Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Australian cleantech innovation: missing out on the new gold rush. by Justin Blows
June 10, 2009, 10:05 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , ,

Leading economists predict that the exploitation of clean and sustainable technologies (“cleantech”), have the potential to create wealth on the same scale as the introduction of the railways, electricity, cars and information & communications technology. There has been a strong growth in investment in this sector. The UN estimated a worldwide investment of US$155 billion in 2008 in sustainable energy technologies alone. Cleantech is one of the minority of business sectors that grew in 2008. And the future of Cleantech looks much bigger. China, for example, is considering investing around $560 billion in renewable energy technology. And that is just one country.  The business opportunities in Cleantech are enormous and appear to be growing strongly.

There are some innovative solar technology companies in Australia.  The privately held Victorian company Solar Systems has partnered with the Victorian government to build the world’s largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant near Mildura. Solar Systems developed technology that uses movable mirrors to follow the movement of the sun and concentrate the sunlight onto PV solar cells. Concentrating the sunlight reduces the area of expensive PV solar cells require. This and associated innovations were protected by Solar Systems filing patents around the world, assisted by Griffith Hack. Solar Systems have filed patents all around the world to protect their technology, which will play a useful role in bringing the technology to the wider market and subsequently reduce the world’s production of greenhouse gases.

Is Australia missing out on the Cleantech gold rush?

Is Australia missing out on the Cleantech gold rush?

Consumers are showing signs of voting with their wallets as well. The latest version of the Prius has just gone on sale in Japan, and has surprised even Toyota by immediately becoming the top selling car in Japan. After just half a month of sales Toyota has received 110,000 orders for the new Prius, which compares well with their global sales target of 400,000 per year. Toyota have protected the Prius hybrid technology with over 1200 patents around the world.

Owners of technology are often keen to protect their investment with patent protection and thus the number of patent filings tends to track the number of innovations. Unfortunately analysis of recent Australian solar and clean coal patent filing data by Griffith Hack suggests that while leading Australian firms such as Solar Systems are protecting their future, overall there is in general a relatively low rate of solar and clean coal innovation by Australian firms.

This suggests a future where Australian solar and clean coal energy producers are largely reliant on imported technology. Perhaps Australian firms need to be reminded that in the largest ‘real’ gold rush the world has ever seen, namely the Victorian gold rush in the mid 1800’s, that some of the largest fortunes were made by equipment suppliers to the miners, rather than the miners themselves.

Mike Lloyd &  Justin Blows


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