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Getting European clean-tech into India

14/12/2011

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Micol Martinelli, Senior Advisor at Eurochambres, explains how the European Business and Technology Centre helps European SMEs transfer their innovations to India

The European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC) was launched in 2008 to promote European clean technologies in India. It is co-funded by the EU, implemented by Eurochambres, and counts 16 other European partners. It started taking European business and research representatives across to India a year later. Senior Advisor International Affairs Micol Martinelli, based in Brussels at Eurochambres which runs the EBTC, explains what it is’s all about.

What is the EBTC?

It finds its raison d’être in the Small Business Act. On the one hand, it’s about helping European companies and research institutes in the field of clean technology enter the Indian market. On the other, it’s about helping India fight climate change.

We have identified four priority sectors: environment, energy, transport and biotechnology. There are tremendous opportunities in India, particularly in these sectors, where the growth rates are even higher than India’s average.

Where in particular do you see interest from EU companies?

There’s a lot of attention for energy and transport, although the others are not neglected. Indian transport infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the recent growth in trade and India’s rapid industrialisation means that cities are demanding water and waste water treatment infrastructure.

This translates into great opportunities for European companies. There is a clear link to the environment and climate change because poor infrastructure means higher pollution.

What are the main obstacles in doing business in India?

The classic ones range from cultural differences and slow administrative procedures to a lack of intellectual property law enforcement and issues around custom duties. In the World Bank’s ranking of how easy is it to do business, India ranked 133 out of 183 last year.

How do you find companies to invest in India?

That’s our biggest challenge! It makes no sense having offices over there if you don’t have the awareness here in Europe.

On the one hand we operate through our network of Chambers of Commerce and on the other we have 16 European partners which help us promote and recruit for the delegations we take to India. These are a mix of local business associations and research institutes.

It’s mostly companies from countries without business representation in India that come to us: all the new Member States and smaller countries. Even firms from big Member States participate, because the EBTC is unique in its sectoral focus.

What kind of connections do you forge and how, especially in the field of environmental technology?

It’s mostly linking up business with business and research with research. At a Green Tech event in India at the end of September for example, we organised 140 bilateral meetings between European business and research representatives and their Indian counterparts.

I would say 70% of the meetings were B2B and 30% research-related. It’s been the business community who has exploited the services of the EBTC the most so far.

What we’re trying to do now is develop concrete project ideas in which Europeans can participate with Indian colleagues, before taking delegations across. The idea is to present SMEs and researchers with something ready-made they can clearly benefit from.

So far we’ve taken about 170 companies to India and out of this there have been some eight commercial deals either sealed or close to completion. Recently we announced a deal which will see a Polish company distribute green boilers to the Indian customer base.

What other services do you offer?

We also want to offer individual services to companies looking to do business in India. We have hired one expert per sector – environment, biotechnology, transport and energy – and we are hiring an expert on intellectual property rights.

Incubator services are another aid we offer because we know it takes a very long time to get legally established in India. It helps a lot if we can provide a soft landing for European SMEs, a hot desk where they can start up their operations.

We do a lot of market intelligence, such as on the status of the transport sector in India, and we’re developing an online partner search where Indian companies can log in and browse European offerings.

A new online ‘how to do business in India’ seminar is very much focused on the needs of European entrepreneurs: each session doesn’t last more than 15 minutes and they cover topics from cultural differences to regulatory requirements.

To what extent do European companies need to adapt?

It’s all about dialogue. It took six months to close the Polish boiler deal because the Indians had to understand they were not just buying boilers but the technology behind them, how to construct, sell and repair them, while the Europeans had to understand into what kind of situation these boilers were being imported.

More information

Related information on the EcoAP Website

Adopted in June 2008, the Small Business Act for Europe recognises SMEs’ central role in the European economy and puts in place a policy framework to support them. It seeks to ease the administrative burden on small businesses, facilitate their access to funding and help them penetrate new markets. The Act was reviewed in February 2011 to respond to new challenges instigated by the crisis. The Commission concluded that access to finance and SME’s ability to reach non-EU markets were two areas that need still more support.