Davos: Innovation is top opportunity for leaders at World Economic Forum

25 January 2013

DAVOS: The world’s leading business, government and thought-leaders assembled in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum, where The Climate Group hosted an event to communicate the importance of innovation in accelerating a clean revolution.

The event, 'The Clean Revolution Innovation Challenge: Scale at Speed', was opened by Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group. He started by illuminating the return of climate change “front and center” to the public agenda, owing to last year witnessing the hottest year in US history, the second wettest year in UK history and events such as Hurricane Sandy -- with the topic boosted again by Obama’s inauguration speech this week.

He continued: “We know it is a race against time if we are to scale up the technologies and policy that we already know exist. We must deploy solutions at speed and scale if we are to meet the climate change challenge head on. But it’s also about innovation in new technologies and in business models, as well as integration between different solutions to be able to take them to scale. It is not about who pays what costs, but how we can create opportunity. Innovation is at the heart of that.”

Green signal

Ben Ferrari, Director of Corporate Relations, The Climate Group, also focused on the urgent need for climate action: “We have reached that nirvana where renewables have reached grid parity. But change has not happened yet. So why are we not making the progress we should be, when the signals to the market are flashing green?”

Ben drew on his experiences of early stage tech investing in the BRIC countries, of which he outlined the various innovation challenges for governments of those emerging economies. He summarized: “It’s not that there’s no action. The challenge is complex, the challenge is deep-rooted. Goldman Sachs’ recently put out a note that said the ‘worst is over in the green tech space, it’s time to pile in’. If this is true, where is the next generation of young, innovative companies coming from, who will continue to supply the technology, services and new thinking to drive the clean revolution forward?”

He added: “We will continue to work with our States and Regions Alliance on the policy level. We will work to connect young, innovative companies with our corporate network. And we want you to join us. Join the voices that are saying not only must we do something, but we can do something. “

Innovative test-beds

Joining the stage next was Mary Ritter, CEO, Climate-KIC. She announced Climate-KIC’s partnership with The Climate Group, in working to accelerate engagement between corporations and SMEs.

Climate-KIC is a knowledge and innovation community that develops solutions to tackling climate change. Mary spoke of the organization’s work across several nations to create regional innovation centers that work as ‘test beds’ to implement the innovative policies they produce. She said: “We train the next generation of entrepreneurs. The change-agents of climate innovation.”

Speaking of how Climate-KIC ‘engineers and accelerates’ engagement between partnerships in what the organization calls the ‘sheltered innovation model’, Mary highlighted the work of SME Naked Energy. Climate-KIC introduced them to their first customer, Sainsbury’s, which is testing the system in two of its stores. She said: “We played a key role in the development of this SME – it is typical of what we do with others, selecting SMEs on the basis of their excellence and potential. […] ‘As an SME would say, ‘Put simply it gives us a seat at the top table’.”

Mary also spoke of the ‘enhanced landscape’ that The Climate Group’s network offers, ending with: “We can work together to accelerate innovation and advance the clean revolution.”

Chinese leadership

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, spoke last, sharing the importance of structuring and managing finance for green infrastructure. Explaining China’s new political leadership as a context for this, she said: “With a new President and a new Premier coming in March, China is experiencing an interesting moment of change that will affect the country politically and dynamically.”

She highlighted the new government focus ‘Ecological civilization construction’, which cuts across all other key policy dimensions. As well as the urgent need for emission reductions and clean technology deployment solutions, she drew on the third ‘alignment’ integral to China’s future, as the wider 'adoption of  sustainability'. She said: “The green agenda is one of the only themes recognized by top leadership that unites the whole country. So there are much wider implications at the international level. To be a more important player on the international level, China must face this issue as a matter of urgency.”

Outlining The Climate Group’s influential presence in the nation, Changhua mentioned our unique leadership platforms, the China Redesign city program as well as our ‘first of its kind’ latest China Finance report. She ended with: “There is a big finance gap that we must close in order to achieve the 12th Five Year Plan climate targets. And looking into the 13th Five Year Plan, the gap will get wider. By 2002 this gap could be up to RMB$2 trillion a year. What we hope to get out of the China Finance report is a framework of recommendations around government issues, targets, regulations and financing innovation and tools, in order to scale up the capital in the right direction, in a way which is totally aligned with the new leadership’s agenda.

See photos from the World Economic Forum in Davos 2013 here.

The full Innovation Insight Briefing which was shared at this event is available to our partners. To become a partner of The Climate Group, contact us now. Alternatively, you can sign up for our free monthly newsletter or follow us on Twitter for daily clean revolution news.

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