energy and emissions savings (see page 138; “Green Bonds Finance City Climate Action”).
  • They foster digitalization: Studies predict that the number of devices connected to the internet will triple by 2020. These developments enable disruption across traditional sectors by optimizing energy and resource-use management, creating efficiency along the supply chain (see page 30; “Lighting Made Smart with Building Data”, page 82; “3DSolar Potential Mapping Tool”) and replacing products with services (see page 72 “Peer-to-Peer Bicycle-Sharing Platform”).
  • They put the world closer to 100% renewable energy: Dealing with climate change will require leaving at least 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Fortunately, wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro and biomass resources are not only vast, but also accessible (see page 121; “Concentrated Sunlight for Process Heating”),  storable (see page 112; “Stabilizing Energy Supply with Mechanical Batteries”, page 114 “Storing Solar Electricity for Grid Integration”, page 27 “Renewable energy storage for homes”) and possible to integrate in conservative sectors (page 29 “Energy Positive Pre-fabricated House”) under current technologies to replace coal and gas. Replacing oil use in transport is a game-changer with substantial efficiency, economic and health wins, and an area where important new business models and initiatives are on the rise (see page 79; “Free Electric Car Charging Networks”, page 68 “Designing Streets for Walking and Biking in Chennai”, page 69 “Retrofitting to Create Electric Ferries”).
  • They create value from local resources: The energy transition that we have started encourages a move from a centralized energy production archetype to a more flexible and distributed model of power generation – one that values the best available local renewable energy resources over the many times non-existent or environmentally harmful conventional resources that often depletes foreign reserves that could instead be used for other social services (see page 119; “Micro-Financed Off Grid Solar Power”).

The real innovation challenge lies in market creation for all these solutions. Changing the policy and finance rules in line with climate science and sustainability can help thousands of market disruptors and proactive corporates to come out with new business models and to take central stage in building a smarter and better future.

Let’s build a circular economy based on 100% renewable energy – together. Solution providers around the world are more than ready, as this year’s Sustainia 100 proves. Sustainia 100 presents some of the solutions  reinventing the way things are done, taking the threat of climate change as an opportunity to develop and design economic and social transformation today that is climate resilient, green, smart and better.

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.