As the COP21 conferences continue in Paris, environmental issues are at the forefront of everyone’s mind globally. But how can countries best position themselves to be better global citizens when it comes to the environment? Cleantech provides a pathway towards reducing emissions and finding alternative energy options. Here are a few ways a country can foster cleantech, regardless of the geography:
There is strength in numbers. One organization working in isolation can have severe limitations but with an established ecosystem companies fare better. It is crucial that clusters are formed to help streamline work and maximize efficiencies. This can include research centers, financial partners, governmental aid, etc. For example, Switzerland has the best universities in the world for engineering with the Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Zurich (ETH). The country has implemented many collaborative initiatives with startups and such universities and schools, leveraging the greatest young minds of our time in a great infrastructure, while keeping costs down.
“The whole Swiss economy is very much influenced by the way small and medium businesses operate; quickly, independently and in a customized way for their clients,” said Jacques Boppe, cleantech expert and Vice President at Leclanché. “So, when big cleantech businesses settle here, they are ensured to find very reactive providers, no matter their size.” This has been true for several different companies, such as Agenboa and others in the cleantech space.
Transportation is one of the most challenging cleantech areas, in terms of emissions and energy efficiency. One only needs to look to the U.S. to see the struggles that come with heavy transportation centers that do not incorporate cleantech solutions within mass transit systems. A dense transportation infrastructure can enable the fast penetration of charging systems, which in turns drive the growth for a wide range of e-transport solutions. This enables the efficient deployment of charging stations along the main highway routes.
Two different countries offer an ideal scenario with transportation: Norway and Switzerland. Each has the opportunity to enable a high penetration rate of electric vehicles. “Switzerland has numerous ferries on its lakes currently fueled with diesel, but could be easily transitioned to full e-ferry, which would enable the creation of key charging stations at piers. This charging infrastructure for e-ferries could then lead to a network effect by providing charging solutions for e-busses, e-cars and e-bikes, which are parked near the piers,” explains Boppe.
By implementing these various shifts to focus on electronic transportation, countries can help reduce emissions and create an atmosphere where citizens are engaged and seeking out ways to implement cleantech solutions into everyday lives.
One of the most important elements for cleantech in a region is a culture of change. Some countries are built around a rigid system that opposes change and climate improvements, due to the revenue cycles currently in place. Other countries thrive on continuous improvement and have built their culture and business infrastructure on how to build a better tomorrow. These cultures empower citizens to switch from being consumers to producers of energy, leveraging the latest cleantech solutions.
Boppe sees Switzerland as one of these countries that are a fertile ground for a culture of cleantech, stating: “First, the awareness of environmental issues is particularly high among the population. Second, because it has a decentralized political system, which pushes inhabitants to be more and more independent in the way they manage their communities and consumption habits. Third, the average disposable income is high compared to other countries – making it easier for people to access clean energies and battery storage technologies, which remain expensive.”
In light of recent discussions at the energy COP21 conferences, there is no better time to leverage cleantech innovations and Switzerland is focused on using these innovations to create a lasting impact.
This post was written by Daniel Bangser, Director of U.S. Investment Promotion for Switzerland Global Enterprise, and is generously supported by Switzerland Global.