Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Water innovation in Australia: Pipeline to Profit? by Griffith Hack

As a country which has continually had to deal with the scarcity of water, Australia is ideally placed to become a leader in the US$400 billion global water market.  But a detailed analysis of our water innovation patents by Griffith Hack in the report ‘Pipeline to Profit?’ has found Australian companies are failing to leverage their valuable intellectual property (IP) into global markets.

The paper finds: “Few applicants are developing a critical mass of patented technology to support their export ambitions. Australian applicants are filing more patents in the water technology area than in most other areas, but the majority of these patents are for domestically oriented inventions.”

“It has been estimated that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, which is recognised as an unsustainable rate,” notes Griffith Hack Senior Associate, Dr Mary Turonek.

“Australia has built up significant expertise in managing demand for water using technologies – and there is a potential for Australia to export this expertise to the world. But we are not securing our innovative ideas and products for the multi-billion-dollar export market.”

Click here for the full report.


Eco Innovation Forum 2010 by Griffith Hack

Eco Innovation Forum 2010 on 25 May in Sydney

Eco Innovation Forum brings together environmental innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and advisers. It is for everyone involved in raising equity capital, commercializing environmental technologies and expanding environmental businesses.

The Forum will feature presentations by eight firms including Australia’s leading cleantech venture capital firms and angel capital networks. The Presentations are:

  • CVC Sustainable Investments –  presented by Sandy Beard, Chief Executive Officer, CVC Ltd
  • OneVentures – Raising Venture Capital for Cleantech Businesses, Dr Michelle Deaker, Managing Partner and Executive Director, OneVentures Pty Ltd
  • AusFirst Angels – The Angel Funding Model, by John Rivett, Founder and Managing Director
  • BSI – Raising Capital and Accessing Government Grants, by Alan Milwidsky, Executive Director
  • Sydney Angels – Angel Investors and Cleantech Ventures, by Richard Dale and Hamish Hawthorn, Co-founders
  • Strategon Capital – Angel Capital: Heaven Sent or Not – 5 Things You Should Know About Taking Other People’s Money, by Damian Chown, Director
  • Griffith Hack – Optimising Your IP for Investment, by Robert Wulff, Patent Attorney and Principal
  • Austrade – Cleantech Trade and Investment Markets – What’s Happening Globally, by Kerry Rooney, Global Industry Network Leader, Clean Energy & Environment

Learn about how to grow your environmental business, meet the speakers, and network with other environmental innovators and investors.  The Forum runs from 8.30 for 9 am to 2.30 pm, and includes a networking lunch.

To learn more about the Forum visit the website by clicking Here.

Ultra-efficient reverse osmosis drives peace by robertwulff
December 9, 2009, 9:03 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , ,

I came across this interesting article in “The Chemical Engineer” on two water desalination pilot plants being planned  in Jordan and Israel, with the unlikely assistance of NATO.

Rob Wulff

World’s first osmotic power station opens by Griffith Hack

Norway’s state owned power company Statkraft has announced the opening of the world’s first experimental power station powered by osmotic pressure.

Energy is provided by the pressure created when salt water is placed next to fresh water and joined by an osmotic filter. There is a strong tendency for fresh water to dilute the salt water, and this ‘osmotic pressure’ is equivalent to 120 metres of water head pressure, which would be a useful sized hydroelectric plant. Osmotic power is the opposite of reverse osmosis desalination, which relies on high pressure and energy intensive pumps to force water from a salt water to a fresh water source.

The biggest challenge has been to develop osmotic filters that can withstand this head pressure, but researchers have developed a polymer composition to meet these requirements.

Would this work in Australia once it is at commercial scale? This would require a good supply of fresh water next to sea water, i.e a river mouth. One advantage of this power supply is rivers flow 24/7, with the unfortunate exception of the Murray River.

Mike Lloyd

Ocean Energy – the wave of the future? by Griffith Hack

Although solar, wind and clean coal continue to attract the majority of the attention as clean energy options for the future, wave and tidal power may also play a major part in future energy production.

A recent visit to the All Energy Conference  showed that there are at least three Australian companies developing wave technology. Namely: Biopower, Oceanlinx and CETCO, who are all developing alternative means of capturing wave or tidal energy. 

New Zealand is also at the forefront of investing in wave power, with 14 different projects considered, ranging from capturing the deep sea energy in the Cook Strait that separates Wellington from the South Island; to capturing the energy in the strong tides in one of New Zealand’s largest harbours.

Wave power has tremendous potential as base load power as it is pretty reliable and available twenty four hours a day.  However, there are also likely to be significant engineering challenges such as maintenance in some extreme environments.  The combination of economic potential and engineering challenges is leading inventors to come up with a whole range of quite different solutions.

No one solution has started to dominate yet.  From an IP viewpoint, this makes wave power perhaps more interesting than some other clean technologies, where the engineering is now starting to mature.

Another important question that developers need to consider is the breadth of the claims of their patents and their competitor’s patents.  A smart innovator might find that while their patented invention did not succeed in its own right, their patents do claim a more successful invention developed by another company.  Or vice-versa.

I for one will be watching this space with much interest in the future.

Mike Lloyd

Open innovation vs IP ownership in the clean IP space – are they necessarily opposed? by Griffith Hack
October 12, 2009, 11:31 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , ,

The need for the world to develop new technologies to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment has led to calls by some to reduce the role of patents and other forms of IP in clean technologies. Patents and other IP provide a monopoly to their owners, which according to some pundits potentially reduces the spread and adoption of these planet saving technologies, potentially leaving us all worse off.

There are of course a wealth of reasons why IP ownership can help drive innovation by providing an incentive to invest in research and development. But maybe open innovation and IP ownership are not necessarily opposite approaches to development.

There is an argument being promoted by Marshall Phelps, IP Tsar for Microsoft, that clear IP ownership can actively help drive collaboration. Clear IP ownership gives IP owners and innovators the confidence take their ideas to market and look for collaborators and partners to help take these ideas forward.

The alternative to clear IP ownership in many cases is protecting new ideas as trade secrets or confidential information – which by its very nature will prevent the spread and likely slow the adoption of these ideas. In other words, IP ownership may actually assist open innovation….a radical thought for many, I know.

Mike Lloyd

Intellectual property and renewable Energy Technologies by Justin Blows

I came across this new & excellent report from Chatham House: Who owns our law carbon future?  Intellectual Property and Energy Technologies.

Firstly, let’s get the debate about whether patents are a barrier to the introduction of climate change mitigation technology to the developing world out of the way.  The report repeats others that the real issue is not the accessibility of technologies or the price of the patents, but the lack of capital and management in the developing world. Focusing on patents is a distraction from the main issues.  Similar arguments have been presented in report after report and I haven’t seen a credible response.  Please leave a comment if you have one!  Import tarrifs has also been cited as a problem elsewhere.

What jumped out at me was a great  discussion on common business strategies for using patents that we may see repeated in the growing renewable energy, or indeed any other cleantech, space, together with examples.

Enforcing patents is one business strategy.  The report cites the case of Samsung being sued by Texas instruments in the 1980s damaging its brand and blocking the US market to Samsung.  After vastly improving its patenting strategy the tables were turned and by the 1990’s Samsung was suing Texas instruments.  But the outcome of litigation is often uncertain.

Some of the multiple business strategies based around licensing may be a far better approach. Some business strategies include:

  • prototyping and licensing technologies;
  • granting a licence to a spin-out company;
  • divestiture licensing when a technology owner exits a business area;
  • controlled licensing to ration the flow of licenses to limit expansion of competitors;
  • pooling patents from multiple parties and sharing the licensing profits;
  • cross licensing technology in exchange to get access to technology you need;
  • establishing a technology standard based around the IP brought to the table by multiple parties, each piece of IP being essential to the standard
  • licencing to those you outsource production to;
  • license to influence the strategic development path of technologies; and
  • being a patent troll, that is enforcing your patents even though you have no intention to practise or develop the technology yourself, a somewhat contentious strategy.

The mobile telephone industry, for example, likes technology standards. In the case of the AirBus 380 the aircraft, the industry used patent pools and licensing for production.  I can see that these issues are going to be very important for areas such as, for example, clean coal were many large players are going to end up with large patent portfolios.

Justin Blows