THOUGHT LEADER : The quest for innovation

Clean technology is genuine ‘win-win’. It delivers both environmental and economic benefits.
Growing the economy while protecting the environment is significant challenge. The Government is backing innovative New Zealand companies and research organisations to create successful outcomes in response to that challenge.
As the world moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and find new energy sources, innovation can help New Zealand tap into the large and increasing market for environment-friendly technology.
The Government has made bringing business and science together to drive innovation high priority, with major increase in funding in the recent budget.
We have allocated $189.5 million in funding for technology development grants for firms successfully doing significant amount of research and development, $20 million for technology transfer vouchers that will encourage links between firms and publicly-funded research organisations, and $24.7 million for other technology transfer initiatives.
Many New Zealand firms are already successfully venturing into cleantech, with support from the Government.
Take cleantech company LanzaTech. It was set up in 2005 to develop technology to produce low-cost transport ethanol from industrial waste gases and other resources. In June the company signed $120-million agreement with Baosteel, China’s largest steel and iron conglomerate, to commercialise its process in China.
Through TechNZ, the Government has invested more than $12 million in LanzaTech’s innovative research. Its work is major step forward in the production of cost-effective sustainable fuels. It is pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is exactly the kind of project we want to see more of.
Wellington technology design and energy information services company Energy Intellect (Ei) is another TechNZ grant recipient.
Ei has developed technology that will save massive amount of power. Along with partners Energy for Industry and Energy Response, Ei is creating ‘virtual power station’ that aims to save 100 megawatts of electricity kept in reserve to deal with power fluctuations.
The Interruptible Load project will bring together hundreds of users, instantly shutting off power not needed when necessary, to reduce demand and provide safety net for fluctuations.
Ei is expanding globally, with clients and projects in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.
Manawatu-based company PEC Fuel Pump, subsidiary of the Gallagher Group, has developed system for recovering fuel vapours that are usually released to the atmosphere at petrol stations. As well as preventing greenhouse gas emissions, the technology could save fuel companies about $2 billion year.
PEC, which has received $961,000 in funding from TechNZ, has developed prototype which can be installed at service stations quickly and cost-effectively. It is currently being trialled in Australia.
Some excellent work is also coming out of our research organisations, often in the form of public-private partnerships and spin-off companies.
With business and science working together, New Zealand can capitalise on the huge opportunities in cleantech.
We can start by thinking of the economy and the environment not as separate things with conflicting demands, but as mutually dependent. What is good for the one can and should be good for the other. M

Minister of Defence and Research, Science and Technology, Wayne Mapp is also Associate Minister for Tertiary Education and Economic Development.

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