Indian industry taking to green technologies with relish

December 7th, 2008 - 12:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 7 (IANS) Indian entrepreneurs are taking to green technologies with a relish and do not see intellectual property rights (IPR) as a barrier, a new international study has found.Co-author of the study, David Ockwell of the University of Sussex in Britain, said that he had found Indian industry driving collaborations with firms around the world to work jointly on developing green technologies in the five areas studied:

* Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) for power generation;
* Energy efficient technology adoption in Indian small and medium enterprises (SMEs), specifically the glass and foundry industries;
* Wind energy;
* Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells; and
* Hybrid vehicles

The study was carried out by a joint team from four organisations: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) based in New Delhi; the Science & Technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of the University of Sussex; the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) in Sussex and the Britain-based Margaree Consultants.

Announcing the interim results of the study on the sidelines of the Dec 1-12 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in this city in western Poland, Ockwell said he had found technology transfer to the Indian firms had led not only to the transfer of goods and services, but also of the skills and know-how for operation and maintenance as well as the knowledge and expertise behind the technology.

This, he said, had led to new production and technological capacity.

The study, initiated by the governments of India and Britain, had been meant to identify barriers to the transfer of low-carbon energy technology.

In the area of IGCC for power generation, the researchers found the key barrier was having to work with high-ash content in Indian coal. The other problem was that the technology had not yet been commercialised anywhere in the world.

The researchers felt there was high potential for international collaboration here, Ockwell said, though he did find international firms were a bit cautious about which Indian firm they collaborated with.

The spread of green technologies in India is of course intimately connected with their take-up by the SMEs, which account for one-third of the country’s exports, half of its industrial output and are the largest employers after agriculture.

Ockwell said the researchers had found that by and large SMEs use indigenous knowledge and techniques, their resource use is inefficient, they do not have off-the-shelf solutions easily available and they conduct little research and development (R&D).

But, the researchers found many entrepreneurs in the SME sector keen on green technology collaborations, and they did not think IPRs were an issue.

“This leads to an interesting high potential for aggregate emissions reductions without issues associated with large industrial installations,” Ockwell said, though it is “reliant on willingness of international firms to share technology”.

He had found a “strong emphasis on long term international, public-private-NGO collaboration” and that a “possible domestic policy push - switch from coal to gas in the specific industrial areas around Delhi, Agra and Jaipur” was accelerating the interest of SMEs in green technologies.

In the area of wind energy, of course, India has done very well, with Suzlon being one of the top five wind energy firms globally. The researchers found that Indian wind energy firms had “used commercial approach to access IPRs via acquisition and licensing”, Ockwell said, “for example through R&D in Netherlands and marketing in Denmark”.

In the area of manufacturing solar PV cells, the researchers had found that the Indian market export driven and to date IPRs for manufacturing equipment largely stays with foreign firms.

“The Indian firms’ niche is to produce at lower cost,” Ockwell said.

“IPRs are not a barrier as yet, but they could become more of an issue as firms move towards manufacture along the value chain and more automated processes, such as PV grade silicon and thin film. This will be dependent on how concentrated relevant parts of the value chain are.”

Ockwell had found that recent developments in the solar PV cell manufacturing market were largely driven by domestic policy. This June, the Indian government placed development of solar energy at the centre of its National Action Plan on Climate Change.

The researchers found “strong domestic efforts in India to develop hybrid technology, driven also by acquisition such as the Tata purchase of the Norweigan electric vehicle company Miljo, as well as collaboration in development of the National Hybrid Propulsion Platform.

Ockwell said Indian entrepreneurs - many of whom had moved from large car manufacturing firms abroad - were licensing new hybrid technologies from second tier firms in the West.

Overall, he added, Indian firms found the only barriers to transfer of green technologies were people. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, they said.”

However, the researchers were worried that Indian firms seemed happy to follow and not lead research in green technologies. “This leaves unanswered the question of long term technological capacity building,” Ockwell said.

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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