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
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
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