Asia: land of opportunity and disruptive influence

Sensemaking / Asia: land of opportunity and disruptive influence

Western companies should look east to stay ahead, says Dax Lovegrove, Head of Business Sustainability & Innovation, WWF-UK.

By Futures Centre / 25 Nov 2013

What can western and Asian firms learn from each other? How can they collaborate around solutions that tackle regional, national and international challenges? This is the focus of WWF’s latest Green Game Changers report.

Asian innovations are already sending ripples across the globe.

Centralised green policies in China that support responsible businesses and clean technologies for the nation and beyond are on the rise. For example, in 2013, the Chinese Government deployed a policy to offer almost $10,000 to buyers of electric vehicles, boosting further those firms such as BYD who have already become giants in manufacturing EVs and batteries. Chinese firms plan for strong growth in domestic EV use, but they also have ground-breaking technology in light and heavy-duty EVs for export that will have implications for the global automotive sector.

India is well known for its entrepreneurial spirit, so vital for building resilience in the face of fast moving global challenges. Entrepreneurs are embracing frugal innovation across the country to achieve more with fewer resources. The Economic Times in India reports multinational businesses have set up over 750 R&D centres over the last two decades to drive innovation for both local and global markets.

Bangladeshi bottom-of-the-pyramid microfinance services are highly unconventional and successful in their methods. Borrowers are not required to provide collateral in the traditional sense in order to secure loans, and yet the instances of successful pay back are extremely high, achieved through obligations placed on individuals by the wider community. This model is expanding westwards and linking up with the financing of micro renewables.

There are incoming Asian innovations of this nature for western businesses to adapt to and work with. There are also export opportunities that arise from efforts across Asia to address pollution, congestion, resource scarcity and other challenges. China is set to spend over $500 billion in the next five years on renewables, energy efficiency and cutting air pollution and this presents a major opening for western firms that can bring cleantech solutions to the continent.

The massive expansion in on and off-grid renewable energy in India and China presents new avenues for western renewables providers, whose expertise can complement Asian home-grown initiatives. Californian-based Solaria is such a business establishing operations in China.

When it comes to improving air quality, firms such as Terra Motors seek to electrify the tuk tuk, which could make a huge contribution to cutting smog in Asian cities. And BioLite, which used to provide equipment solely for camping, now provides clean cooking stoves for export to replace inefficient polluting ones.

Western businesses can build on Asian interests in frugal product innovation, bringing new approaches to business models. For instance, the car-sharing services brought by Zoom to India help to leapfrog car ownership and cut congestion and pollution. Collaborative consumption solutions that are increasingly being tested out in the West could accelerate the dematerialisation of eastern systems.

The green economy has much to offer to those firms that make the most of Asian-western innovation flows. Go to www.wwf.org.uk/innovation to see WWF’s new collection of stories and insights in this space.

Dax Lovegrove is Head of Business Sustainability & Innovation, WWF-UK.

Photo credit:Flickr victor19910925

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