Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Carbon Expo Australasia 2010 by Griffith Hack
March 3, 2010, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Events & Seminars | Tags: ,

Melbourne Australia 11-13 October 2010

Australasia’s premier Trade Fair & Carbon Conference for carbon market participants & service providers will be this year’s best opportunity to network with key domestic and international carbon business players, and to develop strategies to minimise costs and maximise benefits associated with emissions reductions and future emissions trading.


Solar industry roundtable broadcast by Griffith Hack

In a broadcast this week on Boardroom Radio Australia (, Dr Justin Blows led a roundtable discussion on the topic of solar energy with the following contributors: Richard Caldwell (Chairman, Dyesol), John Grimes (CEO, ANZ Solar Energy Society), Alistair Sproul (Associate Professor UNSW School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering) and John Dyson (Investment Principal, Starfish Ventures). 

The interactive broadcast allowed listeners to submit questions as it was in progress, directing the focus of the discussion.

The broadcast  explores the future of solar power as a viable renewable energy, and the medium to longer term commercial opportunities that exist in this area.  It was noted that Australia is currently behind other countries such as the US, China and Germany, in solar power usage and development.  Archaic government policies in the renewable technologies area, when compared with other countries, was one reason given for this.

The full broadcast is approximately 25 minutes long, click here to listen.

Are clean energy patents a financial asset? by Griffith Hack

Most organisations file patents to protect and maximise the value of products and processes that they are planning to develop themselves. However some organisations instead aim to benefit by selling or licensing their patents to other parties.

Selling or licensing patents is a complex activity, and increasingly organisations are arising especially to manage this activity, either on a commission or brokerage basis, or by buying these patents themselves and seeking new buyers. Effectively these latter types of organisation become a type of investment bank, using patents as an investment asset rather than investments in other companies. These organisations were recently discussed by the Economist.

So what does this mean for innovators in the clean energy space? Clean energy is attracting a lot of money and interest at the moment. Many technologies are comparatively new, and it may be possible to file broad patents. Innovators who are developing the right products and filing the right patents may have an alternative means of commercialising their intellectual property; namely selling or licensing IP to patent brokers.

However innovators can be assured that such brokers will look very carefully at the quality of the patent applications and patents secured, as often the patent is the main asset being sold. Innovators need to be very careful about their patent applications, patent strategy and the prior art in their technology areas, and seek careful advice.

Mike Lloyd

Embracing Sustainability Bears Innovation & IP by Justin Blows

A recent Harvard Business Review article, Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation, is resoundingly convincing: Businesses that embrace sustainability will innovate and flourish.

Traditional business leaders believe becoming environmentally friendly will erode competitiveness but the reality is just the opposite. Companies that embrace sustainability are inevitably taken down the road of innovation, and consequently develop intellectual property that provides invaluable brand and technological differentiation in the marketplace. And consumers love it.

Protecting sustainable innovation, with patents for example, crystallizes the first mover advantage providing significant commercial advantage.

The authors of the article looked at 30 large corporations, and concluded that sustainability is a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations. The article is full of amazing examples.

Hewlett-Packard, for example, realized in the 1990’s the lead in solder would be phased out because of environmental concerns. Rather then lobby for weakened regulations they embraced the inevitable and developed a lead free solder. It was able to meet EU directives on lead-free solder as soon as they were passed providing an advantage over competitors. Its just one example of why its smarter to comply with the most stringent rules before they are enforced. Companies that are in the vanguard of compliance naturally spot business opportunities first.

I think will are now seeing the same opportunities in renewable energy. Governments are starting to tighten the screws with renewable energy targets, feed in tariffs and by pricing carbon, and those that embrace sustainability and innovate will be the winners.

Old & returned equipment used to cost CISCO eight million dollars a year in recycling costs. It realized that most of it still worked and started incorporating working used parts into new units. Reuse is now around 45% and recycling costs have fallen by 40%.

Reuse is going to become more important as we inevitably expend our non renewable resources. But acting now before the crunch is highly advantageous and stimulates innovation creating valuable IP.

FedEx & Kinko’s printing realized that they could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fuel and logistic costs. Instead of shipping paper document around the US, they offered costumers the option of sending the document electronically to a printer near the final destination for printing. A paper copy then need only be shipped locally. That’s innovation. Save money, save the planet, and win customers.

One notable technology that the article didn’t discuss was hybrid cars. In particular, Toyota stands out from the competition, and I would say they dominate the hybrid car intellectual property landscape. This is an auto company that acted on sustainability concerns and innovated well before governments started acting.

While US giants like General Motors are on their knees, brought their by their gas guzzling dinosaurs, Toyota has been innovating in a technology that addresses concerns about suitability and has crystallised its first mover advantage by patenting hybrid car innovation. Toyota has more patents in hybrid car technology than any one else. It does not appear that the other companies will be able to catch up, at least in the medium term.

Now that governments are turning the screws to increase the fuel efficiency of the car fleet to improve energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Toyota will reap what it has sown. United States President Obama wants national fuel efficiency to increase by 5% each year from 2012 to 2016. The United Kingdom government has confirmed it will offer from ₤2,000 to ₤5,000 to purchasers of electric and hybrid cars . The Japanese government introduced inducements worth around US$4,000 per purchased car, propelling the Toyota Prius to become the most sold car of any kind in April this year.

As the realities of climate change, resource scarcity, and the costs of pollution bite, traditional business models are collapsing. Those that embrace sustainability will innovate, protect their new IP, and flourish.

Justin Blows

Sydney Cleantech Network launch by Justin Blows
September 23, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: Feature | Tags: , , , ,

Last night I attended the Launch of the Sydney Cleantech network.  Griffith Hack is a proud supporter of the network.

The turn out was great, with a mix of cleantech start ups, VC’s, service providers and government representatives.

If your in NSW and interested in cleantech, you will probably find the right cleantech contacts through this network.

I was very pleased to hear speakers from several cleantech companies, all of which had a strong appreciation of IP and the need to develop their patent portfolio.

Justin Blows

Coal Tech 2009 by Griffith Hack
September 18, 2009, 4:42 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: , , ,

Griffith Hack’s IP management consultant Mike Lloyd has just returned from the Coal Tech 2009 conference held in Brisbane, and came back a clean coal converted man:

Coal is sometimes used as the whipping boy in the clean energy debate, but the coal industry and its supporters are showing there are a number of options for dramatically improving its greenhouse gas emissions. Coal is undoubtedly important for Australia, providing about 75% of its power at an internationally competitive price, $43 billion worth of export income and 8% of its GDP. It also produces over one third of our greenhouse gases. Coal is also very important on a international scale, providing a key power source in many countries. Regardless of what its detractors may wish for, coal will be with us for many years to come.

A broad range of technologies are or have been developed to reduce emissions from coal mining and consumption, and some of these look close to being commercial ready. Coal’s relatively high greenhouse gas profile may actually help their adoption. Zero greenhouse gas emissions from clean coal technologies, while possibly being desirable in the long term, may not be necessary to achieve a significant overall reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gases emissions. Instead even a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the coal industry may be enough to have a helpful overall impact, and should be achievable in practice.

Nonetheless a big hurdle remains before these technologies are widely adopted. Some of these technologies require multi-billion dollar investments. Many of these investments may be unlikely in the current Australian political uncertainty regarding long term carbon emission pricing. Until these uncertainties are resolved, it will be difficult for the coal users to make either high emission or low emission investments in coal technologies. High emission investments will hobbled by the potential for high carbon pricing – low emission investments will be hobbled by the potential for low carbon pricing and how this will affect their business case. Maybe if the world can achieve a consensus on carbon policies during the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Australia’s politicians can in turn agree on the long term policies required to underpin major new investments in this area.

 Mike Lloyd

Patent-based technology analysis report by Justin Blows
September 14, 2009, 8:35 am
Filed under: Feature | Tags: , , ,

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has released the Alternative Energy Technology report, based on patent data.

The report investigates patent filing trends for various alternative technologies across the globe.  Changes in the price of oil and increasing awareness of the issue of climate change can be considered factors in driving patenting activity, which is generally increasing.

The distribution of applications among different areas of technology appears to be related strongly to the countries’ geographic and resource situation as well as the distribution of research and development budgets and supporting policies.


Japan has focussed strongly on solar, hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

The US has focused on bio energy, geothermal, hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Germany has focused on wind and solar technologies

Korea has focused on wind power and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

China has focused on solar energy and hydropower technologies.

Justin Blows