Channel: Editor's View Point

  • Clean Energy R&D centre – a booster jab for addressing climate change issues
    By Sanmit Ahuja On December 2, 2010
    It’s qIt’s quite an interesting phenomenon to see how the political leaders of the world battle it out this week to come up with a global agreement on addressing climate change issues.
It’s quite an interesting phenomenon to see how the political leaders of the world battle it out this week to come up with a global agreement on addressing climate change issues. The absolute bottom-line is that the hiatus between developed and developing countries is so wide that it is next to mission-impossible for these leaders to reach a global consensus. Given the experience of COP15 at Copenhagen, the leaders already toned down expectations they have from COP16 at Cancun.
But an even more interesting phenomenon is that why very little is being done to effectively transfer successful technologies from the developed markets into developing nations. Are the developed nations using this as a negotiations trump card or do companies that have developed the intellectual property feel a great degree of difficulty when transferring knowhow? The answer is a bit of both.
Today there exists all the technology in the world to reduce human-race’s over-reliance on fossil-fuels. The key is how effectively those technologies are brought to the market. Clean tech buffs are continuously trying to bring the price points down so that technology attains grid-parity (a point where the price of energy using clean technologies is the same or lower than current grid cost).
Just for instance take the waste to energy market. There exists today technology to process almost all types of waste and convert it into some resource or energy form. Another area is waste heat recovery. There was a problem of large capital investment that required altering fixed structures in manufacturing establishments. To counter that new mobile waste-heat recovery exchanges have been launched in the market that address this need.
I can name numerous other instances where technologies exist to solve the underlying problem. But the main challenge is with the effective commercialization when it comes to deploying these technologies in emerging markets. Since most techno-commercial modeling is being done with price points of developed markets, the company management and their investors get very jittery when it comes to spending time and resources in addressing the business needs of markets such as India.
Through high licensing costs or royalty fees the IP owners will want to recover the huge R&D expenses that have gone into bringing these technologies to market. These R&D costs are commensurate with the prevailing commercial structures of the developed markets. Additionally because most of the R&D is conducted in western-labs the technology developers find it difficult to develop use cases for adaptation or implementation in emerging markets.
Wouldn’t it be great if this R&D was conducted using joint research facilities? This is where the announcement of the India-US collaboration in the area of clean energy R&D is a huge booster shot for improving clean energy technology efficiency.
The centre was announced during President Obama’s visit to India in November. To that effect an agreement was signed by Dr. M.K. Bhan of Ministry of Science & Technology, India and Mr. Timothy Roemer, the US Ambassador to India.
The centre will, in the initial instance, focus on improving efficiency of solar cells, develop second generation bio-fuels and work on improving building efficiency. Both Governments have agreed to invest USD 5mn each over a 10 year period towards the establishment and operations of this centre.
The success of this centre will depend on the use of an open innovation model. In addition the scientists must also engage with the industry much at a very early stage so that the right techno-commercial models can be developed for successful implementation both developed and developing country markets.
The software industry in the US has used India as a huge R&D base and re-exported the IP developed in the Indian labs. The same results can be achieved in if the clean-tech industry takes a cue from their software counterparts. It is not difficult to comprehend that US technologies get exported to Africa, Latin America from their research bases in India than directly from those on the American soil.
We wish this centre a success and would be following its progress in the years to come…

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