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Exploring the inner space-0000 

Kiwi companies are in a global race to supply technologies that will help grow the country’s export earnings as well as keep the planet green.

From Kazakhstan to Sichuan, Kiwi companies are cleaning up the planet using homegrown technologies and business systems.

In Spain, the Christchurch-invented energy-efficient engine WhisperGen is being produced to heat the homExploring the inner space takeways-0000es of Europe. In Britain, Landcare Research’s carbon methodologies are being snapped up via a licence-holder that has 44,000 customers in 24 countries.  And from Wellington, eco-website Celsias has become the pre-eminent global hub for actions to advance “green” business and fight climate change. And that’s not to mention Sysdoc – where the Kazakhstani connection comes in. 

Sysdoc is a management and business process consulting firm with a London presence run by founder Katherine Corich. Among clients are oil joint-venture companies that have saved millions of dollars by undertaking a Sysdoc-led Chart, Challenge and Change programme, says Corich, who has travelled regularly to Kazakhstan to work with one of these conglomerates.

Positive Influence

The programme identifies opportunities for improvement all along the chain from raw material to end user.  Critical elements include safety and environmental impacts.

Kapiti-raised Corich – one of 10 finalists for Entrepreneur of the Year at last month’s UK National Business Awards – admits people find it hard to see the “green” in the oil industry. She says: “The simple fact is, you cannot say that from tomorrow, everyone will stop using cars and flying. You need to look at ways to have a positive influence on any industry that’s a producer or consumer of [fossil fuels].”

At one global client of Sysdoc, the CEO gave up the chauffeur-driven car that cost £200,000 a year and now cycles or takes the underground train to work. Corich says this leadership is prompting further carbon-reducing effort among staff and their families.

Small steps such as these lie at the heart of Celsias, the website of choice for 400 companies and thousands of individuals world-wide who want to minimise the carbon emissions that warm the atmosphere.

Director Nick Gerritsen says the idea is that users build Celsias and it “does good” rather than makes money, but he’s keen for the fast-growing site to reach break-even, become a leading environmental media channel and spin off sister websites in other languages.

Gerritsen is where Sichuan Province, China, comes into the picture.

He’s a director of Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation, which recently clinched a deal with a partner in Chengdu City, Sichuan, ensuring sites are now being investigated where Aquaflow technology will turn algae from wastewater into fuel capable of running vehicles.

The technology is superior to other biofuel projects because it does not require a crop to be grown on land, and it cleans up waste, says Gerritsen.

He’s also a director of Carbonscape, which has developed a pine-waste-to-charcoal microwaving process. Added to soil, the charcoal removes carbon from the atmosphere and improves soil fertility. Processing creates useful bio-oil and gas by-products.

Exploring the inner space 1-0000Cleantech Growing

“The ‘cleantech’ space is building fast,” Gerritsen says. He’s confident of accessing international investment for Carbonscape.

For HotRot Exports, which makes green and putrescibles wastecomposting systems, “the world is moving towards us”, says managing director George Pottinger. While finding it tough to clinch international deals in a recession, he reckons that as composting can generate carbon credits, there’s now a business imperative for it. 

HotRot has been sold in seven countries including Hong Kong, Poland, Indonesia and Australia. It’s intended that when demand for its units is sufficient, offshore players will be licensed to build them in their own backyards – to reduce transport from New Zealand.

At ecostore, New Zealand’s 2009 Sustainable Business of the Year, CEO Mitch Cuevas says the licensing model would be more efficient than continuing to ship products to the US distributor.

But he notes that when made in New Zealand, the products start with a lower carbon footprint because of their renewable-energy inputs.

The ecostore way of doing business that potentially would be exported in a licensing arrangement includes meeting Environmental Choice, Enviro-Mark and Landcare’s CarboNZero standards.

Responsible resource use is the raison d’être of Meridian Energy subsidiary Whisper Tech, holder of the patents for the gas-fired engine WhisperGen. The engine’s attraction to “green” consumers is its ability to heat water and generate electricity for the home, with excess contributing to the national grid.

Small numbers of units have been produced in Christchurch, but now a joint venture with a multibillion-dollar Spanish manufacturer/distributor has geared up to supply Europe. Two years of negotiation and technical work in Tolosa, Spain, have set up the JV to roll units out the door as this magazine goes to press, says managing director David Moriarty. There is more demand than the factory can meet. Whisper Tech is a 40:60 partner so will enjoy a 40% return plus royalties.

Energy Mad is another Christchurch company mad on energy savings. Established in 2004 by the inventors, the energy-saving Ecobulb has sold five million units, a fifth of them offshore (mainly in Australia). The US is an important target market where the company has a couple of people “on the ground”, says co-founder Tom Mackenzie.  He says Ecobulbs don’t cause outages, which helps in building alliances with network companies and creates a point of difference for the company. Patents protect Energy Mad’s core intellectual property, while design registrations and trademarks protect the brand.

Landcare Research’s CarboNZero scheme – in use by British companies to measure, reduce and offset carbon emissions (see “The thing about sustainable packaging” on page 30) – has had trademark-protection since 2003.

Protecting IP

Corinne Blumsky, a trademark expert and partner at IP law firm A J Park, says in the green space branding is as important as in any other sector. Companies need to check whether they can register a particular brand in the desired markets.

Fellow A J Park partner Matt Adams says if the technology, software or business methodology is a novel one and could be copied, a patent giving 20 years of exclusive rights might be the way to go. In the UK, patent applications with a significant impact on combating climate change can get a faster track and in Australia, environment-friendly applicants may be hastened through.

Having the invention covered in a newspaper article could see it deemed published and not patentable, Adams warns.


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