Indo-Swedish cleantech relations to better energy sector

“Developing opportunities for international technology partnerships, innovations and market development should be India’s next focus area for renewable energy,” says Prof. Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, WeSchool
 Need for focusing on clean technology has encouraged educational institutions to support various energy initiatives. WeSchool’s ‘India-Sweden Innovation Accelerator (ISIA)’ is one such example. In this interview, Prof. Dr. Uday Salunkhe talks on this bilateral programme and its expected outcomes.
What are the objectives of setting up India-Sweden Innovation Accelerator (ISIA) programme? How is this initiative going to help the Indian energy sector? India Sweden Innovation Accelerator (ISIA) is a bilateral programme that aims at facilitating technology transfer and market entrance in Indian energy sector for Swedish innovative companies, focusing on scaling and adapting their technologies to the local context. The programme is scheduled for 2013-14. Technology adaptation and the right partnerships are crucial elements that determine the level of success and applicability of any foreign technology in India. It targets innovative Swedish companies that have a proven technology, along with the willingness to adapt to new markets.
Considering the Indian energy constraints in terms of supply-demand gap, and challenges in distribution and the resulting loss therein, we definitely need to turn the focus on the energy sector. Also the difficult topographies and remote areas (interiors and countryside) where power hasn’t reached yet need attention. Above all, our dependence primarily on the conventional source (thermal energy) to meet our power needs also calls for exploring (the availability, feasibility and sustainability of) alternate or renewable sources or energy.
Also as an educational institution we are well resourced and better placed in terms of reaching out to young minds or talent who will be at the helm of affairs, very soon. Our collaborations with some of the best educational establishments across the world also help us get the support of the experts in the sector and thus give concrete shape to the ideas and business models as per the peculiarities of a given geography, in the country.
India today has a strong R&D base along with great academic talent; it is a leading innovation player in certain sectors such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, automotive components, IT and ITES. India and Sweden have well established ties in health, technology, skill development, environment, cultural and educational interaction. The bilateral trade between the two is growing decently well. Considering all this it would be great to work synergistically for more efficient energy consumption and environmental sustainability.
The ISIA programme is financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. It is supported by the Swedish Government Offices as well as by the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. The Indo-Swedish Innovation Platform is implemented as cooperation between the Swedish Energy Agency, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Business Sweden. WeSchool, Mumbai is one of the academic partners under which the students and faculty members are working with different Swedish companies in the space of renewable energy sources helping them create a business strategy to enter the Indian market through a collaborative route.
How is it going to benefit the renewable energy players? India has made clear intentions to develop its renewable energy landscape. Ambitious target setting and subsidy developments in the renewable and energy efficiency sector have created a positive outlook for the country’s development and growth ambition. While India’s per capita power consumption is estimated to have doubled in the last five years, from approximately 400 kWh in 2007 to almost 800 kWh in 2012, power generation has increased only around 99 GW in the last 11 years. India is an attractive market for renewable energy due to both the availability of high solar radiance, wind speeds, as well as the power deficit. Renewable energy lends itself to decentralised generation and distribution further makes it an attractive option for India.
Developing opportunities for international technology partnerships, innovations and market development should be India’s next focus area for renewable energy. India is ready to do business in order to reach its energy ambition. And the initiative paves way for the same. The Swedish companies which are a part of the programme are all leading players in the sector of renewable energy.
What sort of response you are getting? The response has been quite overwhelming. Swedish companies were keen to introduce their innovations in the Indian energy sector. Talking of numbers we had over 40 Indian companies that wished to pair up with the 11 Swedish companies, and take things ahead under the initiative.
About 35 students are involved in this process and they were part of B2B meetings working on business models for Swedish innovation products in the Indian markets. Over the period of next 4 months they would be studying the market size, business opportunity and appropriate business partners from both the countries who can work together effectively.
Study says India scores poorly in terms of number of researchers per million population and innovation index. How do you look at the scope of this kind of programme in promoting innovation? Sweden is one of the world’s most innovative countries, according to a study by the UN and the international business school INSEAD. It has ranked second for two years in a row, in the Global Innovation Index 2013 (GII) in a list of the world’s most innovative countries. Also it is known for investing in research and education in relation to GDP according to the study.
While collaborating with Sweden naturally it will be our honest endeavour to match pace with their research and innovation. And definitely this effect will spread over effectively. And then, it is not the same sorry state that we think India is. There have been centres of professional excellence which are at par with their advanced counterparts across the globe. But the trend is growing. There are a decent number of establishments which support innovation cutting across the disciplines. We are the first business school to have an innovation lab on the campus.
Recently, our Learning Resource Centre (LRC) has received “Technology Innovation Award” from EBSCO, USA in recognition of best practice that helps others learn from our library’s outstanding efforts. Also our research cell has a team of experts to support research.
What are the challenges you are facing with respect to innovation and research in this sector?Talking of renewable energy, apart from solar and wind most of the other modes like biogas etc. are in unorganised sector. And this makes it difficult to document them, tab their progress and help them scale up into sound business models.
Are you getting adequate support from the government bodies to meet these challenges? At the moment our format is completely of B2B partnership, working under the government policies and guidelines. But as of now there is no direct government involvement in it.

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